Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language

The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) (Chinese: 華語文能力測驗; pinyin: Huáyǔwén Nénglì Cèyàn) is Taiwan's Mandarin Chinese proficiency test. It is administered by the Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP) (Chinese: 國家華語測驗推動工作委員會; pinyin: Guójiā Huáyǔ Cèyàn Tuīdòng Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì). The committee is under the direction of the Republic of China's Ministry of Education. The test was formerly known as the TOP or Test Of Proficiency-Huayu.

Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language
Logo of the TOP
Traditional Chinese華語文能力測驗
Simplified Chinese华语文能力测验

For children aged 7–12, an age-specific test exists called the Children's Chinese Competency Certification (or CCCC, Chinese: 兒童華語文能力測驗; pinyin: Értóng Huáyǔwén Nénglì Cèyàn).[1]

The test cannot be taken in Mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao, where only the PRC's HSK exam can be taken. Conversely, the HSK exam is not available in Taiwan's main island Formosa, Kinmen or any of the territories controlled by the Republic of China.

History of SC-TOP

The Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP) was established in November 2005 under the direction of the Republic of China's Ministry of Education. Originally called the Chinese Language Testing Center and renamed in January 2007, the Committee aims to develop and promote an effective Chinese assessment system, mainly the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL), for Chinese learners worldwide to assess their Chinese proficiency.

The SC-TOP has the following major missions:

  • To design and plan the test contents of the TOCFL and CCCC exams
  • To build test item pools for the TOCFL and CCCC exams
  • To develop computer-based Chinese proficiency testing systems
  • To promote Taiwan's Chinese proficiency tests for non-native speakers of Chinese
  • To increase the exchange among Chinese proficiency testing organizations worldwide

History of TOCFL

The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) is a standardized language proficiency test developed for non-native speakers of Chinese. It is the result of a joint project of the Mandarin Training Center, the Graduate Institute of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, and the Psychological Testing Center of National Taiwan Normal University. The research project started in August 2001, and the tests started to be conducted in 2003. So far, it has served test takers from over 60 countries. The new version of TOCFL is developed since 2008, to become available in 2013.

The new version of the TOCFL has four proficiency bands: Novice, Band A, Band B, and Band C. Each of the bands has two levels. Therefore, there are a total of eight levels: Novice 1 and 2, followed by Levels 1 to 6. The items on the test of each level are 50 multiple choice items, to be answered in 60 minutes. Test takers can choose the test levels best suited to them based on their Chinese language proficiency and learning background. The former version (until 2013) had only five levels.

Purpose and use

TOCFL test takers who reach the level requirements will receive a certificate, which can serve as a credential of proficiency in Chinese for:

  • Applying to the Taiwan Scholarship.
  • Applying to academic programs at colleges or universities in Taiwan, as a reference for the subject of Chinese.
  • Providing a job-required proof of language competency.

Currently a lot of undergraduate and graduate programs in Taiwan adopt the TOCFL certificate as the requirement for admission or as the evaluation of an applicant's Chinese proficiency. In addition, many international businesses in Taiwan, such as LG, adopt TOCFL as a reference for their employee dispatch programs. Several overseas companies also refer to candidates’ TOCFL certificates when recruiting.


The TOCFL is intended for non-native speakers of Mandarin. Those who wish to know their level of Mandarin Chinese proficiency, and those who want to study, work, or do business in Mandarin Chinese-speaking countries or contexts are welcome to register for the test. The following table sets out the suggested learning hours of Mandarin Chinese, and suggested vocabulary base at each test level.

BandLevelSuggested Learning HoursNumber of words
NoviceNovice 1 30-120 hrs146
NoviceNovice 2322
ALevel 1120-240 hrs502
ALevel 2240-360 hrs999
BLevel 3360-480 hrs2482
BLevel 4480-960 hrs4960
CLevel 5960-1920 hrs7945
CLevel 6above 1920 hrs7945

Please note:

  1. The suggested number of course hours learning Mandarin Chinese required by overseas test-takers may need to be doubled. For example, the table indicates that Level 2 test-takers who take Mandarin Chinese courses in a Chinese-speaking country need to have completed 240–360 course hours. People taking courses in countries where other languages are spoken generally require 480–720 hours.
  2. The suggested vocabulary list for each level can be found online at the official site.

Comparison with HSK

It is difficult to directly compare the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi with the TOCFL.

Unlike TOCFL, HSK has only six levels. The six HSK levels and the six Band A, B and C TOCFL levels all claim that these levels are equivalent to the six CEFR levels. Nevertheless, for each test, the number of words or characters required differs, with TOCFL generally requiring more vocabulary at each level. Furthermore, the German and French associations of Chinese language teachers argue that HSK level 6 is equivalent to CEFR level B2 or C1 (about TOCFL Level 4 or 5).[2]

Claimed CEFR levelLevel (HSK)Level (TOCFL)Required words (HSK)Required words (TOCFL)Required characters (HSK, simplified)Required characters (TOCFL, traditional)
Pre-A1N/ANovice 1N/A146N/A167
Pre-A1N/ANovice 2N/A322N/A326
A1Level 1Level 1150502174488
A2Level 2Level 2300999347786
B1Level 3Level 360024826171304
B2Level 4Level 41200496010641937
C1Level 5Level 52500794516852555
C2Level 6Level 65000794526632555


TOCFL tests four language skills: Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing.


The TOCFL Listening-Band A has four sections: Picture Description, Single-round Dialogue (questions with picture options), Multiple-round Dialogue (questions with picture options), and Dialogue (questions with text options). There are 50 multiple-choice questions in total. The entire test takes approximately 60 minutes.

The TOCFL Listening-Band B and Band C: Each has two sections: Dialogue and Monologue. There are 50 multiple-choice questions with text options. The entire test takes approximately 60 minutes.


The TOCFL Reading - Band A has five sections: Sentence Comprehension, Picture Description, Gap Filling, Paragraph Completion, and Reading Comprehension. There are 45 multiple-choice questions, and 5 matching questions. The entire test takes 60 minutes.

The TOCFL Reading - Bands B and C: Each has two sections: Gap Filling and Reading Comprehension. Each entire test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, and takes 60 minutes.


The TOCFL Speaking test adopts a holistic scoring approach, taking into account the content, fluency, and language skills of the test taker. The results are presented in the form of scale scores. The objective is mainly to assess the competence of the test takers to effectively accomplish the communication tasks verbally in different language contexts.


The TOCFL Writing test is an evaluation of the test-taker's ability to use written materials to effectively transmit information in particular contexts. The level-based grading system is based on the appropriateness and substance of the test-taker's responses to situational tasks, compositional structure and completeness, correct syntax, and the use of a suitably wide range of appropriate vocabulary.

Overseas testing

Aside from being available in Taiwan, SC-TOP has been providing overseas testing services since 2006. However, compared to the HSK exam, the number of test locations is somewhat limited. According to the SC-TOP's official website, the test can be taken in the following 21 countries:

  • Asian Pacific — Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam
  • Central and South America — Nicaragua, Paraguay
  • Europe — Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland
  • North America — Canada, United States

Out of these states, two recognize the Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China: Nicaragua and Paraguay.

See also


  1. "兒童華語文能力測驗(CCCC)". cccc.sc-top.org.tw. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  2. "Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP)". www.sc-top.org.tw. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
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