This is the most useful FAQ I’ve found.
I just took my HSK (汉语水平考试) level 6 test, but as I am not part of a college it took a bit of figuring out how to sign up for it, so I thought I’d share my experience – hope it helps.
Here’s the official HSK site: www.chinesetest.cn
The English version works just as well as the Chinese one (not a given). You can sign up for an exam on their site (if you register on the site, it’ll give you a list of exam centres – for Yunnan this was limited to Kunming, but they do have a choice of three places to take it). The key thing is to find out when the exam takes place and apply at least a month before – confusingly, the online application lets you apply for exams after the cut off date, so even though you think you’ve registered it’s not actually valid.
I couldn’t pay through their website, so I had to go to the exam centre – an old run down building in the Kunming School of Science and Technology. This is probably just as well, as the website by itself doesn’t instill confidence that it’s working and you’ve actually signed up. The lady there helped fill in the online registration form, the same site as listed above, but note that I had to pay in cash (RMB650), they don’t take Weixin, Zhifubao, or anything else, and don’t forget to bring your passport.
About a week before the exam you’ll be issued with a permission slip (准考证) to take the exam, this I did actually just print off from the website, though you can pick it up from the office too.
Very important: When you get asked about your choice of exam location, choose somewhere that offers the online test. I did the pen and paper test, which means the written essay section I had to write out by hand. If you choose the online test, you can type on a computer so you just have to know the pinyin. This will make the test exponentially easier. Also, even though I took the exam in a language lab they didn’t use the earphones, instead they used a crappy old C90 cassette player from 30 years a go. It sounded like the speaker had been wrapped in an old jumper and dropped in a fish tank. Make sure you go to a test centre that has crawled its way into the 21st century, your life will be much easier.
On the website even though it gives an option of pen and paper or online for each location, you can tell a test centre doesn’t actually offer online testing because it won’t let you register. Rather annoyingly though it doesn’t tell you this, just when you click the button to register it won’t work.
You can look up your results on the chinesetest.cn website a month after you’ve completed the exam.
Note that for my level, HSK6, there is no pass or fail, just a score. But this is helpful if you want to find out approximately how you did. So for me, for example, anything over 180 is a pass, I got 209 which is equivalent to a mid level score on the old test, so I did fine.
Last thing, the test centre offers no materials or previous exams, you have to find all the yourself. There are lots of outstanding (and free) apps though.