Mandarin TOCFL Project

Ok, now to outline the second project. In a lot of ways this project is completely different than the Elixir one. This one is a lot about memorization, and prepping for one specific metric. Pass a test.


Right now setting up the vocab is the bane of my existence. Making flash cards, via anki, pleco, and on paper has always been a pain. Using flashcards on the other hand is quite enjoyable. I am still making the cards, as I look through these word lists which means I am not 100% done estimating things.

Some fun people we met eating
in Xiamen.
What I do have is a hard maximum, and a likely result. Based on these numbers, I decided on 45 new terms a day. I did this for several reasons I'll go over below. The worst case scenario is 18 weeks. This assumes I don't know a single word on the last 2 lists. I guesstimated the most likely scenario is 11 weeks. This assumes I know about 50% of the 高階級 list, and 30% of  the 流利級 list. Of course the extremely unlikely case that I know both of those lists, then I just have 1 week of flashcards. :-D That's a lot of words per day, but not unheard of. I've done 50/day in the past for 1-3 months at a time.

There may be a small misunderstanding that's probably happening. Memorize can be a vague nebulous term. I am not trying to memorize these words front to back, every nuance perfectly preserved in my brain. The vast majority of these words I will only need to know them in a passive context for the test. The test is a reading/listening test. When I see, or hear it in a sentence do I know what it means. That is much easier than having to recall what it's major radical, know it's exact tones, how to write it, or to remember it out of context. These are all things I will eventually memorize, but are not top priority for the goal.

So why did I pick 45 new terms/words per day? First i want to be done with the vocabulary at least a few weeks before the test. This will give me extra time to review and work on problem vocab. Second, once I have worked through the last two word lists, and have a hard number, if it's shorter than 18 weeks, I plan to slow down my new terms per week to match that 18 week goal. Next if 45 becomes too many per day and I start to struggle, I can worst case scenario drop it to 35/per day or less depending how far along I get before that happens, and still learn all the words before the test.

Here is what I currently know about the vocabulary.
  • 準備一級:I know all 148 terms.
  • 準備二級:I know all 172 terms.
  • 入門級: I know all 187 terms. 
  • 基礎級:497 total: 9 I didn’t know. 1.8% 
  • 進階級: 1492 total: 272 I didn’t know. 18% 
  • 高階級: 2491 total: ?? 
  • 流利級: 2987 total: ??
I had some interesting observations while going through the list. First, a small portion of those words I didn't recognize I actually knew and had learned through conversation. Another nice realization was that about 1/2 of the 進階級 words I didn't know were words I have learned in the past, so reactivating them should be easier than learning them from scratch.


So I've focused a lot on the vocabulary, but grammar, and the test itself is important also right? I agree. For grammar I have a few methods of attack. First is any word in the vocab list that's basically not a noun, verb, adverb, or adjective is usually a grammar point. Also, I plan to take apart the mock tests each time I take them, and work with my tutor to locate grammar points I failed and incorporate them into my study.

Most of my grammar practice will be incorporated into my preexisting tutoring sessions. In homework for these sessions I make sentences. I spoke with my tutor and we plan to have this be about me attempting to use the grammar, and her giving me feed back from here on out. Also our conversation practice is a great place for me to insert and use new grammar. She is good about giving me quick feedback on my spoken grammar, as well as appropriate vocab usage for what I am trying to say. Another thing we work on is my reading comprehension. I will read a passage, and she will quiz me on parts to make sure I understood it.


Something I plan to do at least twice a month is take their online mock tests. As I mentioned in the previous section it should give me a good idea of how to plug holes in my understanding of the grammar, but there's more.

While I plan to do the mock tests, there's a chance for me to take one real test, and two onsite pilot tests before November. I plan to register and try this. For the real test I currently plan to try for the B band test and see how I fair. That test is at the end of July. It's called computerized adaptive on the schedule, and I am not sure what that means or how it differs from the November test yet.

Time Constraints

This goal is more important to me than the Elixir one. I already have more invested in it, and I plan to invest more into it. With Elixir I set aside 5 hours per week, for study. For this project I have set aside 12 scheduled hours, but will probably up it to 15 once I see how things go. One thing most people constantly underestimate, myself included is SRS reviews. They can stack up fast if you miss a few days, or just by learning a lot consistently.  If this gets out of hand I plan to add another 1/2 hour of review in the middle of my weekdays. This should space it out, and alleviate some of the pressure.

Ok I had alot more to say on this one than the last, but finally here is the outline I made for this
project. Like the other project I'll put up an update once a week, showing how my progress goes. 
  1. Define broad Goal - Learn Advanced Mandarin
    1. Specific - I want to pass the TOCFL C band.
    2. Why Am I learning this.
      • I enjoy communicating in the language.
      • I want using the language to feel like less of an effort.
      • Passing a high level test is something my wife/parents/friends can brag about/be proud of.
      • Passing the test also gives me an objective measure I can use with prospective tutors, employers, and people who aren’t familiar with language learning.
      • I want to feel like I’ve mastered it even if there is always more to learn.
  1. Select Learning Materials
    • There are mock test books.
    • I have 2 unrelated advanced mandarin books.
    • I have a word list for pertinent vocab, but not grammar.
  1. Estimate Time required.
      1. November Test.
        1. Need to know 8000 Vocab by then.
        2. Need to have a firm grip of the grammar.
  2. Set Deadline & milestone.
    1. End Date: November 3rd - 22 weeks away.
    2. Milestones:
      1. 2018-06-15: Pass A band Mock test with high marks.
      2. 2018-07-04: Learn ¼ of new vocab and grammar.
      3. 2018-07-07: Take the onsite pilot test.
      4. 2018-07-15: Pass B band Mock test.
      5. 2017-07-22: Learn ½ of new vocab and grammar.
      6. 2018-07-28: Take B band formal test.
      7. 2018-08-15: Pass B band mock test with high Marks.
      8. 2018-08-28: Learn ¾ of new vocab and grammar.
      9. 2018-9-18: Take C band Mock test.
      10. 2018-10-01: Learn all of new vocab and grammar.
      11. 2018-10-06: Take last onsite pilot test.
      12. 2018-10-17: Pass C band Mock test.
      13. 2018-10-25: Pass C band Mock test with high marks.
  3. Break down into week by week process.
    1. Take A band Mock Test, and assess. Learn 315 Vocab. Generate new vocab cards from the 高階級 vocabulary list. Find resources for Grammar.
    2. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Generate new vocab cards from the 高階級 vocabulary list.
    3. Learn 315 Vocab. Take & Pass A band Mock Test with High marks. Generate new vocab cards from the 流利級 vocabulary list.
    4. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Generate new vocab cards from the 流利級 vocabulary list.
    5. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Review All vocab up to this point. Take onsite pilot test.
    6. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Generate new vocab cards from the 流利級 vocabulary list.
    7. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Pass B Band Test.
    8. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Start using Elixir App as Vocab Quiz Tool. Take onsite formal test for band B.
    9. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar.
    10. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Review all vocab up to this point. Should be about ½ the new vocabulary.
    11. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Best guess scenario. I should finish all vocab at this point.
    12. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Take band C mock test.
    13. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar.
    14. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar.
    15. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar.
    16. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Review All vocab up to this point. Should be about ¾ the new vocabulary.
    17. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Take C band Mock Test.
    18. Learn 315 Vocab. Practice new grammar. Pass C band test. Take onsite pilot test. Register for the November test.
    19. Review All vocab up to this point. Worst case scenario I should finish all vocab at this point.
    20. Review. Practice, Mock test.
    21. TEST Week: Review All vocab up to this point. Review all grammar up to this point. Retake Mock Test.
  4. Review & Update.

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