Japanese and Chinese Self Teaching URGENT!Watch
For both Japanese and Chinese, learning characters will be your big time-consumer. For both, I recommend learning the radicals first as they give you a real handle on characters' meaning and allow you to potentially guess unknown words.
For learning the vocab, I recommend an Spaced Repetition System - something like Anki, where you can download flashcards and practice them on your computer or on your phone. I used the Anki phone app while revising for my Japanese A-level and it was absolutely invaluable.
Good luck, I'm sure lots of other people on here will have better recommendations! But feel free to ask any questions - Japanese moreso than Chinese!
I have done Mandarin Chinese for one year now - My recommendation is to put most of your efforts into writing and speaking. The pronunciation is very difficult for westerners. Recognition of the characters comes very easily as long as you read every day but copying out the characters is a must.
Find a Confucius institute near you if possible, or a native speaker of the language.
Here is quite a good site for basic Chinese to fairly advanced [roughly HSK3 starting off.]
This one is also good
Also try to listen everyday, that will help with pronunciation Youtube has a lot of easy dialogues on it though you will need to poke around quite a bit.
You can find vocab lists and past exams here: http://confucius.emory.edu/hsk_and_r...k_samples.html
For building vocabulary I like reading, personally. Some people prefer audio, it depends how you learn best. But I have some graded readers and work my way through those, translating the words I don't know. Just finished two 750 word books, and now starting a collection of short stories with 1,000 words. Can be quite boring sometimes when you're spending all your time translating, but once you learn more words and can see your improvement it's more fun. I think you can find graded readings as low as 300 words, 500 is definitely possible to find. I just get them from amazon ...
With all the best wishes for your language test.