The evaluation of hydrological models for a specific catchment is normally based on the model performance according to the selected performance criteria. However, the catchment rainfall-runoff characteristics could be used for the selection of a suitable hydrological model in study area, which, also, for the problem solve of the model application in ungauged basins. In this study, six conceptual models were applied in three semi-humid or semi-arid catchments to investigate the correlation between catchment characteristics and model structure selection. In addition, the impacts of precipitation and topography in model simulation were analyzed. The results show that runoff generation are highly impacted by catchment topographic index and land cover change, and the influence of slope for river channel is greater than mean slope for the whole catchment due to the runoff generation for partial area. For the catchments under similar climate condition, the impact of topographic features for runoff generation process is greater than the difference of precipitation. It indicates that for a specific catchment, the selection of appropriate model should base on better understanding of the rainfall-runoff relationship. The method of incorporating additional runoff generation module in traditional model can significantly improve the accuracy of flood simulation.

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