First post here!
I've just joined this forum to share my experience and tips regarding Staatsexamen NT2 programma I
, of which I've recently earned the diploma. I'm originally from S Korea and living in Holland almost for 2 years now. It took me about 13 months since I started my NT2 course until I completed all the four exams - writing, reading, listening and speaking. Like many others I was a total newbie to this language when I first started the journey and it seemed so unclear if I would make all the exams in time, but after some dedication and patience, I realized that it was very possible to do so.
The following was initially intended for my own friends, but I thought it would be great to share it with more people:
In general, these exams were by no means extremely difficult or impossible to make. In fact, far from it. That was what I felt anyway. After all, It was quite "doable" (well at least I can say that now safely
). That means that you don't have to be able to speak perfect Dutch, and with some dedication you can make it too. Obviously, however, it still requires a certain level of knowledge and it's very important that you're familiar with basic grammar and vocabulary.
In the following text I will try and explain what you should be aware of for each area of the exams. Please note that this is mainly based on my
personal judgement and impressions, so it might turn out a little different in your actual exams, but I hope you still get the picture. 1. SCHRIJVEN (WRITING)
- I was allowed to do this one as the first exam as I always found writing much easier than speaking. While it basically had the same kind of questions as the "voorbeeldexamens"/example exams (from 2001-2004), the format was slightly different (it had some extra graphics, for example) and it felt a bit more difficult (although they say the difficulty of each exam always changes - sometimes easier, sometimes more difficult). I believe that many people don't feel very comfortable with this exam, but you certainly don't need to know all kind of difficult details of Dutch grammar, all you need is really just basic (= the most important) grammar. You still do need to be careful/well prepared with the following: Word order:
Dutch word order is a bit different from English, isn't it? I know it can be very confusing (tell me about it). Make sure you clearly understand how it works, how Dutch sentences are constructed. The most important thing would probably be verbs. Be extra careful of the position of verbs as well as their form, which are placed differently in hoofdzin (main clause) and bijzin(sub-clause). Be very careful with inversion too. Get a nice, clearly explained grammar book (in English if it's easier) and invest extra time on your "weak spots". Clarify any doubts. Keep it short and simple:
they are open questions, so there are no fixed answers. This means that you can be flexible and make your sentences as short and simple as possible. They will still count as perfect as long as they have no or very little/minor grammatical error. Try to avoid mistakes and use words and/or construction only when you are sure of it. Make sure your answers are still logical and respond correctly to what the questions ask. You are allowed to look up words in your dictionary (up to 3 dictionaries) if you need to (which can be quite handy if you need to check the past form of a verb or find certain words, for example), but try to minimize its use as it also takes time.
In part 2, where you have to write much longer text, this basic principle would still be valid.
(In fact, I had to fill up only a few sentences instead of writing a whole big paragraph for one of those three questions, but I still had to provide several sentences for the other two questions.) Use your time wisely:
unfortunately the time you're given for these exams is not so generous. It flies. Don't dwell on a specific question for too long, instead quickly write anything you can come up with (this is the case especially with the part 1 where you have to write relatively short answers to many questions - you can always go back and correct it later anyway) or just skip it for now if it's too difficult - otherwise you wouldn't have enough time for all the other questions. Time was really tight for me, and with part 2 (which contains 3 questions), I actually spent too much time on the first question and therefore I was really in a hurry with the last question, I was literally in panic... Try to avoid this!
Of course, all of your answers do not need to be perfect in order to pass the exam, chances are that you will still get some points as long as you try and write. So don't worry too much.
Just try to minimize mistakes and answer all questions (or as many as possible).
By the way, I've read that this writing exam will soon be digitalized (somewhere this year). It would become then much easier to formulate/correct your answers than writing them on the paper! 2. LEZEN (READING)
- personally, reading has always been the easiest part for me and it was also the case with the actual exam. In many cases you do not need to read every single word, you just need to find the specific information after reading each question first. You are also allowed to use dictionaries (up to 3) but you'd better use them only when you really need to in order to save your precious time. Like writing exam, don't stay on certain questions for too long, just keep going and try and answer all the questions first, and then you can always go back and check them when you still have some extra time. If you've tried those voorbeeldexamens and still found them all difficult, all I can say is try and read as much material as possible on a daily basis. Whenever I read or study some text, I try to break down each sentence into "pieces" and "investigate" into grammar, structure, word usage, etc., especially when it's rather complex text. I believe this practice may help understand/analyze text better and quicker. (I also always try to read the text out loud, which I think definitely helps other aspects such as speaking/pronunciation.) 3. LUISTEREN (LISTENING)
- it had almost the same type of questions as the voorbeeldexamens, except that my actual exam felt way more difficult. I think I was just incredibly lucky enough to make it. I've always found this area quite troublesome, it just takes time to get used to it, I guess. Like in the voorbeeld exams, you only have one chance to listen to each question and many of the questions are quite tricky. But don't feel too intimidated and just move forward even if you are not sure about some questions. Don't think too much and always choose an answer in any case. My last advice would be this: try to listen as much as possible to TV, radio, other people or whatever it is in your daily life and get use to it. There is obviously no other way to improve your listening skills. 4. SPREKEN (SPEAKING)
- I was always struggling with this area from the beginning (I used to feel like a little kid who murmurs word by word), but even some quick practice actually pays off. The actual exam felt quite "easy" after preparing myself intensively for the last 2 weeks or so (which was quite a bit of progress when I think about the first time I did my first voorbeeld exam and I was totally in panic), although I did make lots of little mistakes - luckily there's no fixed answer and therefore it's flexible, like writing exam. One thing I noticed was that while I had to use lots of "perfectum" (ik heb .... gedaan, ik ben ... gegaan, etc.) in those voorbeeldexamens, I hardly had to say these kind of sentences in the actual exam, which means that I had to answer most questions in present tense. I often had to ask someone to do something or give my opinion and explain why, or respond to someone, and yet there was no question such as someone asking me what I have done yesterday/this afternoon/etc. (But of course, you never know - you might have to use perfectum or imperfectum too, so it wouldn't hurt if you still practice them as well.)
The bottom line is this: try and be better prepared by practicing Dutch as much as possible in your daily life (which was actually part of my regret right before the exam). Practice with all the example exams, with help of someone who speaks fluent Dutch. Make sure you check out the assessment material ("beoordelingsvoorschriften") for those exams too (you can download them as well as the exams from http://www.cve.nl/item/voorbeeldexamens_tips_en
). And also try and come up with your own possible questions and answers. For this exam, you do not need massive vocabulary or complex grammar, just make it basic, clear and simple, just like writing exam. As you don't get much time for each question (like the other exams), you just have to think and answer very quick. The thing is that you also have to first think "carefully" before you start talking to prevent mistakes... (oh the dilemma). But we have to accept that some mistakes are inevitable, it's just part of the process, because no one's perfect.
Just do your best even if you don't know what to say, you might still get some points anyway!
(Honestly, I don't think you should worry too much about this speaking exam - even "I" made it, after all.)
Hope this helps some people here too! I'll try and answer ASAP if there are any questions.