07 July 2015

What to Expect When Taking the Dutch Staatsexamen NT2 (Programma I)

I'm now 2 weeks past having taken the Staatsexamen NT2, and my brain has mostly re-solidified (no thanks to the European heatwave). So now that I'm feeling coherent again, I'm sharing some advice about what to expect about taking the Staatsexamen NT2 Programma I.

Firstly: some disclaimers/background information.

  • I wasn't required to take the Staatsexamen for any reason, though depending on your situation, you may find that it is some sort of requirement for you due to work, eventual inburgering, etc.
  • I have been taking private Dutch lessons for over 2 years now and decided to take the exam because a) my fantastic instructor felt pretty confident in my ability to pass and b) I figured I might as well put this knowledge into practice and see about getting a nifty certificate to prove it.
  • I took the exam at the Eindhoven location, so my information is based on my experience there.
  • This information relates to Programma I. I have not taken Programma II, nor do I know anyone that has. So if you want to take Programma II, you're on your own, but please let me know what it's like.
  • I've written this post entirely based on my own experiences and was not asked to share this information by any organization.

When you've registered for the Staatsexamen, you receive via post a confirmation of payment within a few days. However, you won't receive the address and official test-taker information until about 2 weeks before your exam dates. If you decide to go for all 4 test sections (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) try not to be totally shocked when you see that the test spans two days.

When the day comes to actually take the exam:

  • make sure you arrive AT LEAST 30 minutes prior to the test. This gives you time to check in with the office, put all your things in one of the provided lockers, and have a last nervous-pee in the restroom before getting called into the testing room. 
  • You'll need an official photo ID and your official test confirmation from the Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap.
  • The test proctors call everyone in somewhere between 10 and -2 minutes before the official exam start time. If you are not in the test room at the official start time, you forfeit your test time and the exam cost.

When you walk into the testing room:

  • You'll have to find a piece of paper with your name and official test number at an assigned seat. You can't switch spots with someone as your test number has been programmed into the computer at your seat. 
  • Test takers may not take any type of electronic device (phones, cameras, electronic dictionaries, etc) into the testing area. 
  • Watches, even analog, are also not allowed in the test room. 
  • Up to three dictionaries are allowed for the reading and writing tests - but these will be checked by the proctors for any loose pages and probably also hollowed out areas holding illegal items. 
  • You may not bring your own pens or paper - you will be provided with pens and scrap paper that will be collected at the end of the exam.
  • Bring your official test confirmation paper and photo ID into the exam room.
  • You're allowed to bring a drink with you to the testing room. They encourage you to have a water bottle with a cover on it. 
  • The proctors will check that you match your photo ID, and will check your ears for any earbud/headphones and your wrists for watches. 

While taking the tests:

  • Both the reading and writing sections have you doing work out of a workbook and on the computer.
  • The headphones for the speaking section are not noise-cancelling headphones, and you will be able to hear the other people in the room. Some are more annoying than others.
  • The proctors will give a 15 minute warning and a 5 minute warning towards the end of the exam time. Analog clocks are also hung around the room to help you track your time.
  • Don't even bother trying to track your time during the listening and speaking sections. It all moves too fast and it'll increase your anxiety even more trying to do the math in your head.

After the tests:

  • You won't receive your exam results for 5-6 weeks after the test.
  • You will feel like your brain has been through a blender. 
  • Go home and have a drink. 

Have you taken the Staatsexamen? Do you have any other insights?
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