So we have seen enough posts on learning the Dutch language and how difficult it can be, but what about when you actually have learned the language and want to take it one step further? Then you can sign up to take the NT2 Staatsexam level I or level II.
There are several benefits to having this diploma, but the most obvious two are when applying for a job, or when you want to further your studies at one of the universities.
Signing up for the Staatsexam
My own story is simple enough, I have lived in the Netherlands for 4 years and came with an elementary background in Dutch having grown up on the Dutch Caribbean island of St.Maarten.
In order to bring my Dutch up to the level it would need to be, especially the grammar aspect, I signed up for a 20 week course at a local college. The course is completely voluntary and not required to take the exam, but having now been in the exam room, I highly recommend a course of some kind, although it may not be for every budget, mine cost €800! Luckily if you take this course specifically for your work you can deduct the expenses on your taxes.
I spent 3 hours a week for 20 weeks sitting in a classroom with a variety of folks from countries like Poland, Syria, Russia and Thailand. It was actually nice to finally be among language peers rather than the “foreigner” and each week I began to really see a difference in my sentence structure, vocabulary and general knowledge of the language.
The NT2 level II exam
Finally, after what felt like forever, but was really just about 6 months, I was ready to take my NT2 level II exam. There are only 5 testing centres in the country so when you go to the DUO website you will have to choose the one closest to you. There are a total of 4 exams; reading, writing, listening and speaking. The cost per exam is €45 and this must be paid in advance before they send you the confirmation letter.
Some things to note:
- You don’t get much choice of dates. They give you 2 or 3 options, and it was generally several months away, so if you want your diploma before a certain date (like before September when classes start) then you should sign up early.
- If you are taking all 4 exams at once like I did, they will schedule 2 per day, so plan on taking 2 days off for testing.
- You are not allowed to bring anything in with you other than dictionaries, and they are specific about which type you are allowed to bring so read the rules carefully or you may end up in the exam room with no dictionary at all.
- They offer lockers for all your stuff, and I suggest you make sure to put everything in it, because if you are caught with a phone in the exam room, they will kick you out, and you then loose your turn and your money.
- It takes about 5-6 weeks to get your results, so again, early planning is recommended.
- If you fail any part of the exam, you can sign up to re-take just that section, which is a relief when you totally bomb one.
Some things I experienced while taking the exam:
The hardest part for me, was the exam I though would be the easiest..speaking! You have headphones on and they show you a picture and in the beginning give you 15 seconds to formulate your answer…which is all fine and dandy until the buzzer beeps and 20 people all start talking at the same time, all with funny accents. My concentration went out the window and I was trying to hear myself think. I stumbled and struggled to get the sentences out in a correct manner all while trying to drown out a particularly loud woman who was certainly worse off than I was. they eventually work up to 2 minutes to think, but those 2 minutes also require 2 minute answers. It was my least favourite test to say the least.
All the other exams allow you to go back to previous questions and check your answers, so if you have time left over you can go back and start second guessing yourself!
Bring a snack and drink, I found that after an hour and a half I needed to spike my sugar to keep my brain going.
In the end, I found the testing centre to have very polite staff and they tried their best to make the experience less painful. I was lucky enough to pass all 4 exams, although I am not sure how as I left feeling like I needed another 20 week course!
I am happy I have the experience behind me and its nice to know if I want to go for my Dutch nationality that I already have the language part covered. Not sure if going back to school is for me, but with this one certificate I certainly have more options at my feet.