By now, if you follow my series on civic integration exams (Inburgeringsexam), you already know that to qualify for Dutch citizenship or permanent residency, you need to have some knowledge of Dutch society.
In my last three series, I’ve talked about how to prepare for the first three articles – Reading, Listening, and KNM. Today’s series is about the fourth article – Writing (Schrijven). It is also a very important document. It is best to enroll in a course before taking this exam as you are expected to write grammatically correct sentences. Also, the two main criteria you would be judged on are grammatical correctness and appropriateness! This requires the help of trainers.
So how do you approach this exam? I get a lot of questions from language course students about how to prepare for this job, as many students find the writing job rather “difficult”.
Written Exam Information
One of the key differences between writing and other tests is that the writing exam is NOT computer-based. This exam is on paper. The duration of this exam is 40 minutes. You must answer four written questions. You may be asked to write an email or a letter (formal/informal), a short passage. Topics can be as simple as writing an email to your boss asking for a free day, or a little tricky like describing the first job you did. There is usually a question where you will be asked to fill out a form or questionnaire, for example, your application to join the swimming class. Sometimes you will get an “image” question. There will be some pictures and you will be asked to write a passage or describe a process based on the pictures.
Written Exam – Handwriting
Since this is an exam that you write on paper, your handwriting becomes of paramount importance. I would suggest people who think they don’t have clear handwriting to practice well. There are cases where exam candidates fail only because of their illegible handwriting! When you practice for exams, write your answers on paper instead of typing them on the computer.
Is writing easier?
However, many people find this document easier than speaking. It’s also true. During the writing, you have time to go back, revise and correct your sentences, while in the oral exam, you have to be correct in one go, because the revision time is running out! However, there are also people who find writing quite a difficult job, mainly because it involves a lot of grammar, albeit basic grammar.
Tips for passing this exam
Short, easy and correct sentences
One of the points you need to understand is that you have limited space to write your answers. I advise you to write your answers in simple, short and logical sentences. Of course, grammatical correctness is of utmost importance. But when you write concise and easy sentences, you reduce your chances of making grammar errors. Use proper beginnings and endings in your emails/letters. In this context, I will also insist on the habit of enriching one’s vocabulary. If you can learn at least five new words every day, that could give you a good start!
Practice word order
The The DUO website has good sample papers. As you practice them, you will get a good idea of the type of questions they ask on the exam. Dutch grammar is not like English grammar and the word order is somewhat different from English. Right from the start, when you start taking Dutch lessons, make sure you learn how Dutch sentence construction works. One tip I can give at this point is to focus on verb positioning. Dutch verbs, both regular and irregular, have different ways of conjugating. Also, their positioning changes if you write complex sentences, using the main sentence and a clause. These areas are undoubtedly areas of concern. However, using conjunctions earns you extra points!
This is something I wouldn’t recommend you do. You should also not use translation software to prepare for the writing test. Instead, start by writing small passages and ask your teacher (or maybe a Dutch colleague!) for feedback.
So read the question carefully and make sure you write everything that is asked in the question. Remember that missing the point means losing points. Beware of errors concerning the words ‘de/het’. And you would be fine! Success with the feet!
Next week: How to approach Spreken Paper (Speaking)
An article by Chaitali Sengupta. She is the founder of the language institute ON-POINT COMMUNICATIONS and gives Inburgering courses online.