Friday, July 20, 2012

Being Prepared

These past two days, I've been busy taking the NT2, the Dutch language test that determines, amongst other things, whether I can stay in the Netherlands. Copies of the test from 2001-2 and several other years can be found here, for people who are interested in just exactly what it comprises (programma II).

The NT2 has four sections:  reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  Most of it is computerized, except for the writing bit (and thank God, because when I type in Dutch I make even more typos than I do in English), where you get a packet for your answers and a sheet of scrap paper for planning--especially helpful for the essays.  For the reading section, you get a packet with 6-7 passages, most of which are pretty intense--something along the lines of a Vanity Fair article by Christopher Hitchens.  For the speaking bit, you also get a packet with pictures and questions, and you're prompted by the computer to start and stop speaking.  There are the uber-short 20-second answers, the less-short 30-second answers, and the 2-minute monologues.  Listening is done entirely on the computer.  You do two sections one day, and two sections the next.

It reminded me of taking the SAT and MCAT, in the sense that the proctors had to read the directions on every packet. They checked your dictionary (-ies, if you had 2) to make sure there were no grammar cheat-sheets, and forbade the usage of any other pen except theirs.  The one saving grace was that you were allowed to eat and drink while taking the test, which was good news for me on the second day, since the Little It apparently decided to grow something important, and consequently I was starving about halfway through the reading section.

In terms of difficulty, it was pretty much exactly what the final for my B2 course was, and indeed, the Radboud's B2-level Dutch course could have been called "NT2 Prep Course".  We even had the headsets and the same monotone computer voice prompting us in the speaking section, and I'd say that the listening section of the B2 course was even harder than the NT2's, because 10 of the questions involved a guy with a funny accent and a stutter who constantly stopped in the middle of one sentence and restarted again anew.  I wasn't nervous going into it--I'd taken all of the practice exams and done reasonably well in them--but of course, we'll have to wait 6 weeks to see what the results are.   


  1. I'm sure you did great - I'm always surprised by the reports that the audio is so poor on the listening portion of the test The static and stuttering sound like deliberate ways to confuse rather than to examine.

  2. The audio was never too bad in both the practice tests and the actual test. But yeah, sometimes you get these crap speakers ad you're like, "Um, I'm pretty sure not even a Dutch person can understand that."

  3. Wait, you're allowed a dictionary but not a grammar sheet? What sort of language dictionary doesn't have a grammar cheat sheet in its index?

  4. In Dutch, a grammar cheat-sheet is a list of verbs and their conjugation in the perfect and past participle.