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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are some common Dutch proficiency tests?
Atie: And how do I choose the right one for me?
Michael: At DutchPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Emma is talking to Jack about her attempts to motivate herself to study Dutch harder. She says, "I have to take the CNaVT."
Emma Engels: Ik moet de CNaVT doen.
Emma Engels: Ik moet de CNaVT doen.
Jack Jones: Het Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Emma Engels: Ik moet de CNaVT doen.
Michael: "I have to take the CNaVT."
Jack Jones: Het Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal.
Michael: "The Certificate of Dutch as a Foreign Language."

Lesson focus

Michael: When people study a second language, it is usually with a specific goal in mind. They might be learning it to expand their career options, for travel or study, or perhaps for official purposes such as emigration or obtaining citizenship. Proof of specific standards of competency in the new language is often required. To this end, most countries have standardized exams and certifications in place.
We are going to discuss two official second-language proficiency tests in Dutch in this lesson. The first one is known as the CNaVT and the other is called the State Exam for Dutch as a Second Language. Both test the level of your Dutch reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
[Recall 1]
Michael: First, let's take a closer look at the dialogue. Do you remember how Emma Engels says, "I have to take the CNaVT?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Atie as Emma Engels: Ik moet de CNaVT doen.
[Recall 2]
Michael: And can you remember how Jack Jones confirms: "The Certificate of Dutch as a Foreign Language?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Atie: Het Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal.
Michael: CNaVT is a Dutch organization that tests and certifies the proficiency of Dutch second-language learners, mostly young adults of 16 years and older. These tests are offered by language institutions in more than 40 countries all over the world.
They are furthermore aligned with CEFR standards. Now, CEFR stands for "Common European Framework of Reference for Languages'' and it is helpful to know a bit about this before choosing which exam to take.
The CEFR is an internationally-recognized standard. It was created in the early nineties to provide a common framework for evaluating European second-language competencies. The framework is organized into six reference levels for three groups of foreign language ability, namely Basic, Independent, and Proficient.
To explain more—the levels are numbered A1 to C2. A1 and A2 are basic, introductory levels for absolute beginner learners, with level A2 slightly more advanced. Level B1 is also introductory but for independent or intermediate second-language students, while B2 is the more advanced intermediate level, and so on.
So, for a CNaVT certificate, there are five tests to consider. How should you choose the best one for you? First, that depends on your level of competency in Dutch and second it would depend on what you need the certification for. Let's take a look at all the options in more detail.
The first test is at the CEFR level A2, and is called
Atie: Maatschappelijk Informeel.
Michael: This translates to "social informal." As the name suggests, testees are expected to demonstrate basic Dutch competency in informal and casual situations. The exam takes approximately two hours to complete.
The next test is at B1 level, and is called:
Atie: Maatschappelijk Formeel
Michael: which means "social formal." When you have earned this certificate, you have demonstrated your ability to use Dutch or Flemish without assistance in a more formal societal context. This one takes approximately three hours to complete. The next test is called
Atie: Zakelijk Professioneel
Michael: which is at level B2, and it means "business professional." For this certificate, you will have to prove your Dutch competency in specifically administrative and healthcare professions. It will take you approximately three-and-a-half hours to complete. However, what if you need to show level B2 Dutch proficiency but in a different domain? Then, the
Atie: Educatief Startbekwaam
Michael: could be the test for you. It roughly means "educational starting competence" and passing this exam will mean that your Dutch is good enough for studies at a Dutch or Flemish college or university. The test also takes approximately three-and-a-half hours to finish.
In addition, it is rewarded with a quality indicator called the ALTE Q-mark. The indicator means that this specific exam was audited by ALTE, which stands for "Association of Language Testers in Europe." ALTE is a collaboration between learning institutes who design exams that test European language proficiency. It includes the likes of Cambridge University, the Goethe Institute and Alliance Francaise, to name a few.
The final CNaVT test is on level C1. It's called
Atie: Educatief Professioneel
Michael: which translates to "Educational professional." As you can probably guess by now, this certificate signifies that you have advanced Dutch language skills in the business and education domains. The exam takes approximately four hours to complete.
So, these are the five tests offered by CNaVT. All the exams are done in three sections of which one part is done orally.
The second Dutch proficiency test we're going to look at is called the
Atie: Staatsexamens Nederlands als tweede taal
Michael: or the "State Exams for Dutch as a Second Language." This is also shortened to
Atie: Staatsexamen NT2
Michael: or State Exams NT2. The organization offers a Dutch second-language diploma which is recognized by the Dutch government and also two proficiency tests.
Program One, or
Atie: Programma één
Michael: is aligned with CEFR level B1. It's for you if you are planning to enroll for further studies in what is called "mid-level applied education" or
Atie: middelbaar beroepsonderwijs
Michael: and this is usually abbreviated to MBO or
Atie: MBO.
Michael: MBO is geared toward vocational training and is similar to junior college education. This test is also suitable if you need foreign language certification to work in the vocational job sector.
The other test is called "Program Two"
Atie: Programma Twee
Michael: and it is aligned with the higher CEFR level B2. It is required for enrollment in what is called "higher career education":
Atie: hoger beroepsonderwijs
Michael: which is usually abbreviated to HBO or
Atie: HBO
Michael: and also for enrollment in university
Atie: universiteit.
Michael: These two levels of qualification are more academically oriented. Therefore, it makes sense that second-language speakers must be able to manage an advanced level of Dutch competency before enrolling.
I need to mention here that completing a Dutch competency diploma is mandatory for admission to several Dutch institutes of learning and further education. Simply getting a proficiency certificate may not guarantee entrance, and it would be best to make very sure of the enrollment requirements first.
Program Two of the State Exams Nt2 is also suitable for individuals who want to enter academic careers or jobs with a university education. Employers are usually upfront if language certification is needed, but it could be a nice addition to your CV anyway!
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: Are you still unsure which exam to choose? Then, perhaps look up the CEFR self-assessment grids on the Internet. These grids are free of charge and provide detailed descriptions of the competencies required for each level. This should give you an idea of what to expect in the tests and can help you to prepare better. If you want to make absolutely sure you are well prepared, completing an appropriate diploma first may be the way to go. CNaVT also provides sample exam papers to practice with.
The CNaVT exams used to take place during May each year, but this may have changed after Covid-19. It is probably best to contact the organization's examination partner in your country of choice directly for up-to-date information. A list of these partners can be found online. You can expect to wait approximately two months for your test results.
State Exams Nt2 are computer-based and can only be taken in the Netherlands. You may use a specified pocket dictionary during some parts of the exams.
Good luck with your tests!


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Atie: Doei!
Michael: See you soon!