By now, if you’re following my series on the Civic integration exams (Inburgeringsexam), you already know that to be qualified for Dutch citizenship or permanent residence, you must have some knowledge of Dutch society.
In my last three series, I’ve talked about how to prepare for the first three papers- Reading, Listening, and KNM. Today’s series is about the fourth paper- Writing (Schrijven). This is also a very important paper. It is better to sign up for a course before taking this exam because you’re expected to write grammatically correct sentences. Besides, the two main criteria where you’d be judged are Grammatical correctness and adequacy! This requires help from the trainers.
So how to approach this exam? I get a lot of questions from the students in the language class as to how to prepare for this paper, as many students find the writing paper rather ‘challenging’.
Information about the Writing exam
One of the essential differences between Writing and other papers is that the Writing exam is NOT computer-based. This exam is on paper. The duration of this exam is for 40 minutes. You need to answer four writing questions. You may be asked to write a mail or a letter (formal/informal), a small passage. The topics can be as simple as writing a mail to your boss asking for a day free, or a bit tricky like describing the first job you did. There is usually one question where you will be asked to fill up a form or a questionnaire, for example, your application to join the swimming class. Sometimes you’ll get a ‘picture’ question. There will be a few pictures and you’d be asked to write a passage or describe a process based on the pictures.
Writing exam – Handwriting
Since this is an exam that you write on paper, your handwriting becomes of paramount importance. I’d suggest people who think they do not have clear handwriting to practice well. There are instances of exam candidates being unsuccessful only because of their illegible handwriting! When you practice for the exams, write your answers on paper, instead of typing o the computer.
Is writing easier?
However, a lot of people find this paper is easier then Speaking. That is true too. While writing you have the time to go back, revise and correct your sentences, while in the speaking exam you need to be correct in one go, as there is a shortage of revision time! However, there’re also people who find writing to be quite a tough paper, mainly because it involves quite a lot of grammar, although basic grammar.
Tips for tackling this exam
Short, easy, and correct sentences
One of the points that you must understand is that you’ve 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 errors in grammar. Use proper beginnings and endings in your emails/letters. In this context, I shall also stress the habit of building up your vocabulary. If you can learn at least five new words every day, that might give you a good jump start!
Practice the Word-order
The DUO website has got some good sample papers. As you practice those, you’ll get a good insight into the type of questions they ask in the exam. Dutch Grammar is not like English grammar, and the word order is somewhat different from English. From the very beginning, when you start taking the Dutch classes, please make sure you learn the workings of Dutch sentence construction. One tip that I can give at this point is to focus on the positioning of the verbs. Dutch verbs, both regular and irregular ones, have different ways of conjugation. Besides, their positioning change if you’re writing complex sentences, using the main sentence and a clause. These areas are undoubtedly areas of concern. However, using conjunctions gets you extra points!
This is something which I would not recommend you do. Neither should you use any translating software as you prepare for the Writing test. Start writing small passages instead and ask your teacher (or maybe a Dutch colleague!) to provide feedback.
So read the question carefully, and make sure you write about everything that is asked in the question. Remember, missing the point means losing marks. Beware of making errors regarding the ‘de/het’ words. And you’d do fine! Succes met de toets!
Next week: How to tackle the Spreken (Speaking) paper
An article by Chaitali Sengupta. She is the founder of the language institute ON-POINT COMMUNICATIONS and gives online Inburgeringsclasses.