There are two main reasons people take the Nederlands als tweede taal (NT2) Staatsexamen (state examinations):
- to be able to study or work in institutions and companies that require a certified level of Dutch.
- to fulfil the requirements for a Dutch residence permit or Dutch citizenship (as an alternative to the Inburgeringsexamen).
The Staatsexamen NT2 consist of two programmes:
Staatsexamen NT2 Programma I
The Staatsexamen NT2 Programma I is for people who want to find a job in the Netherlands or study in Dutch to a secondary vocational education, the Dutch mbo level 3 or 4. That equates to working at an independent professional or vocational training (level 3) or in middle management or specialised profession (level 4). The NT2 Programma I examines candidates at CEFR level B1.
Staatsexamen NT2 Programma II
The Staatsexamen NT2 Programma II is necessary for people who wish to work or study at a Hogescholen (university of applied science) or one of the research universities in the Netherlands. The NT2 Programma II examines candidates at CEFR level B2.
Staatsexamen NT2 study hours
With a part-time Dutch language course at two days a week (12 hours of guided learning including homework per week) a student should be ready to take the NT2 Programma I after around seven to eight months, and the NT2 Programma II after around one year. Different rates of study will naturally result in varying lengths of time to readiness.
Staatsexamen NT2 exams
Both Staatsexamen NT2 certifications require different exams, each consisting of four sections: reading, listening, writing and speaking.
The Writing (Schrijven) exam takes 120 minutes broken into two sections. In the first section, candidates type responses directly into the computer, while for the second they must write their answers manually in a book. Questions require both short (one or two sentences) answers and long (up to 150 words) answers.
The Speaking (Spreken) exam takes around 30 minutes. Candidates must speak into the computer through the headset, responding to scenarios that are explained on the screen. Staatsexamen NT2 Programma I has two sections, Programma II three, both consisting of short and longer answers.
The Reading (Lezen) exam takes 110 minutes for Programma I or 100 minutes for Programma II. Candidates read sections of text in a book and answer multiple choice questions on the computer.
The Listening (Luisteren) exam takes around 60 minutes. Candidates listen to sections of conversation on the computer and answer one question per section.
For the writing and reading exams, candidates are permitted to bring in three dictionaries:
- Dutch / Native language
- Native language / Dutch
- Dutch / Dutch
Note: no extra pieces of paper or handwriting are permitted in the dictionaries. All candidates' dictionaries are checked before each exam.
Staatsexamen NT2 marking
Each NT2 exam is scored between 100 and 900 points, with a pass mark being a minimum of 500 points. Scores below 300 and above 600 are very rare.
Reading & Listening
As multiple choice exams, the criteria for marking Reading (Lezen) and Listening (Luisteren) exams are straightforward, as there is only one correct answer per question.
The Writing (Schrijven) exam is marked firstly on the basis of the content, namely that it is adequate. This means that it is legible, written in Dutch and contains the correct information, which is set out logically.
The text should also be addressed to the correct person or people and perform the correct function (i.e. as a letter of complaint or an email to colleagues, etc.). Texts are then judged on grammar, such as correct word order and use of verbs and prepositions. Words are also judged on being used and spelled correctly.
In the Speaking (Spreken) exam, candidates must understand the text and speak in Dutch. Answers are assessed for being logical and on grammar, as in the Writing exam. Lastly, marks are given for correct pronunciation, pace (i.e. not too slow) and logical consistency.
Staatsexamen NT2 results
The results for both NT2 Programma I and II exams are published online on the Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO) departmental website five weeks after the exam. Candidates need their exam number (examennummer) to find the results. The results are also sent by mail the following week.
The mark is either "satisfactory" (voldoende) or "unsatisfactory" (onvoldoende). Candidates receive a certificate for each exam they pass, and if all four exams are passed at the same time, candidates receive a diploma.
It is possible to re-sit any exam that was failed (or all of them). Once all four exams have been passed, candidates can exchange their four certificates for the Diploma NT2 at the DUO. For more information, check the College voor Examens website (in Dutch).
Staatsexamen NT2 exam tips
Here are some useful tips to keep in mind whether you are taking the Programma I or Programma II exams (apart from studying hard).
- The first, and most important tip, is that there is generally never enough time. Unless you are extremely proficient in Dutch, the 15-minute warning comes all too fast. That means not wasting too much time looking up words in the dictionary. Try to read or write as much as you can without needing to use a dictionary.
- Many language schools offer exam training, either as part of a course or separately. It is a good idea to do the training, as candidates can practise the listening and speaking scenarios and learn the best way to read texts.
- Candidates must bring correct photo identification with them to the exam, either a passport or a drivers’ licence.