02 December, 2010

Exams are done, done, DONE!

It's been a hectic week.  Nerissa World is insanely busy right now.  This week is really the crescendo of it all, however.  Hopefully by Monday everything will be back to normal, whatever that is!

This week I've done all four of my Dutch exams.  Hopefully for the first and last time!  I'll try to go through them all and tell you what I thought, and how I think you can better prepare yourself.

First up was the Toets Gesproken Nederland.  This exam was what I was probably most nervous about.  I was terrified about the tegenstellingen (opposites), because it is something that I've really struggled with.  Poor Maarten has been practicing with me on the couch and I've been sitting there fighting tears because I was useless!

So, I was happy that it was first.  Get the worst out the way, and all that!  We met our lovely examiner - a really friendly guy who put us all at ease straight away.  Good quality for an examiner, hey?  He showed us all to little rooms with a telephone and a headset, then dialled a number for us and off we went.  There was a practice question and the computer gave me a couple of example questions.  The test was broken down into five sections, A-E.  A was Nazeggen - repeating a sentence verbatim.  It's important to note that you are scored in this section on each word, so if you don't remember all the words, that's fine.  Just try and get as much out as possible with the same intonation that you've just heard.  I was fine with most sentences, but as they became longer I couldn't remember everything.  There were 10 sentences to repeat in all.

Section B was Tegenstellingen (from memory, but it could have been Korte Vragen).  There were only about 10 words, but this is what I was most scared of.  I think I gave a couple of stupid answers, like mondeling - stilstand (instead of schriftelijk) for example.

Section C was another round of Nazeggen, with another ten sentences.  With the first three sections, I must tell you so you can prepare yourself, the voices were NOT clear.  The voices were a bit muffled and the words were not clearly enunciated.  For example's sake, to me it sounded like the team who put together the exam went out into Amsterdam with a mic and asked random people to give words/sentences.  The accents and speed varied greatly.  And not in a good way.

Section D was Korte Vragen.  Meaning, the computer asked a short question, and I needed to give a one or two word answer.  Again, from memory I think there were 10 questions in all.  This wasn't difficult.  It is only a problem if you don't know the answer in Dutch!

Section E (for me) was by far the easiest.  We listened to two short stories, and then within a 30 second time frame had to say what the point of each story was.  Basically, who the story was about, what they were doing, where and what etc.

After the exam was finished, a group of us discussed how we all went and what we thought.  We all agreed that it was difficult to understand the voices and that the speed was faster than we expected.  What I found interesting was that all the others thought that Section E was the most difficult, whereas I thought it was the easiest...

The best way to prepare yourself?  Listen listen listen!!  Listen to the radio, try to pick up different accents, but most of all relax in the exam!  Which seems ridiculous coming from me - the least relaxed person I know!  You have a reasonable length of time to answer each question, so the worst thing you can do is panic.  Also remember that you have to get the answer right first time, so if you say the wrong word then the right word, too bad.  The computer doesn't care.

After about a 10 minute interval (long enough to skull a quick coffee) we were called in for the Kennis Nederlandse Samenleving (KNS) exam.  This is based on the practice exams that I've discussed in the past.  You open a screen on the computer, watch a small film then answer a few related multiple choice questions.  Depending on how difficult your individual test is (as they are all different), you will have between 35 and 42 questions to answer.  I had 38 questions to answer and they were all a bit more difficult than I was expecting.  I had questions about discrimination, teenagers skipping school, going into ondertrouw and healthcare (with a particularly disturbing film of Mo stabbing himself with a screwdriver!).  There may have been a couple of others, but those were the main sections.  I didn't know much about the process of when you feel discriminated at work, but tried to let commonsense  play god.  I think I did enough to pass.  This exam lasted 45 minutes, and I was done with about 10 minutes to spare.  There were a couple faster than me, and looking at my immediate neighbours, they were in strife.  I think the girl on my left will be back in that exam room for sure.

Almost immediately afterwards we went in to the Elektronish Praktijk Exam (EPE).  This exam was for 60 minutes, and was the same format as the KNS and the practice exams that I've already done.  I found this exam to be by far the easiest.  The most important point to note is that the answer is invariably in the text/video.  You will never have to make up the answer that you think is correct (hello KNS, I'm talking to you).  You just need to concentrate and read/listen correctly.  I was done within 30 minutes.

Advice for the two last exams?  KNS - learn Welkom in Nederland.  Really.  Learn it.  Everything you need to know about this exam comes out of that book.  EPE?  Learn the language.  What you learn in class is enough, if you pay attention that is...  Basically if I can get to the stage of being able to take the exams with a reasonable level of confidence after only eight months, anyone can.  Plus, think about what you would do in the situation.  For example, one was Zara walking down the street pushing her grandson in a pram.  She came across a car parked on the footpath belonging to the neighbour.  She rings his bell.  Then the question is, what happens next?  I.e. what does she say when he opens the door, or what does he say in reply.

I walked out of the exams yesterday feeling as though I have done enough to pass.  If anything, it will be the TGN that lets me down, but I certainly answered far more than 50% correctly.  The big question is, did I crack 75%...?  Only time will tell.  I should have an answer in the next couple of weeks.

Today it was onto the big one.  The Panelgesprek over mijn Portfolio.  I have been working really hard on this one for the last few weeks, rehearsing scenarios and going through what I thought was difficult, easy, and most importantly, leukst ;)

The weather outside this morning was what could only be described as klote weer, so I made sure I left in plenty of time (taking bus 157 to Amstelstation and the metro to Wibraustraat - super fast and cheaper than the train!), so I rocked into the Ttif Company headquarters at 9.00, three quarters of an hour early!  But, better too early than too late right (do we need any more proof that I'm fully ingeburgerd)?  The interview began exactly on time, and instead of a team of daunting examiners, I met with two lovely ladies - Jamilla and Angelique, and we got straight into it.  Jamilla did all the talking (and the interview was recorded), and Angelique listened and took notes.  Jamilla asked me all sorts of questions, not just related to the portfolio, but how long I've lived here, where I work etc.  Although I was nervous, I didn't feel like I was drowning, and we even got in trouble with the group next door because we were too loud!!  That was a fabulous ice breaker, so after that I totally relaxed and just did my best.  Jamilla asked me about my buurvrouw (thanks Connie!!), and even what she looks like!  Sorry Connie, you've been described as a korte vrouw, but!  You're also described as a Nieuwe Nederlander (they could tell I was so proud of you!).

After the short interview I had to complete a sheet with six questions.  All very basic questions, like how many situations I had collected, what I found hard, important, nice etc.  I was expecting to have to also write a short note to a friend (as I have been practicing that), but it wasn't necessary.  I did find that I needed the full fifteen minutes provided though.  I only just finished it in time.  Angelique read what I had written, expressed that she was very impressed (yay!) and that she could already tell me that I had done enough and that I had passed the exam!!  She told me that a letter to that effect would be following, but that I should relax, because she was very happy and could understand me very well.  So basically, I rock.

Now it's just the waiting game for the other three exams from yesterday.  I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, please feel free to ask me ANY questions about the exams.  I'm sure I can be of some use!

Tot snel.

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