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What does passing your inburgering exams really entail?

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After hearing torturous accounts of traditional inburgering lessons, former Dutch teacher Bart Nawijn set out to do better. Now over 40,000 students have taken his online classes.

“I really felt for the students and wanted to design the course I would want to take if I was taking the exams,” says Bart. “Something exam-focused, user-friendly, and without all the unnecessary stuff.”

And so his online, guided self-study course was born, taking his former students’ realities into account. “People have full-time jobs, and many have children, so it’s difficult for them to find the time to sit in a course,” says Bart of the challenges many internationals face when they study for the integration exams.

With, students can study at their own pace in their own time. There’s also a mobile website that makes study on the go easy.

“These courses are focused, succinct and time efficient!” says 63-year-old Canadian retiree Barbara. “I’d taken a beginner Dutch language course before and, although it was fine, I found it too general and slow going. The courses in focused on preparing me for the integration exams without a lot of other information that isn’t necessary. I like that everything is online so it suits my lifestyle, and I can do it at my own pace. There are no books required and I find the cost very reasonable.”

Indeed, Bart’s courses cost a fraction of what typical classes charge, with his subscription-based lessons costing as little as €9 per month. “It really saves time and money,” says Bart.

Who needs to take the inburgering exams?

For many people who’ve relocated to the Netherlands for work, the right to reside in the country is linked to their job. But those who want to stay longer or are seeking a more permanent residency must pass the inburgering exams; it’s a requirement for a permanent residence permit or a Dutch passport—whether you’re a refugee or a highly-skilled migrant.

While refugees and people granted a visa based on their relationship with someone already living in the Netherlands have three years to pass the exams, those who choose to voluntarily integrate must have lived in the country for at least five years and can start taking their exams from the moment they arrive on Dutch shores.

People who are from an EU country, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland are only required to take the exams to get a Dutch passport. They don’t need to inburger for a residence permit.

For those voluntarily integrating to get permanent residence or a passport (mostly highly skilled immigrants), the government intends to increase the language level from A2 to B1. However, in 2024 (and quite possibly even in the following years), A2 will still be enough.

For family visa immigrants and refugees who arrived in the Netherlands after Jan 1, 2022, the B1 level will normally apply. Bart offers both levels, and you can register for A2 courses here and B1 courses here.

The exams

The inburgering exams are made up of four language exams (reading, listening, writing and speaking) and a test about Dutch culture and society known as KNM.

Like many Dutch experts, Bart recommends taking the classes in that order, which goes from easiest to most difficult. Barbara says she found the KNM section the most helpful.

“My fellow students often said they found the KNM to be the most difficult part of the integration exams, so I’m grateful for the good tutelage I got with Bart,” says Barbara. “He was very thorough in his coverage of the material, and I was able to pass on the first try!”

Bart estimates that for Dutch language beginners who study regularly, 7-10 hours a week should get you comfortably prepared for the tests within six months. For those who already possess some basic knowledge of Dutch (A1 or A1+ level), that time decreases to two to four months.

Student Radu Stancut recommends students study regularly, “several times a week and not all at once,” and to consider doing the course’s practice tests at least twice.

“The course was well organized and structured. It was always clear what would be covered, how it was related to the exam, and you received ample content to learn the material,” he says. “At the same time, the material was not so much that you felt overwhelmed. There were multiple sections per topic area (speaking, reading, etc.), which allowed for bite-sized studying. The system retains your progress so it is easy to pick up where you left off.”

Check with your employer about possible reimbursements, as many companies include language and integration study among their employee benefits.

Start talking!

And don’t be afraid to make mistakes, says SP Singh, an IT engineer. “You’ll make them, but talking and writing with friends or family every day can really help you get better. Practice what you learn.”

His biggest takeaway from “If you work at something regularly and plan it out, you can succeed in a new task, including learning a new language.”

The thought of that daunting task keeps many internationals up at night, but it is possible. “These courses were recommended to me by a friend, and I’m very grateful, because I was sure I’d never learn Dutch well enough to pass the integration exams the way I was going before!” says Barbara.

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