Wednesday 25 May 2022

Bye-bye, boring book: online inburgering course simplifies Dutch society exam

Photo: Pixabay

Do you know who fought in the 80 Years’ War? Can you name all 12 Dutch provinces? And what should you do if your neighbour’s dog keeps fouling in your garden? A new online course covering these questions and many more makes preparing for the Knowledge of Dutch Society paper easier for inburgerers than ever.

‘They are very free and very organised’ – that’s the overwhelming impression candidates get of the Dutch when they have completed the Knowledge of Dutch Society (KNM) component of the Netherlands’ integration (inburgering) exams, says Dutch teacher Bart Nawijn.

New online course

Nawijn, who launched his online exam preparation course Inburgering Online in 2021 to help students pass the four language papers, has started the new year by adding a new course to the programme to prepare them for the KNM exam.

The KNM course − Kennis van de Nederlandse Maatschappij, in Dutch – is essentially a survival guide to living in the Netherlands, covering topics such as work and income, housing, and Dutch history and geography. ‘It’s actually great, the exam,’ says Nawijn. ‘Even for people for whom it is not mandatory, it’s good to learn about the country.’

Video tutorials guide you through the eight chapters. Photo: Inburgering Online

Bye-bye, boring book

Despite being very useful, the problem, says Nawijn, is that much of the content is ‘borderline boring’. Furthermore, the books that candidates currently have to learn from are in Dutch and feature language beyond the A2 level most candidates are required to reach for their inburgering. (For newcomers becoming inburgeringsplichtig (legally required to integrate) after January 2022 the level will be B1. For all people who were already inburgeringsplichtig before January 2022 and people applying for permanent residence or citizenship in 2022, the level remains A2.)

‘If it’s difficult to learn, then it’s a missed opportunity,’ says Nawijn. By contrast, his online course uses English to translate difficult words such as zorgverzekering (health insurance) and opzegtermijn (notice period), and to share information about the exam format and study tips. ‘I’ve tried to make a bridge between the required level of language needed to pass the exam and what students need to learn about Dutch society,’ explains Nawijn.

Videos

And as for those tedious but important topics − tax rebates on mortgage payments, anyone?Inburgering Online aims to make them ‘as accessible and comfortable to learn as possible’, says Nawijn. His upbeat presence on the videos guiding you through each of the eight chapters is intended, he says, ‘to make it a bit more cheerful, to make sure people stay engaged’ and to ‘take as much as possible of the burden of studying for this exam away’.

As well as 240 practice questions, two practice exams and a study schedule, the course includes practical information about the exam and strategies for success. One memorable tip for the amusing ‘Dutch norms and values’ section, for example, is to avoid responding to questions based on your own culture or opinion, but to consider instead what a Dutch person would do. Are the neighbours making a racket? Confront them about it directly. Visiting friends? Do not expect a meal unless it’s in the diary.

Grasping the basics of Dutch politics is part of the KNM course. Photo: Pixabay

Maximum efficiency

Leonard (48), a knowledge migrant from Australia who passed the KNM exam in January, and also studied for the language exams through Inburgering Online, told DutchNews.nl that he found the exam technique advice especially helpful. ‘He [the teacher] takes the student through a meticulous methodology of analysing the keywords in the questions and multi-choice answers, and then shows us how to exploit this to our advantage to find the correct answer,’ he said.

Inburgering Online, he said, was ‘seamless to navigate’, and he liked that e-learning let him to set his own pace. ‘I sometimes find in-person classes a little frustrating because I cannot blitz rapidly through certain parts and slow down or repeat other parts,’ he said. ‘With the online mechanics, I can easily do this and maximise my learning efficiency.’

Very helpful

Having passed the KNM exam in less than half of the 45 minutes allocated, Macedonian national Leonid (25) from Leeuwarden is also a big advocate of the new course. Describing Inburgering Online as ‘very thorough’ and ‘user-friendly’, he told DutchNews.nl that he ‘felt confident’ when it was time to sit the exam.

In particular, Leonid appreciated the personal touch that the videos added. ‘With the book you’re left alone and have to sort things out for yourself,’ he added. ‘I like that I can actually see someone. You get the feeling like he’s coaching me, coming on the journey with me.’

‘There’s not a lot of overwhelming information that you do not need [in this course] … I really enjoyed it. It was just ‘go here’, ‘click here’; ‘please take notes or revise a question if you want to, and do a [practice] test at the end’ – and that’s it, and you’ll be prepared for sure,’ he said. ‘From my perspective, if people want to pass, this is the tool to use.’

The KNM course with Inburgering Online starts at €12.95 a month or comes free when you subscribe to all four language courses. Sign up before the end of February 2022 for a 50% discount. To find out more about the subscriptions offered by Inburgering Online, visit their website.

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