How to prepare for the Bergenstest (Norwegian language test)
The Bergenstest (or Test of Norwegian as a second language) is a language test complying with the European framework of language proficiency, which proves the candidate's mastery of the Norwegian language.
Held four times a year, in Bokmål and Nynorsk, with written or oral sessions, this test is your entry to Norwegian universities and certain professions (in the teaching or the health branch, for example, where it is obligatory).
Let's see together how to prepare for this test.
WHERE TO TAKE IT?
The place where you take the test determines if you need to enrol in a formal preparation course.
If taken outside of Norway, and if you are not studying Norwegian, the wisest thing would be to enrol in a course available in your region, an internet course or attend a cramming session in Norway, where you will be able to soak into the language 24/7.
You can try to have your level of Norwegian evaluated and borrow past papers to get acquainted with the test.
To sit the test outside of Norway, the candidate must consult an embassy or a consulate (eventually a university teaching the language) and ask if sessions are held. The fee will then be a little bit higher than it would be on Norwegian soil, but it seems to be possible.
In Norway, there are different centers across the country, opened according to the number of candidates registered, with steady trimestrial sessions in the biggest cities like Bergen, Oslo or Trondheim.
Counting the identity check and the lunch break, you can expect to be at the center approximately from 8 to 14. They are usually held on a Saturday in a university building downtown.
To pass the test in Norway, contact the Folkeuniversitet of your region.
Other webpages to consult
- Test of Norwegian - advanced level - Folkeuniversitetet
- Information about the test in a very well documented website
- Bergenstest Course - Information about the Bergenstest | Skapago
Preparation course for Bergenstesten (Test i norsk - høyere nivå)
- NRK Radio - Politisk kvarter
Listen to Norwegian political podcasts - Interviews, debates, analysis
HOW TO REACH THE RIGHT LEVEL?
To replace it in the European framework of language proficiency, some people mean that a B1 level is needed for the test. I would place it more around C1, maybe some of it passive, making it an active B2.
The first time I took the test I was at level B1 and struggled for the production exercice, and ended up failing that part of the test, when I had passed (and passed well) the other parts.
The second time I tried, 8 months later, I had achieved a C1 and had trained extra hard on the written production by mapping out as many arguments I could think of in advance and studying the different plans I could use to develop them. It paid off, and I didn't hesitate or guess my way out of the other exercices either.
The books you will be needing are Stein på Stein and Her på Berget, accompagnied by the exercices you will be given in class, or that you can access on their corresponding websites.
Search the internet for exercices, testimonies and tips. Some sites are devoted to the Bergenstest.
- Read a lot in your chosen language. Though fiction is good, you may benefit more from the national newspapers like Aftenposten or Dagbladet. It is important to make vocabulary lists and note down ideas when you read debates about general politics, education, the environment...
- Listen to the news on the radio, watch debates on TV. Try to aim for a broad variety of dialects. You can also listen to audiobooks to train your ear. I loved watching political debates on NRK during the afternoon, where every politician, journalist and member of the audience spoke a different dialect.
- Whether you have learned grammar formally or intuitively, brush up your knowledge, but keep in mind that some of the questions for that part will be on idioms. Do you kow how to say “being caught red-handed” in Norwegian? Or how to “let the cat out of the bag”? Then try to find an English/Norwegian book of idioms at your local library.
Did you pass the Bergenstest on the first try?
WHICH LANGUAGE DO I GO FOR?
My mistake the first time I took the test was to dismiss training properly for the Writing Production exercice.
There are two official written languages in Norway: bokmål and nynorsk. You have to decide in which language you take the test.
I spoke a very broad form of dialect, living as I was in a remote location, but wanted to take the test in bokmål, as it was the language I was studying in class.
If speaking a dialect helps for the Oral comprehension bit, as your ear becomes more flexible, so to speak, it proves detrimental to the fluency of the writing. I realised I could talk fluently in my head about a lot of subjects, but, reading regularly only Firda, the local newspaper, or the readers' responses to the articles, a lot of words came to me only in their dialect form, and I spelt them wrong.
It is capital that you chose one written form and stick to it, my opinion being that you need to be trained formally in nynorsk to manage it. Bokmål is easier to fake, and much more available all over the country, and from foreign institutions.
WHAT IS IT?
The written test is consists of 5 parts:
- Reading Comprehension
- Listening Comprehension
- Grammar, vocabulary and expressions
- Written Production
To validate the exam, you must pass the 5 exercices. If you fail one, you will have to sit the entire test a second time.
Pass is 50% of right answers. The restitution and written production parts are not corrected against an answer sheet but according to a list of criteria. To pass with congratulations you will have to score over 75%. Receving three congratulations out of five will get you the diploma with the mention «very good», or "High Pass".
It used to be that, like many other tests, the Bergenstest functioned with a system of points (you needed 450 points to pass), but it is now only «Pass» and «High Pass».
Let's delve deeper into the 5 exercices
- Reading Comprehension
You are working with 3 texts.
The first one is missing words (linkwords, verbs, adjectives) and you have to find which is the missing word out of three choices you are given. There are around 20 words to fill in. The text is often descriptive, about historical events or customs.
The two other texts are often articles, and you have to give a series of short answers about them, the questions following the chronological order of the text.
- Listening Comprehension
You will hear around 40 short dialogues or monologues and select a suggestion out of the three given that best answers the question.
You are given time to read all the questions and suggestions beforehand. You can easily guess what the theme of each exchange will be. There will be only one listening so you need to concentrate.
Or, more accordingly maybe, a summary. You will hear an interview with a person about his work or his daily life. You will be asked to produce a summary, guided by a plan you are given beforehand. You will hear the recording twice, and it is important that you learn how to take notes efficiently.
The first time I took the test, it was about the evaluation test children had to take in elementary school and how the institution organising it functioned. The second time, it was an interview with a local leader of Kirkens SOS, a humanitarian organisation.
- Grammar, vocabulary and expressions
This one should be easy, but it is also easy to fail as there are so few questions (20 maybe) and they are corrected against an answer key.
It is mostly reformulation (you are given a prompt) that allows the examinator to test you on the passive form, the superlative, tenses, irregular verbs, as well as on idioms.
- Written production
The aim is to write a 300 word text that answer a question. You are given a clue on how to organise your essay (ex: you will first explain the problem, then give your personal opinion), as well as a couple of statistics you are allowed to ground your argumentation on.
Themes are mostly social or political: what do you think of the anonymous cv? Do you think that the sale alcohol or tobacco should be advertised in the media? Should all foreign workers required to pass a language test? Should mobile telephones be allowed in schools? . . .
Now that you know more about the test, good luck with your preparation. You will receive your results within a few weeks and can ask for a second correction of the two parts that were not corrected against an answer sheet.