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Update (14 March 2017): The 2017 spring Prøve i Dansk 3 written exam takes place 16 May. The autumn exam will happen on 14 November. The registration deadlines for these two exams are 6 March 2017 (for the 16 May test) and 4 September (for the 14 November exam).
As I gazed out at AaB’s emerald green field, dotted with gold foil, I noticed that the sign hanging above it was out of date. It stated ‘Danske mestre 1995-1999-2008’. “They need to add 2014,” I thought absentmindedly, as I sat at my table of two and reviewed the words on my vocabulary list for the last time. That’s right – I was not at Nordjyske Arena to watch a football match; I was there to take a Danish exam: Prøve i Dansk 3 (‘PD3’), to be precise.
Prøve i Dansk 3 is the final, national exam for students at Danish language schools around the country who are completing the third level of language study. (See my previous post on studying Danish in Aalborg in order to learn more about the system.) You do not have to be enrolled in a state-funded language school to take the exam but if you take it ‘independently’, i.e. not as a language school student, you may have to pay. According to the law, the municipality in which one resides can decide whether to charge ‘selvstuderende’ exam takers a fee. In 2014, the fee for taking Prøve i Dansk 1, 2 or 3 as an ‘independent’ is 1,246 kr.¹ The exam is given twice a year – in May/June and November/December. It takes place over two months not because the authorities cannot decide on a date but because there are two parts to the test: written and oral. One takes the written part first; if they pass, they ‘get to’ take the oral exam a few weeks later.
The written portion of PD3 actually includes two main parts: a reading comprehension exam, which tests how well you understand written Danish, and a writing exam, in which you are the one who does the writing. The reading portion is broken down as follows: 1) a ‘quick scan’ part for which you are given the information booklet/brochure of an actual Danish organization or institution, such as VUF (Voksenuddannelse Frederiksberg), and must answer 15 questions about the information contained in it within 25 minutes. The aim of this part is to see how quickly you can pick information out of an authentic document and accurately answer who/what/when/where/how (much/many) questions; and 2) an in-depth reading section that includes two related texts about which you have to answer seven multiple choice questions (given the focus on job-related Danish at sprogskoles in Denmark now, these generally deal with the topic of work, employment and the job market. However, that is still taken very broadly, so the links may be rather obscure, e.g. childcare, equal opportunities, gender balance, etc.) and a third, shorter text with eight missing words, where you have to identify the missing word (also multiple choice). The total time allowed for this portion is 65 minutes.
The writing section also has two parts. The first is an email you must write in response to an email written to you. The email you write must address all the questions asked in the original email and close with an appropriate sign-off. For the second portion, you have a choice between two options: 1) describing a diagram or table displaying a statistical trend and explaining the underlying reasons; or 2) developing an argument about a relatively broad topic, such as volunteering, work-life balance, etc. The time limit for this section is 2.5 hours and each text you write must consist of a minimum 200 words.
Our exam yesterday was held at Aalborg Stadium because there were so many registrants. We filled the two main lounges of the stadium; I would estimate there were 150-200 of us in attendance. Observing other test takers, I gauged varying levels of anxiety, which made sense as the stakes differed depending on each person’s situation. Some – maybe most (and I include myself in this group) – were there just to formally complete the language training they began one, two or more years ago. For us, passing is not even required but I will be the first to admit that not passing would feel pretty awful. Others, however, came to the exam knowing that only a 10 out of 12 would get them to the next level – for some, the studieprøven course, which prepares students to study at a Danish institution of higher education in Danish; for others, the next step in the process of becoming a certified doctor in Denmark or training to become a health aid worker, among, I’m sure, many other reasons for needing a certain score. Still others were there to complete the requirement for permanent residency, for which a specific grade is required (see here for more information).
What became clear to me very quickly as we milled about the testing room before the exam began was that people had come with varying amounts of information and advice from their teachers. Thus, I would like to share here some of the tips you may or may not get from your teacher/s at the Aalborg Sprogcenter before you take the test this fall/next year/even later [disclaimer: any of these might change for future exams – they are not set in stone – so check with Sprogcenter teachers or administration prior to arriving at the test location]:
1) You may write with either pen or pencil but if you use a pencil, make sure it has a very dark lead tip and prepare to press very hard while writing. When a friend and fellow test taker told me the day before the exam that her teachers had warned them to bring only a ball-point pen to the test, I nearly laughed, thinking this was a little too ‘micro-managing’ on their part. Now I’m glad she told me because I came prepared with an erasable pen and I didn’t have to focus on how dark or light my text was. The reason behind this is that they photocopy all pages of the exam and your writing must come out clearly when copied.
2) You are allowed to bring any dictionaries you choose to use during the written part of the exam. Two friends (perhaps more) misunderstood that they could only bring a Dansk Ordbog (i.e. dictionary solely in Danish) with them. While test takers are strongly encouraged to bring a Danish dictionary, you can bring Danish-English, Danish-Spanish, etc. dictionaries instead/as well. I saw people with a 1.5 foot stack of three dictionaries – Danish, Danish-native language, Native language-Danish – at the ready. Please note: the exam officials also provide each person with a verb list (verbs in infinitive, present, past and past-perfect tenses) to use during the written portion.
3) Your mobile phone will be confiscated when you are shown to your seat. Bring a wristwatch if you want to monitor your time! Each test taker is asked to turn off and put his/her mobile in an envelope provided and write his/her CPR number on the envelope for collection after the exam. This is to prevent 1) people from using Google translate or other online translation service during the exam; 2) people from taking photos of the exam (I would imagine); and 3) any embarrassing interruptions during the exam.
4) You may consume food and drink during the exam.
5) There were about 5 minutes between part 1 and 2 of the reading comprehension portions of the exam. There was then a 15 minute break between the reading comprehension and writing parts. The exam finished at 13:30, although we were told to block off 8:15 until 14:00. You can leave early if you finish the writing part ahead of time.
6) There are many things you can do to prepare for the exam. Depending on whether you are enrolled at Aalborg Sprogcenter, you will get more or less help in getting ready. If you are a student at the school, there is quite a difference, as well, depending on which class you are enrolled in – day vs. evening course, how long you’ve been in the last stage of the 3rd level of Danish, who your teacher is, etc. Friends in the day course took several practice exams in the weeks leading up to PD3; I took perhaps two reading comprehension practice tests and did 3 or 4 writing exams as homework. I think the best advice I was given by my teachers was to read, read, read as much Danish news as possible, e.g. politiken.dk, nordjyske.dk, samvirke.dk. And build your vocabulary. Especially on the final portion of the reading comprehension test, when you have to identify the missing word in a sentence, there are some words that appear in nearly all exams over the last few years. Here is a list of words I identified by combing through 5 or 6 prior PD3 exams and picking out the words I was unsure of: 100 word vocab list for PD3. [Please note: this is in no way an official list endorsed by a Danish language school; it is based on words with which I felt I needed to become more familiar. That said, I’m really glad I prepared in this way as it made it easier for me to get through the various texts – many of these words came up more than once.] And here are instructions on the exam produced by the government.
I came away from the exam relatively confident that I passed but knowing that I made mistakes. Ah well – it’s all part of learning, right? Stay tuned for part two of this post – the oral exam, which I will publish after my oral exam on 16 June.