General information

The contents of the examination


The Certificate examination can be taken at Basic, Intermediate and Advanced levels. The test-takers themselves choose the proficiency level at which they wish to participate. The communication purposes, i.e., functions, are more or less the same at all levels. The feature distinguishing the levels is the extent and variety of expression required. While at Basic level it is important that test-takers are able to convey their message at least in a rudimentary and short form, at Intermediate level they are expected to express the functions in a more natural and appropriate manner. At Advanced level they should be capable of expressing the functions effectively, naturally and appropriately, according to the situation.

All the tests in the Certificate examination consist of four subtests: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. The speaking test at the Basic and Intermediate levels is administered in a language studio. At the Advanced level there is also a conversation test, in addition to the studio test. The Basic level speaking subtest for Finnish and Swedish, however, takes the form of an interview.



Assessment of test performances and the certificates


Test performances are assessed according to predefined criteria and test-takers receive a certificate that contains a numerically expressed language proficiency profile, i.e., a separate assessment for each of the four subtests (listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking, listening). Performance is assessed using assessment instructions that are written separately for each test. Assessment is criterion-referenced: performances are compared to the skill level criteria, not directly to each other. The persons assessing performance are specially trained for the task.

On the back of the certificate there are details of the language proficiency scale. In the case of the Basic test, the language proficiency assessment can be 'Below 1', 1 or 2; at Intermediate level, 'Below 3', 3 or 4; and at Advanced level, 'Below 5', 5 or 6. 'Below x' is awarded if the candidate has not been able to meet the criteria set for the level.

If the test-taker has totally omitted a particular subtest, or has only partly completed it, this will be indicated on the certificate as cannot be assessed. In such cases no overall language proficiency assessment will be given.

The certificate awarded can be used in a variety of situations as reliable and commensurable evidence of a person’s language proficiency level e.g. employers can use the certificate as verification of the holders' level of language proficiency.



Language testing for special needs


The National Certificates of Language Proficiency tests are open to those with special needs; for example, the hearing impaired, the visually impaired and those with reading disorders. When enrolling for the examination, a person with special needs should present the appropriate doctor’s certificate. A certificate showing reading disorders can be provided by a doctor, but also by a special needs teacher or psychologist.

Test-takers with special needs take the same test as other participants. Where the nature of the handicap makes it impossible for test-takers to participate in particular subtests, they can be released from such tests. If the handicap can be eliminated by customizing the test arrangements (for example, by giving more time, replacing oral items with written ones, not requiring the use of the optical answer sheet, using information technology, visual material, audiotape or enlarged texts), then the test organizers should endeavour to use such alternatives whenever possible.

Test performance is assessed using the same criteria used in assessing National Language Certificate tests generally.