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Finnish Language Exam for Proficiency (YKI) 2020 Guide

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Whether you’re looking for more information about the official Finnish Language Proficiency Test (YKI), or are already busy studying for the exam, our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the test.

We’ll start by looking at the benefits of taking this test and how you can register for it. Then we’ll dive into the details about the test itself, and wrap up with useful tips on preparing for the YKI!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Study Strategies in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. What is YKI?
  2. How Do You Pass the YKI?
  3. Conclusion

1. What is YKI?

YKI (Yleinen Kielitutkinto) is the National Certificate of Language Proficiency in the Finnish language. The YKI test is intended for adults who wish to demonstrate their Finnish language skills, and anyone is welcome to sign up for the exam. (Note that YKI tests are also offered in eight other languages.)

But how long is the YKI test valid? The official certificate—issued by the University of Jyväskylä and sanctioned by opetusministeriö (the Finnish Ministry of Education)—remains valid for life, making it an excellent way to prove your proficiency in Finnish.

A- What are the levels of the YKI exam?

The test follows a standardized format that’s in accordance with the requirements of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The three proficiency levels of YKI—basic, intermediate, and advanced—can be further divided into six proficiency levels that correspond to the classification system of CEFR.

  • CEFR A1 – National Certificate 1 (Basic)
  • CEFR A2 – National Certificate 2 (Basic)
  • CEFR B1 – National Certificate 3 (Intermediate)
  • CEFR B2 – National Certificate 4 (Intermediate)
  • CEFR C1 – National Certificate 5 (Advanced)
  • CEFR C2 – National Certificate 6 (Advanced)

The “basic” YKI test level is intended for people who can handle everyday situations in Finnish. The “intermediate” level is for people who can speak the language with some confidence. The “advanced” level is for people who speak the language extremely well. Familiarize yourself with the requirements for each level in order to decide which one is most appropriate for you before registering.

It may also be good to take a test to determine your current proficiency level. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a Finnish language professional, you could ask them to help assess your level.

B- Why should you take the YKI exam?

Passing the exam and getting your hands on an official YKI certificate can come in handy in several situations, such as if you plan to:

  • Study in a Finnish university
  • Apply for a job in Finland
  • Qualify for a language bonus at your job
  • Apply for a Finnish citizenship

Always check to see if you need a certificate at a specific level before taking the test! For example, if you want to apply for a Finnish citizenship, you’ll need to pass both the written and oral components of your YKI exam at the intermediate level (proficiency level 3 or 4).

If, at this point, you’ve realized that you don’t actually need an official YKI certificate, but would still love to take a Finnish test online, consider completing a free language portfolio test on FinnishPod101.com. The exam is available to Premium PLUS subscribers—simply ask your teacher, who’ll be very happy to help!

Someone Holding a Small Finnish Flag

You need to pass the YKI language test to apply for Finnish citizenship.

C- What’s included in the YKI Finnish language test?

The YKI Finnish language exam includes the following sections:

1. Tekstin ymmärtäminen (Reading comprehension)

2. Kirjoittaminen (Writing)

3. Puheen ymmärtäminen (Listening comprehension)

4. Puhuminen (Speaking)

Each section is timed, and the exam will take 3.5 to 4 hours to complete at the basic and intermediate levels, and 5 to 6 hours at the advanced level. No score is given—your certificate will simply state at which level you passed the exam.

The YKI focuses on practical, everyday situations, such as making a GP appointment or writing a letter to a friend. In other words, it’s not necessary to be familiar with any special jargon or the Finnish culture to pass the language test.

Find more details about the different components of the YKI test on the University of Jyväskylä website. You’ll also find useful YKI test samples there that will help you become familiar with the types of texts, recordings, and questions that you’re likely to come across when you take the real exam.

D- How and where do you take the test?

The YKI Finnish language test is offered in dozens of test centers across Finland. (Unfortunately, you can’t do the test outside of Finland!)

You can find the YKI test dates and locations for all upcoming tests here. Choose your language (suomi) and your level in order to see where and when future tests will be held.

Take note of the registration period, and be aware that the intermediate-level (keskitaso) tests are hugely popular, so try to sign up as soon as possible!

When registering, contact the test center directly by phone or email to confirm that they have some places left. If they do, you can go ahead and submit a registration form and arrange to pay the registration fee.

Registration fees are as follows:

  • Basic Level: 100 euros
  • Intermediate Level: 123 euros
  • Advanced Level: 160 euros

Finally, if you have special needs, such as dyslexia or a hearing impairment, you can request special arrangements to help you complete the test. You’ll need to fill in an extra form and submit it alongside a medical certificate (or an equivalent document) when registering for your test.

2. How Do You Pass the YKI?

Language Skills

Now let’s take a look at the different sections of the official Finnish language test in more detail. We’ll cover the YKI test format, what you’ll need to know about each part of the exam, and how you can best prepare in advance to boost your chances of success.

1 – Reading Comprehension

Duration: 60 minutes, 6 exercises

The Test

In the reading comprehension part of the test, you’ll read six different texts and answer questions about them. The types of texts you might encounter include letters, emails, adverts, newspaper articles, and stories. 

You’ll be answering a combination of multiple-choice questions, true-or-false questions, and open-ended questions. At the advanced level, you may also be asked to write a short summary of a text. 

Pro-Tips

  • Make sure you answer every question, even when you’re not sure about it—incorrect answers are not penalized.
  • Remember that you only have about ten minutes per text.

How to Practice

  • Keep reading a variety of written material, from blogs to comics, on a number of different subjects.
  • Newspaper articles are a YKI staple, so make sure some of your reading material is from sites like Selkosanomat (a news site in simple, uncomplicated Finnish).
  • For more of a challenge, read Helsingin Sanomat (Finland’s largest subscription newspaper).
A Woman Reading a Book

Reading a wide range of material is one of the best ways to prepare for YKI.

2 – Writing

Duration: 55 minutes, 3 exercises

The Test

In the writing part of the exam, you’ll be asked to compose three different texts. The subject matter of these tasks varies, but depending on your level, you might be asked to write an informal message, an opinion piece, or a job application. The last task is typically an opinion piece—you’ll be given two topics to choose from.

Pro-Tips

  • You must complete all three tasks to pass this section.
  • Make sure your handwriting is legible!
  • Writing text that’s understandable and written in an appropriate tone is more important than perfect grammar.
  • Jot down a brief outline before you start writing each piece.

How to Practice

  • Plan in advance how you’re going to structure different types of texts, and compose letters, emails, and opinion pieces.
  • Learn and memorize various ways of expressing an opinion in Finnish.
  • Read real-life opinion pieces and reviews.

If you’re a Premium PLUS subscriber, ask your teacher to give you feedback on your practice pieces.

Someone Writing in a Journal

Why not start a journal in Finnish to practice your writing skills?

3 – Listening 

Duration: around 40 minutes, 7 questions

The Test

In the listening comprehension part of the test, you’ll listen to four different recordings. The types of recordings you may hear include announcements, commercials, interviews, and conversations. At the basic and intermediate levels, you’ll listen to each recording twice.

Pro-Tips

  • Answer all questions, even when you’re not sure—incorrect answers are not penalized.
  • Pay attention to the instructions on the tape as well as those in your answer booklet.
  • Although the recordings focus on everyday situations, be aware that you may hear different dialects and slang words.

How to Practice

  • Make use of FinnishPod101’s large selection of audio and video lessons.
  • Tune into a Finnish radio station as often as you can! Get started with Selkouutiset at Yle Areena (news in simple Finnish), or head over to Yle Puhe for interesting discussions on everything from cookery and the environment to politics and sports.
  • To put your comprehension skills to the test, try out these exercises.
  • Find a Finnish TV show or cartoon that you enjoy watching so you can improve your listening skills almost effortlessly!
A Woman Smiling and Listening to Something with Headphones

When you’ve got that ‘passed the listening test’ feeling!

4 – Speaking

Duration: around 25 minutes, including the preparation

The Test

The speaking section of the test takes place in a language lab. There are four parts, which include taking part in a recorded conversation and preparing a speech about a specific topic.

At the advanced level, the test also includes a face-to-face interview, which will be filmed.

Pro-Tips

  • Always say something—it’s better to make mistakes than to stay quiet!
  • Try to avoid giving extremely short answers.
  • Enunciate and speak loudly.
  • Stick to the correct topic.
  • Check your answer booklet to find out how long you’ll be speaking in each part.

How to Practice

  • When listening to the radio or watching a TV show, come up with your own answers and comments in response to what you hear.
  • If you can practice with a native Finnish speaker, do it as often as you can!
  • Speak out loud to practice your Finnish pronunciation.

If you’re a Premium PLUS subscriber, record yourself and have your teacher evaluate your pronunciation.

A Woman Giving a Speech

The more you practice in advance, the more confident you’ll feel on the big day!

3. Conclusion

You’ve now made it to the end of our YKI guide and should have a pretty good idea if this Finnish language proficiency test is for you! And if you’re all fired up and determined to pass the exam, rest assured that your hard work will pay off. So keep practicing those reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

FinnishPod101.com has a large range of valuable resources, from vocabulary lists to fun audio lessons, to help you become confident in every aspect of the Finnish language. And if you’d prefer tailored one-on-one tuition and guidance from an experienced Finnish teacher, our Premium PLUS learning system has everything you need to ace the YKI exam.

Which part of the exam do you think will be the easiest for you? Which part do you feel the most nervous about?

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