Several people living in Estonia, whose mother tongue is Russian, need to take Estonian language proficiency examination in order to apply for citizenship or get or maintain a job. This study investigates different aspects connected to taking these exams and learning Estonian overall.

Estonian proficiency examinations have been carried out by the National Examinations and Qualifications Centre since 1999. During 2002­-2005, the number of people registering for a language proficiency exam increased, however, since 2006, the number of examinees has fallen.

The study reveals that the exam is first and foremost taken to fulfil job requirements or find a job in the first place; some also register to gain firsthand experience at taking an exam or get feedback to their language skills.

“The examinees are satisfied with the examination.”

Overall, the examinees are satisfied with the examination. Ca 1/5 are worried about the time allocated to take the exam as well as the subjects, 23% think the latter too difficult. To prevent this, the examiners could consider more the examinees’ different backgrounds and experiences and keep a closer eye making sure that the subjects are feasible to all. The examinees agree that order is ensured while taking the exam, the room is suitable for such task, and the examiners treat them politely.

Failing the exam is a deepening problem on all proficiency levels. Most of the ones who have failed consider their own insufficient language skills as the main culprit, but also being too nervous. Some, however, blame the examiners and think the exam is too difficult.

“The learning experiences of people taking different proficiency levels differ, too .”

The exam reveals that the examinees have no difficulties with choosing the right proficiency level when they register. The ones taking the advanced level proficiency have extensive experiences in learning Estonian. There are more examinees with shorter Estonian learning experience among the intermediate level examinees than among those taking the advanced level exam. The experience of those taking the beginner level exam are the most various, many of them have learned Estonian only for a short time.

Most of the ones asked intend to continue learning Estonian on their own. Further expectations and wishes in relation to learning Estonian are connected to integrating work and language learning. Free language courses as well as longer ones are expected, also better opportunities for practice and various learning aids.