Last updated on January 16, 2019
After 1 year and a half living in Poland, I have recently obtained the Polish B1 certificate! The exam is not easy and that’s why I’ve decided to write a post about it. I hope the information here is useful to many other people who are planning to take the Polish B1 certification exam, whatever the reason is.
Later on, I shall also write a post describing my journey on learning Polish.
The official website for the certification is certyfikatpolski.pl. They have useful information on that website so I suggest you take a look at it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
First and foremost, I’ll start answering some basic doubts that I myself had at the beginning.
Why do I need a Polish B1 Certificate?
As far as I know, there are three situations for which the Polish B1 certificate is necessary:
- To obtain the Polish citizenship (if you’re a Polish descendant, you don’t need the certificate).
- To obtain the permanent residence permit (this has been changed this year).
- In order to study in Poland.
Note that obtaining B1 level is sufficient, you don’t need to obtain a higher proficiency level for these matters.
How much does it cost?
For the B1 level, the total cost is 120 euros for taking the exam plus 20 euros for issuing the certificate. The total value then is 140 euros, which by the time I did the exam translated into a total value of 601.35 zloty.
How is the certification exam structured?
The exam is divided into 5 parts:
Later in this post, I go into more detail about each one of these parts.
What grade do I need to pass the exam?
You need to score 50% in each one of the 5 parts. The overall score is not important, you have to make sure you score this minimum value in each one of the sections.
For example, if you get an overall score of 80%, but in the “speaking” part you score only 45%, you fail the certification.
Is the exam easy?
Ok, obviously this is relative. What I can say is that it’s a broad exam that tries to evaluate your skills in different aspects. As I said before, you need to have reasonable skills in all 4 communicative areas (listening, reading, writing and speaking) and you also need to do well in grammar.
In my opinion, if you know how to prepare yourself, the exam is not hard. The format of the exam doesn’t change so you know more-or-less the kind of exam you can expect. You can have a focused preparation, solving exams from past years so that you can find out which areas you need to improve.
Is it necessary to take a preparation course?
Depending on your current level of Polish, this might not be strictly necessary, but I highly recommend doing so. If your level is somewhere around A2 and B1, take the course for sure. That was my case. Thanks to the course I took (more on this later) I felt very confident and, surprisingly, the exam was way easier than I expected.
If you already live in Poland for many years and have a level around B2 and C1, you can easily make it. But even so, I recommend you going to a couple of classes because they’ll certainly have exams from past years. That means you’ll know what to expect and whether or not you need to improve in a specific area.
How long does the exam take?
The exam happens in two days* (read the exception below). On the first day, you’ll do the first four sections (listening, text comprehension, grammar and writing) and at total it takes 4 hours and a half (breaks included).
On the second day, you’ll do the speaking part and this only takes 30 minutes.
*If you don’t live in the city where you’re taking the exam, you can make a request to do the whole exam on a single day. If you can take the exam in two days, I’d highly recommend doing so. In my case, I did it and when I finished the first day of the exam I was quite tired.
Does the Polish B1 certificate has an expiry date?
No! That’s something nice about it, you only have to pass the exam once!
Where can I do the certification exam?
There are many places in Poland where you can take the exam. You can see the institutions that organize the exam in different cities in Poland on this file (it dates from September 2017). In my case, I did it in Warsaw at Fundacja Linguae Mundi. If you also want to do it in Warsaw, you can register for the exam on this link.
How often does it happen?
In 2018, the exam has happened twice and there’s another one scheduled to happen on November 17th-18th. For 2019, there’s no schedule so far.
How long until I receive the results?
When I did the exam they told me it would take a maximum of 6 weeks, and that’s actually how long it took until I received the results. After that, it takes still 2 weeks for them to issue the certificate.
The structure of the Polish B1 certification exam
As I said before, the exam is divided into 5 parts (listening, text-comprehension, grammar, writing and speaking). In the official website of the certification, there’s actually a sample test that you can download. I provide the links below:
I’ll describe how each part looks like.
In this part, recordings will be played and you’ll have to answer multiple choice questions. There are four types of questions you can expect for this part:
- Short recordings of 5 to 10 seconds are played and for each one of them you have to answer where the conversation has probably happened (hospital, train station, taxi, store, gym…).
Then, slightly longer recordings are played, and based on them you have the following types of questions:
- Multiple choices.
- True or false.
- Fill in the gaps.
In questions of type 1, the audio is played only once. Between the recordings, they give you a certain interval to answer the question before they play the next recording. In the other types of question, the audio is played twice.
The type of questions in this part is quite similar to the listening part. But now, instead of the recordings, you’ll have either short or long texts to read and then answer the questions.
There’s one type of question in this section that you won’t find in the listening part. Some short pieces of text are given to you and you have to order them correctly.
Here you’ll face questions that will evaluate your understanding of declensions, prepositions, verb conjugation and so forth. Since this is B1 level, you don’t need to be the wizard of declension, but you need to know your way around the basic declension cases.
This is the last part of the first day. Here, you’ll have to solve two tasks:
- Write a short piece of text. This is usually around 35 words and it can be a formal/informal invitation, congratulation, birthday wish, postal card, rental ads, etc.
- In the second task, you’ll have to write a longer text around 160 words. Again there are different types of topics, such as best vacations you have ever had, your life in Poland, one hard day you had, etc.
In this part, there’ll be 3 sets of question that you can choose from. Each set will have a task of type 1 and a task of type 2. You have to choose the set you want and then you write the texts accordingly. For example:
- Set A:
- Write a letter inviting your babcia for your birthday (35 words)
- Describe the best vacations you ever had (160 words)
- Set B:
- Write a rental ad for your apartment (30 words)
- How is your life in Poland? What are the things you like and dislike about the country? (170)
- Set C:
- Write a letter with marriage wishes for a couple of friends (40 words)
- Tell us about a hard day you had and how you handled it (160 words)
Note that it’s not possible to mix the sets, i.e. you can not choose the task 1 from set A and the task 2 from set C.
On the next day, you’ll have the speaking exam. In this part, you’ll have to do 3 tasks:
- Describe a picture with details (How do the people look like? How are they dressed? How is the location where the picture was taken? Are they happy or sad?). In my case, there was an old couple talking to a tour guide who was holding a map on his hands.
- Express your opinion on a certain topic (monologue). In my case, I had to talk about objects that I could not live without. The funny thing here is that I initially understood it wrongly, I thought I should talk about things I cannot live without doing, so I started saying that I cannot live without listening to music. After sometime, the evaluator intervened in a very polite way and only then I realized that I should talk about objects instead. Even with such a mistake, I got a good grade in the speaking exam. I guess the most important is the general picture, how one declines the words and conjugate verbs, for example.
- Simulate a conversation with one of the evaluators. In my case, I had to call the bakery and order a cake for the birthday of a colleague of mine.
The speaking test is not long, it takes only 30 minutes. They’ll be evaluating your fluency, grammar, vocabulary, etc.
For the task 1, I had to have some practice. Even though I used to have some basic conversations in Polish, I did not apply them to describe pictures. I was still missing some vocabularies to say how someone was dressed or how to say “in the foreground” (na pierwszym planie) and “in the background” (na drugim planie).
Preparing yourself for the Polish B1 certification exam
If you don’t want or simply cannot take a course, I suggest you look for material on the internet (or buying a book) and make a study plan. I think it’s also doable to self-study, the main downside is that you won’t have the help of a teacher to correct your exercises. If you have someone with whom you can speak in Polish, that will be already great!
Most importantly, take a look at the sample test so you know how the exam looks like. Also, when looking for materials, it’s better if they are focused on the certification so you can get many hints about the exam.
Taking a course dedicated to the Polish B1 certification exam
The easiest way to prepare yourself for the exam is to take a course focused on the certification exam. In my case, I did it at Fundacja Linguae Mundi and the classes were great! They gave us a lot of sample tests, we solved them together, and the essays were corrected by the teachers. Every Saturday I had around 5 hours of classes so you can imagine it was quite intense. We didn’t take lunch breaks, we only did a couple of short breaks.
In this kind of course they will focus only on the topics that are important for the certification. The course I did at Fundacja Linguae Mundi was for free. Great, right?! The lessons were usually with 4 or 5 people, for me an ideal number of people.
I have seen that Fundacja Linguae Mundi is starting another course on September 22nd. But this time it’s not for free, it costs 690 zł + the exam is for free. It’s actually a great deal in my opinion since the exam itself costs around 600 zł, you’ll be paying only 90 zł for the course.
On the day of the certification exam
As I said before, the exam happens in two days, a Saturday and a Sunday. There’s the possibility to do the whole exam on the same day, but they have limited spots for that. This might be a good option in case you don’t live in the same city where you’re taking the exam.
Most of the information I’ll give here is based on the exam I had. On the first day of the exam:
- I had to arrive between 8:30 and 9:20 so I could register myself in the exam.
- After I did the registration, I had to turn off my smartphone and leave it with the evaluators. No one is allowed to have a smartphone (even turned off) during the test. If you’re caught with one, they can even cancel your exam.
- At 9:30 we entered the room where we would take the exam. The evaluators gave us general information regarding how the exam would happen.
- At 10:00 the exam started. We all first received the listening part of the exam, the recordings were played and we answered the test. After the time specified for the listening part was over, they got the tests back.
- We then had a short break before they gave us the next part, text comprehension.
- Everyone had the same amount of time to answer the questions. Once the time was over, they got the exam back, and there was another short break.
As you have noticed, they don’t simply gave us the whole test at once. You take each part of the exam individually and there is a defined amount of time for each part. The exam started at 10:00 and finished at 14:30.
Still on the first day of the exam, I received information about the time and location where I would do the speaking exam on the following day. In the second day, I had to arrive 15 minutes before my scheduled time. When my time arrived, I entered a room with 2 evaluators and we went through the tasks that I have previously described. The speaking exam took 30 minutes.
My preparation for the Polish B1 certification exam
All my preparation for the certification was based on the course that I took. Of course that I’ve been studying Polish for almost 2 years now, but I was studying for myself, and not focused on the exam.
A brief summary of my preparation:
- I started the course on June 16th.
- Classes every Saturday (and a single Sunday).
- Exam on July 21st and 22nd.
- Results received by e-mail on September 7th.
- I’ll be able to get the certificate after September 20th.
Whatever reason you might have for taking this exam, I tried to give you all the details you need to know about it. If you’re in Warsaw, I highly recommend taking a course with Fundacja Linguae Mundi. The teachers of the course are also evaluators of the exam so they know how to prepare the students for the exam.
If you already have a level around A2/B1 of Polish, it should not be hard to pass the exam. You just need to have a focused study. In case you have more questions, leave me a comment below and I’ll try to give you an answer based on what I know.
On a next post, I’ll share the details on my experience learning Polish. Which methods I used, where I took courses, what didn’t work as I expected, what indeed worked. Stay tuned!
I wish you best of luck and I hope you can also get your B1 certificate 😉