How to prepare for the YKI test

I received the YKI test results last week, and I’m happy to inform you that I passed the test! Yay! Now that I know that my studying did bring some results, I thought I’d share some tips on how to prepare for YKI.

General tips

Note: I didn’t take any YKI courses, so all my tips are only applicable to self-studying.

I would recommend starting with YKI-demo. It really helps to see how the test is structured and what are the sample questions. It will also give you an idea, which areas you need to work on most, and which areas you will only need to practice a bit. I know that timing might be an issue too. Doing one demo will help you to orientate yourself in a big task. Next step I took after demo was doing YKI treenit. There are enough exercises to practice all 4 sections, and they have different level of difficulty.

I would highly recommend using Samalla Kartalla books. I was using Samalla Kartalla 3, but you can also check out 1 and 2 and see which one works better for you. The good part is that the book is organized by topics like work life, leisure, family, etc, and each section has multiple exercises for different grammar rules, vocabulary exercises, writing tasks and many other assignments. Given that YKI tests covers a various range of themes and any grammar rule you know is an advantage, this books is super helpful. I did a couple of exercises to one chapter, and it immediately showed me which rules I need to revise and which rules I remember ok.

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Another good book for grammar exercises is Harjotus Tekee Mestarin. There are 4 books in this series, and you can pick anyone you need or like. They are based on grammar topics. There is 2-3 pages explaining the rule and exceptions, and the rest are exercises. “Samalla Kartalla” and “Harjoitus tekee mestarin” books are available at Helsinki libraries or in bookshops.

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I have been using extensively the blog Let’s Finnish This – Me vs YKI test. I’m very grateful to its creator, because it did help me a lot, especially with the writing part, which I’ll mention later. In addition, it has a very good list of various resources and revisions of some basic grammar material.

Another great blog, not only for YKI test, but overall for learning Finnish is Random Finnish Lesson. It has Last Minute YKI Test post, which is something you want to read a bit earlier that in the last minute 🙂 I like the blog, because it covers a wide range of topics. It’s extremely useful, especially the blog posts focused on the meaning of just one word and its possible uses or difference between two synonyms. Small things like that matter a lot, and sometimes it’s very tricky to find an explanation in books. Highly recommended.

For vocabulary building and memorizing the words I use Memrise. It’s a free application where you create the cards – word and its translation. I create lists at home, and every day I practice at least 10-20 words on the mobile app on my way to work. There is a function of learning a word, and there is one for revising things you previously learned. You are asked to choose the answer from multiple options or to write it down. In addition to words, I also usually write a couple of short sentences showing how the word can be used in different contexts. It’s one of my favorite ways to learn words, and I can practice them whenever I have a minute.

Don’t forget Facebook. I would recommend “Let’s learn Finnish language” group, because it’s very easy to get an answer to any question fast. There are several Finnish language teachers and translators, and the quality of replies is great. Another group that I found recently is “Opi Suomea Päivin kanssa”. This group has a lot of links and tips regarding all things related to learning Finnish: articles, books, videos, language tests, humour, etc.

Writing section

YKI writing section always has 3 tasks. One of them is usually an informal piece, like a letter to a friend. One is an official piece, like a complaint to authorities or a request addressed to a university or a company. The third one is an opinion piece, where you are offered two topics of your choice.

I started preparing with reading the blogposts on Let’s Finnish This blog. I created a structure for different types of writing tasks that I’d follow on the exam. I also memorized different ways of expressing opinions for the third task. It saves time and it makes you feel more confident on the test day.

Then it was a matter of practice. I tried to set a goal of writing one piece a day. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. I usually used the prompts from “Samalla Kartalla” book.

Practicing grammar is also important for getting this task done. Do as many exercises or rule revisions as you can, and don’t stop until the exam day.

Speaking section

I didn’t practice speaking tasks much. First, YKI Demo only has some questions and some example of how you could answer those. Generally, the more you speak in everyday life, the better. If you don’t have anyone to practice Finnish with or you don’t feel comfortable, you can always go to the Kielikahvila organized by Helsinki and Espoo libraries. Here you can check the schedule. I used to go to the one in Pasila library and the Rikardinkatu library. Both were good. Generally, there were a lot of people in Pasila and less in Rikardinkatu group. The groups have moderators – some are library workers and some are just people who have some time and want to help foreigners to learn the language. I really liked it and used to go quite often.

Reading comprehension

Most of the texts in this section are from newspapers, so make sure you read enough newspapers before the test. “Metro” is an ideal option – perfect length of articles, not too long and not too short, a variety of topics and comprehensive language. YLE News is another good example. “Helsingin Sanomat” has interesting articles, but language could be quite difficult with lots of idiomatic expressions and complicated grammar constructions. Could be good, could be bad, depends on your preferences, attitude and language level.

Remember, though, that you are your own boss and can choose whatever you like. Make it interesting for yourself. I personally enjoy reading “Image”. Usually one issue focuses on one main topic, but there are also short columns about everything. Language is often a mix of kirjakieli and puhekieli. Some articles are available online, but the full content is only in printed form.

Sometimes I also browse through something like “Me Naiset” or “Anna”. Although, there is not much content, it’s good to switch attention and just glance through. By the way, just before the test I read an article in “Anna” about the health benefits of walking, and it helped me on the test day when I was writing an opinion piece why exercising is the best medicine. Recently, just out of curiosity I read one issue of “Ilona & Hyvä Olo” not expecting much, and there was a lot of useful info and some good texts to enrich vocabulary related to health and medicine.

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Libraries have all the magazines in the world, and if you are not sure what you want to read, start from there.

Speech comprehension

This was the trickiest part for me. I generally have no issues with understanding people speaking. I did a lot of YKI Trenit, and always got 80-90% correct in speech comprehension. On the exam day this didn’t go as well. The tasks included listening to slang, different dialects, very fast pacing announcements, and very emotional speeches, where the temp was varying.

The good thing is all the tasks concerned mostly everyday life, and there was nothing too unfamiliar. However, if I’d do it again, I would try to listen to as much radio as I can. YLE Puhe is my long time love. The discussions are interesting to follow, and you can listen to the shows recording. The wide range of topics from cooking to politics is discussed, and it helps to build a vocabulary while learning to understand different types of speaking (slangs from different cities, phone speech, etc.). In addition, any type of commercial radio stations is good. The more commercial breaks they have, the better. Radio and TV commercials were tested heavily.

Also, watch some TV shows in Finnish and cartoons. Find something you are interested in. As long as you are interested, you’ll keep watching and it will easily become a habit. I usually watch a series of “Tenavat” before going to sleep. It’s only 7 minutes long, and although it’s a cartoon for kids, the vocabulary they use is quite universal.

Stress

Although I wasn’t too stressed before the test, on the test day I did feel worried. I think that’s what happens when you have a lot of test takers in one room. Someone starts asking last minutes questions, someone tells you they have been taking the YKI course for the last 9 months, and so on. You start revising grammar rules in your mind, can’t remember something, you hands start shaking.

It’s ok to feel stressed, just don’t let your nerves manage you. Keep in mind that time is generous enough, and you just need to keep an eye on it. Focus on what you need to do at this particular moment. Don’t dwell too long on one task. If it’s reading or writing, you can move on and come back to it later. If it’s speaking or listening, you either got it right or not. Write what you can and don’t stress over it too much. It’s a total result for the section that counts. You might got one question wrong, so what. Think about all other questions in that section that you can answer right.

Another piece of advice is don’t rely too much on how you feel during the exam. I felt very unsure about speaking part. I generally understood everything I had to do, but because there is no timing showing how many seconds you have left, it was hard for me to pace myself correctly. Sometimes I would speak too fast and there would be an awkward silence for the remaining minute. Sometimes the recording stopped in the middle of my speech. Sometimes I felt like I’m saying a complete nonsense. The result for that section, however, was extremely good.

It could be vice versa. You think you did really well and didn’t have any problems at all. That was my general feeling about the writing part. The result was ok, but worse than speaking, for example. Subjective feeling doesn’t always represent the reality, so try to set the feelings aside during and after exam. The results will show what the level of skills you really have.

The last thing I want to mention, don’t invent a wheel. Think about what worked for you in school and in university. Which way you memorise the rules or words best – when you write them down or when you listen to them? Use the same approach here. Read through the test description, analyze what you need to focus on, and apply your winning strategies. Try to keep fun along the way, and you’ll get amazing results, I’m sure! 🙂

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7 thoughts on “How to prepare for the YKI test

  1. Hey! How long have you been learning Finnish & how long did it take you to prepare for the test specifically? I would really appreciate if you can share some of the experience when you first started since i find the beginning quite challenging. Kiitos!!

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    1. Hi there! I’ve started learning Finnish in January 2015. From Jan 2015 to May 2015 I’ve been attending the intensive Finnish course, which meant 3h of classes per day 3 times a week. I would say that it was a very tough start, but it also made the whole learning process easier for me. After these 5 months I had a very good basis to which it was easier later to add more. Personally, it was the best for me. If I would take it 1-2h per week, I would learn a little, didn’t progress much and would loose all motivation. I think a lot depends on what kind of learner you are and how do you perform best – under pressure or going at a slower pace and paying attention to details. After I stopped the intensive course, I was attending some “usual” classes on and off. All in all, I’ve been learning Finnish for about 1,5 year before taking YKI. As for preparing for the test, during 3 months I tried to do 1-2 test type tasks per day during the work week, and focus more on learning words during the weekend. It didn’t always go that way, but it was important for me to have a certain pace and goals set. Hope it helps, but please let me know if you have any other questions – I’ll be happy to answer them! 🙂

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      1. Thank you so much. That’s though really amazing progress you’ve made here. I’ve been living in Finland for 3 years but never quite made up my mind about my intention of learning the language seriously until now. So I only did 1 intensive beginner course for about 4 months at the university, and that’s the only option I had since I need to attend other major courses in my degree. As now I want to devote the rest of the year to learn the language & hopefully able to communicate (in casual, daily simple situations) by the end of the year, do you have any advice for materials or some tips on how to learn & practice the language if I am unable to attend courses? I studied with the book Suomea mestari 1 & we only covered half the book, so I guess my level is A1.1 or a bit higher. Since most courses have very intense schedules which I can’t commit to, though I am sure it would be the best option to shorten the time. But thank you a lot for sharing, this is really inspiring!

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      2. Hi! I think it’s really good and helpful that you set your goal quite clearly and with some deadline in mind. It will help the process a lot. Since you want to be able to speak, you’ll need to find out some place for a practice. For me a big help was a language cafe at a local library. I know these cafes exist in bigger cities. In Helsinki, there are also some other speaking practice groups – Cafe Lingua, for example. There are people who are learning Finnish and native speakers, and for 1-2h people are just speaking. Also, since your focus is on speaking, I would recommend to watch TV and read some magazines like MeNaiset, Image or something else, where more unofficial or slang language is used. Without mastering slang, it’s really hard to understand what people are saying. Very few people are using kirjakieli in everyday situations. It’s more for writing emails and overall more official situations. You can try some FB group, like Opi Suomea Päivin kanssa. Päivi is a teacher, and she shares interesting articles, interactive games, videos and some other helpful materials. “Suomen Mestari” books help in mastering the basics of grammar, “Harjoitus tekee mestarin” is a good exercise practice. Recently, I came across a really good book “Kieli käytöön”. Each chapter has a topic, but grammar covers various topics. So, in one chapter there would be, for example, noun plurals, difference between tässä, tuossa, siellä, and past tense of some verbs. I has some really good charts and some clarifications that I’ve been looking for I found only in this book. Just try this and that and see what works for you and what doesn’t, and stick with what works 😉

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