Icelandic Language Blog

Icelandic sample exams Posted by on Jan 25, 2012 in Icelandic customs, Icelandic grammar

This post is for the person who wanted to know about the exams for the Icelandic courses. Unfortunately this might be too late to help them, but hopefully it can help someone else.

The first thing you need to know is that there are two different “Icelandic for foreigners” courses at the University of Iceland. One is the Bachelor’s degree course, and the other is a simple diploma course. The Bachelor’s course is intended for people who already know quite a bit of Icelandic before starting the course, and who want to become fluent in Icelandic, take unrelated courses at the University which are taught in Icelandic, become a translator, or other such things after they’ve finished the program. The diploma course is to teach you “everyday life” Icelandic for getting a job and talking to people with bad English (which will 99% of the time be other foreigners and not Icelanders, unless the Icelander is a young child), and is intended for people who have no or little prior knowledge of Icelandic.

Even if you know some Icelandic already, chances are unless you’re Scandinavian or Faroese (or have been studying Icelandic on your own for a few years) you aren’t ready for the degree course right off the bat. This is a course that kids who grew up speaking Icelandic in a foreign country take to better their grammar, or people who have been living in Iceland for eight years take to better their speaking skills, and the teaching reflects that level of knowledge. Unless you’re that good, I recommend you take the diploma course and take the degree course after the one year of the diploma.

In order to get into the diploma program, you simply sign up for it. In order to get into the degree program, you have to both sign up and then take an entrance exam in Icelandic so they can see how much you know. I think I did pretty badly on the entrance exam and I did very badly in the degree course classes themselves, but for some reason they still let me take them. You’re unable to get your score back from the entrance exam and they don’t give out sample exams for that, as far as I’ve found.

Since the exam was almost two years ago for me, I can’t really remember what was on it. I think it was a lot of fill in the blank and multiple choice “what conjugation goes here” for various words and numbers, and then a short writing section where you answer a few questions. What you do need to know though, is that absolutely everything is in Icelandic. There are no English instructions and chances are the person giving you the exam won’t speak in English – this carries over to the degree program itself, where they’ll teach you entirely in Icelandic.

The main thing that you need to know if you’re going to be taking these exams, that you might not otherwise know, is grammar terms in Icelandic. You can look all of these up in an online dictionary but if there are any that you can’t find or don’t understand, or if there’s a whole sentence you can’t read because of all the weird grammar terms, just ask me and I should know. They might write them in English in the diploma course, but certainly never in the degree course.

At the top where 194853 is, it says “name or exam number” but what they really mean is “kennitala or exam number”. Attention, don’t write your name AND exam number, it’s or. Your exam number is not your kennitala (social security number) but I’ve never seen anyone use the exam numbers anyway. More on them in another post.

“Heiti námskeiðs” – name of your studies. Actually I’m not sure what I would put there, if it’s the department within the school or the actual degree name.

With the boxes with x’s to the right, you mark the same number as you wrote in the top. The first column of numbers is one slot. So, you can only have one x per column – it’s the columns that matter, not the rows. If you look at theirs, their x’s match up to their number written above. To the left of this stuff is just written instructions on how to fill out this form.

Below is a bunch of empty squares with letters and numbers. These match up to your exam, so if you have a multiple choice question that has three answers for your first question, you’ll mark an x in box a, b, or c for 1. Don’t colour in the entire box like we do in America, I did that on my first exam and the exam lady had to give me a new answer sheet and scolded me for it. Only mark an x!

S stands for Sannur and is used for true in true or false. Ó is ósannur and is untrue, or false. If you didn’t already know, ó in front of a word means the opposite of the original word, like “in-” or “un-” or “non-” prefixes in English (considerate vs. inconsiderate, unimportant versus important).

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About the Author: sequoia

I try to write about two-thirds of the blog topics on cultural aspects and one-third on the language, because there's much more out there already on the language compared to daily life information. I try to stay away from touristy things because there's more of that out there than anything else on Iceland, and I feel like talking about that stuff gives you the wrong impression of Iceland.


  1. sreeja:

    i would llike to learn icelandic language