Taking exams is always a very nervous process that terrifies all of us. Why do we still pass exams even when they are stress and anxiety makers? It is easy! Because there are very specific benefits of passing the exam successfully which outweigh the stress and inconvenience. If you have not yet been able to find an answer to the question why exactly you need to take the Estonian language proficiency exam, this article will help you.

To continue learning

Firstly, I’ll tell you why I myself decided to take the exam at Innove. I graduated from high school that is not 100% of the Estonian-language school curriculum and passed the final exam in Estonian as a second language. Now I am studying at Tallinn University and in order to graduate I must get a C1 level. Such a requirement does not exist in all higher educational institutions, but specifically in our university, for the successful completion of a bachelor’s degree, it is required to have a C1 level [1].

Certain requirements for the level of language proficiency are also imposed upon admission to universities. Here are some examples:

  • For admission to the Estonian-language programs of the University of Tartu, it is generally required to have at least B1 proficiency in Estonian. Before registering subjects for the first semester, students who graduated from a previous educational institution in a language other than Estonian are required to write a test. This test will show at what level it is worth continuing to learn Estonian. If a student already has a B2 category or has passed the state exam in Estonian as a second language with a score of 80 percent or more, the student is not obliged to additionally study Estonian at the university [2].
  • To be admitted to Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), a student must have a category of at least B2 or take a pass-test in Estonian at the university  before the semester starts [3].

Thus, the first reason for passing the Estonian language proficiency exams is the possibility of continuing education in higher education institutions in Estonia. If you are planning to enter a university for an Estonian-speaking specialty, be prepared to take an Estonian language exam for category B1, B2 or C1 (depending on the specialty and the university).

For a job search

It is no secret to anyone that in order to compete successfully on the Estonian labor market, it is necessary to know the state language, and even better, several foreign languages. The same conclusion was reached in her doctoral dissertation by Svetlana Ridala (Tallinn University of Technology), who studied the impact of language skills on human competitiveness in the labor market.

It turned out that the positive effect of language skills on job search differs among people whose mother-tongue is Estonian and Russian, as well as among men and women. The results of Svetlana Ridala’s research show that, in general, language skills have a positive effect on a person’s competitiveness in the labor market, that is, people with better language skills are usually more likely to find a good job and get a higher salary. [4]

Few figures: for instance, men who speak Estonian (but do not speak English) have an average salary of 532 euros, while a man who speaks only Russian receives an average of 452 euros. For women, the corresponding figures are 345 euros (for Estonian speakers) and 238 euros (for Russian speakers).

For career growth and career choice

It is obvious that each profession requires certain skills in the state language. For some, the A2 level is enough to fulfill their work duties, but there are also positions that can be held only if they speak Estonian at the C1 level.

If you are planning to enter the civil service or simply want to change your profession to a more prestigious one, you will certainly need a certificate confirming a high level of proficiency in Estonian. You can find more precise data on the language proficiency requirements for different professions on the Riigi Teataja [5].

To get a residence permit or Estonian citizenship

In Estonia, as in many other countries, people from all over the world live. The legal grounds for residence in Estonia are (among other things) a residence permit or Estonian citizenship. And this is where proficiency exams come in handy again.

According to paragraph 1 of Art. 234 of the Law on Foreigners, a foreigner wishing to obtain a long-term residence permit is required to confirm his knowledge of the language at the B1 level [6]. The same category B1 is required to apply for Estonian citizenship.

Detailed information on obtaining a long-term residence permit and Estonian citizenship can be found on the website of the Police and Border Guard Board.

In some cases, when renewing a temporary residence permit, you will also need to prove your knowledge of the Estonian language. Based on Part 3 of Art. 179 of the Aliens Act, a foreigner applying for a temporary residence permit for work must have at least A2 proficiency in Estonian if he has lived in Estonia for more than five years on a temporary residence permit for work [6].

To test knowledge and motivation

If you do not plan to study at a university, do not intend to change your profession and already have an Estonian passport or residence permit, you can take the Estonian language proficiency test just out of interest. Having tried your luck on the exam, you will understand what level you are at now and which skills you should pay more attention to.

After passing the exam and getting accurate results, you will be able to set more specific goals for yourself and plan further studies or changes in life (for example, finding a new job). Successful passing of the exam will be a good motivation and stimulus for self-development for you. If something didn’t work out the first time, you shouldn’t worry: in learning a language, as in any business, consistency and dedication are important. The main thing is to set a clear goal for yourself and decide why you need to take the Estonian language exam.


[1] Tallinna ülikool. Eesti keele ja võõrkeele tasemenõuded
[2] Tartu ülikool. Eesti keele oskuse tõendamine 
[3] TalTech. Vastuvõtt ja sisseastumiskatsed
[4] Ridala, Svetlana. Essays on Language Skills and Labour Market Outcomes, page 76
[5] Ametniku, töötaja ning füüsilisest isikust ettevõtja eesti keele oskuse ja kasutamise nõuded 
[6] Välismaalaste seadus 


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