Norwegian test for immigrants (2014-2017)

Competence Norway has compiled a report on the Norwegian Language test for the period 2014-2017. Photo: Kompetanse Norge

The Norwegian test for adult immigrants (2014-2017)

Competence Norway has compiled the results of the Norwegian test for grown-up immigrants (2014-2017). The following are excerpts of this report, made by Norway Today.

The report relates to persons with the right and/or duty to learn Norwegian according to the Introduction Act (2003). It regards those who have taken the Norwegian test for adult immigrants in the period 2014–2017.

The results have been linked to various background variables, such as education and country background, for all persons with the right and/or obligation to Norwegian education. This makes it possible to evaluate what different groups achieve on the Norwegian test.

See the full report from Competence Norway for details (Norwegian pdf).

About the Norwegian competence test

The Norwegian test for adult immigrants measures skills in the Norwegian language. The Norwegian examination consists of four separate sub-tests that measure different language skills: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, written presentation and oral communication. Each sub-test gives one result, and one can, therefore, have different achievement goals for the four different language skills. From 2019 onwards, the exam will be conducted four times a year throughout Norway.

 The results on the Norwegian test are split into levels A1, A2, A2, B1 and B2, where B2 is the highest level. The results are based on the curriculum in Norwegian and social studies for adult immigrants (Vox, 2012) and the Common European Framework for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001; Education Directorate, 2011).

Achieved results can be used to document language requirements for permanent residence permits, citizenship, admission to higher education and authorization for certain occupational groups. Several employers also make Norwegian language proficiency for employment.

Main findings

The number of persons who have taken the Norwegian examination has increased every year, with the greatest increase from 2016 to 2017. This latest increase may be due to requirements for oral skills for permanent residence and citizenship introduced in 2017.

  • Overall, the results have become lower in three out of four sub-tests of late.
  • Half of those who have taken the Norwegian test are in the age group 26–35. People in this age group have also achieved the best results.
  • The proportion who has achieved the best results increases with the level of education.
  • Women achieve somewhat better results in the Norwegian test than men.
  • About 15 per cent of the participants are born in North America, Oceania or Europe, and this group has achieved better results than those born in other parts of the world.
  • People living in Oslo, Akershus and Rogaland have a larger proportion of achievers than those who live in the other counties of Norway.
  • Persons who are obliged to study Norwegian achieve better results than persons with the solely the right, or both the right and obligation, to Norwegian language learning.

The data is obtained from Statistics Norway’s statistics bank on Norwegian language learning for adult immigrants (2018a-e).

The Norwegian test and results over time

The following is a closer look at those who have the right or obligation to Norwegian language learning.

Persons who have taken the Norwegian test

How many persons who have taken the Norwegian test varies between the different sub-tests. The base data only provide information on how many persons have taken each individual test. It is, therefore, not possible to find the total number of persons who have taken at least one sub-test per year.

To give an insight into how many persons have taken the Norwegian exam, the chart below shows the number who have completed the most popular sub-test per year. «Popular», in this context, means the sub-test that has the largest number of participants.

In 2014–2016, most of those who took the sub-exam were in written presentation. In 2017, most of the participants took the sub-examination in oral communication.

The number of participants has increased every year, from 6,157 in 2014 to 17,612 in 2017. The number has also increased every year for the other sub-tests. The largest increase is from 2016 to 2017.

As of January 1st, 2017, requirements were introduced to document oral Norwegian skills in order to apply for a permanent residence permit/citizenship. This may explain why most took the test in oral communication this year, and why the increase was greatest from 2016 to 2017.

The number of persons who have taken at least one sub-test will be somewhat higher than the figures we see in figure 1. This because those who have not taken the sub-exam ‘written presentation’ in 2014–2016, or the sub-exam ‘oral communication’ in 2017, are not counted.


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Results over time

It is interesting to see how the results have changed overall from 2014 to 2017.

Note that level B2 first became part of the Norwegian test in the last half of 2015.

The proportion who was awarded level B2 this year is, therefore, lower than in recent years, since it was only possible to achieve B2 for one of two test implementations. Since the B2 level was not possible to achieve throughout the period, the opportunity to see the development in the best results between 2014 and 2017 is limited.

Figure 2 shows the distribution of test results on the sub-test in oral communication and the accumulated average. We see that 2017 stands out with poorer results than the other years.

Note that new requirements for oral proficiency for level A1 and A2 for permanent residence/citizenship were implemented in 2017.

The percentage with A1 or lower proficiency increases from ten to eleven per cent in 2014–2016, and to 16 per cent in 2017.

35 per cent of the participants achieved level B1 or B2 in 2017, compared with 43 per cent in 2016.

Oral Communication

Written presentation

There is no clear tendency in the results over time in written presentation (below).

Reading and listening

The sub-tests in reading and listening comprehension. It tends towards poorer results over time for both. The sub-test in reading comprehension, A2 or lower, proficiency increases from 46 per cent in 2014 to 59 in 2017. Similar developments occur in the sub-test in listening comprehension, where A2 or lower, proficiency increases from 44 per cent to 61.


The base data makes it possible to break these statistics down according to gender. Men and women have the same development in test results over the years 2014–2017. The same development in test results is evident when we look at everyone who has taken the test, including those who have neither the right nor the obligation to Norwegian language learning.

See the full report for details (Norwegian pdf).

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