If you want to pass the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language Second (B2) or Third Certificate (C1) exams, you need to get good at Russian across all four language skills (reading, writing, listening and reading). You also have to train up for exams themselves. Russian learners at all levels will find that there are far fewer materials than for comparable widely-spoken languages (German or Japanese, for example). That’s all the more the case when you get to the higher levels in the language, including the exams. This post reviews key TRKI 2nd and 3rd Certificate materials you’ll want to have a look at if you’re approaching the required level and training up to have a shot at the exams.
If you’re not fully familiar with the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language exams (Тест по русскому языку как иностранному) check out my earlier overview post on Russian exams.
I’ve passed both Certificates and I’ve used most of the materials mentioned below myself.
The books are all in Russian only without the useful acute accents to mark stress you’ll find in many materials in the earlier stages. Hey, you’re at B2/C1 level now….Remember? 😉
Without further delay, дамы и господа, allow me to present today’s runners and riders:
Russkyi yazik. Uchebnik dlia prodvinutykh
This is a four volume course, aimed at learners already at B2 who want to get to the top of C1 (that’s to say, to a level ready for the exam). Each volume is about 200 to 250 A4 pages, with some colour photos to break up the text.
As you’d expect at this level, the books won’t teach you grammar or vocab explicitly.
Each volume is sub-divided into two or three over-arching themes (e.g. “Towns and their inhabitants”, “Our holidays and important dates”, “The future of humanity is emerging today” and (I kid you not) “The Russian Army” (vol 4).
Each theme is the further sub-dived into divisions of the TRKI C1 exam (reading, speaking and listening (rolled into one section), vocab and grammar, writing. There’s a CD in the back of each volume for the audio material.
There’s a huge amount of material here in a range of registers. The input material (reading, listening) has exercises to prime you first and for reflection afterwards.
There are also occasionally QR codes to relevant additional material (e.g. Russian Wikipedia articles), which, one hopes, won’t become as obsolete as quickly as the pictures of 2015 ipads. (I do so wish authors wouldn’t labour the “latest” from the world of technology or entertainment. It always feels like an attempt to get down with the kids and is a sure-fire way to date a text rapidly.)
Even if you just get one of the four volumes, you’ll find a huge amount of material presented in an interactive way. There are lots of exercises of all types but their value for self study is limited in that most do not have answers.
Still, there’s an awful lot you could do with it in addition to what the authors intended. For example, there are transcripts for the audio so you could do dictation exercises. You could translate some of the reading passages into English and then try translating them back, and so on.
Russkyi yazik is a course to be begun maybe a year before the exam and used to provide structure as you move up from B2 to C1. As the day of judgement approaches, you could then move over to some of the books mentioned below, which are more tightly focussed on the exams themselves in the narrow sense (i.e. the questions rather than the general level of Russian you need as a prerequisite).
The publishes have posted a webinar by co-author Olga Khorokhordina exploring the book in detail This is aimed at specialists, not students. That said, if you want to start honing your Russian now and have one hour 14 mins to spare, “Russky yazik: the movie” could be for you. At least listen to the first minute or two and let me know in the comments below what you think she’s saying about a mysterious fifth volume 🙂
(Series details: Русский язык. Учебник для продвинутых. Рогова К.А., Вознесенская И.М., Хорохордина О.В., Колесова Д.В. Вып.1 2014, 204 стр. 978-5-86547-713-6; Вып. 2, 2015, 288 стр. 978-5-86547-851-5; Вып. 3, 2015, 228 стр. 978-5-86547-852-2; Вып. 4, 2016, стр 292. 978-5-86547-853-9)
V myre lyudeu
Three volumes, aimed at students who are approaching the end of B2 and want to do the TRKI-2 or B2 plus students working towards TRKI-3.
I used the first volume: “Writing and speaking” (B2 and C1). The second volume, “Reading and speaking” is also aimed at both levels but the third volume “Reading” is just for students preparing for the B2 exam.
The first two volumes weigh in at about 280 pages and there is audio with the second volume. There is some use of colour, including photos, to lighten and brighten the text.
The first volume covers nineteen topics (“Our home: capital city and provinces”, “The pace of life”, “Gender equality in the job market”, “Science and the future of mankind”….)
I didn’t have the book when I sat the TRKI 2nd certificate but used it a lot in advance of my TRKI 3rd certificate exam.
The two exam levels are interwoven through book one (exercises are marked TRKI-2 or -3).
Despite the title (“Writing, speaking”) there are passages to read as well (as a springboard for writing exercises, as in the exams).
There are lots of exercises. These are either aimed at developing and testing your vocabulary and syntax or aim to look and feel similar to the actual TRKI-2 or TRKI-3 writing or speaking exercises (the latter, though, in written form).
It’s great that you can correct many of the exercises with the key at the back. Of course, if you want corrective feedback on your free composition writing tasks, you’d need a teacher.
The second volume is split roughly in half. There is a large selection of audio of the types of monologues and dialogues required for the listening sub-test each level (including formal meetings, extracts from Russian films, news reports) with questions on what you hear and the answers. At the end of each section, there’s information on the format of the listening sub-test.
At 164 pages, the third volume is shorter than the first two. It describes itself as “3.1”, suggesting that a second part was planned. Like book 1, it’s all intended for both levels (though it’s indicated if individual questions or tasks are aimed at TRKI-2 or 3). There are texts of various registers and on a range of topics. A text will typically fill one page (say, about 400 words). Then there are a good number of varied exercises to each text. First multi-choice questions on the text, then a focus in on individual words. Next, the questions open out again to the topic, with a suggestion for how to use the topic for speaking practice.
Again, there’s an academic webinar on-line from one of the authors.
(Series details: В мире людей. Вып. 1. Письмо. Говорение: учебное пособие по подготовке к экзамену по русскому языку для граждан зарубежных стран, 2013, 288 стр. 978-5-86547-612-2; Вып. 2. Аудирование. Говорение…, 2016, 288 стр. 978-5-86547-916-1; Вып. 3. Чтение. Говорение…, Часть 1. 2018, 164 стр. 978-5-86547-941-3)
Trenirovochnye testy po russkomu yaziku kak inostrannomu II/Testovyi praktikum po russkomu yaziky kak inostrannomu II sertificatsionnyi uroven’
In the older of these two books (2012) you have two full past papers.
The 2019 volume has the same format and there are two more papers. It appears that there a CD but there also QR codes, so you can call up, for example, the film extracts for the listening text straight to your phone.
If you’re now a TRKI-2 student, you’re in training clover. Just think: when I was preparing in 2015, I didn’t know about the Trenirovochnye testy volume and all I had was the one, “official” model paper.
You should get hold of both relevant volumes and the official paper and train yourself under exam conditions on all five at intervals in the three months or so before your exam. You don’t have to spend a full half-day doing all the sub-tests at once but you should do each under “exam conditions”, with your stopwatch going.
(Details on both books) Тренировочный тесты по русскому языку как итостранному II, Андрюшина Н.П., Макова М.Н. 2012 4-й изд. ed 140 стр. 978-5-86547-466-1)/(Тестовый практикум по русскому языку как иностранному. II сертификационный уровень. Общее владение 2019 1-й изд. 164 стр.
Trenirovochnye testy po russkomu yaziky kak inostrannomu III
Practice papers are at a premium for the TRKI-3. There’s the one official model paper. This book adds an invaluable second and third model paper to your training roster.
You should get hold of this book and do both exams (and the “official” one) under timed conditions.
I did them all twice in the couple of months or so before the exam.
Both the II and III level books have audio/audio-video CD and/or QR code for the listening and speaking parts. The keys at the back give the multi-choice answers for the vocab/grammar, reading and listening sub-texts. It isn’t, of course, possible to provide answers for the writing and speaking sub-tests. All-in-all they are indispensable TRKI 2nd and 3rd Certificate materials.
(Details: Тренировочный тесты по русскому языку как итостранному II Андрюшина Н.П., Жорова А.П., Макова М.Н., Норейко Л.Н. 2019 7-й изд. 152 стр. 978-5-86547-812-6)
Testy, testy, testy II/III
These two books are essential additional practice for the vocab and grammar subtest of the TRKI-2 and TRKI-3 exams respectively.
Each book contains eighteen sets of multi-choice questions (on average forty or fifty per set). They follow the exam “Vocab and grammar” sub-test format but most sets focus in a particular one of the examiners’ favourite topics (cases, verbs of motion, aspects, prefixes, gerunds). At the end, there are a number of mixed sets of questions.
(Details on both books: Тесты, тесты, тесты… : пособие для подготовки к сертификационному экзамену по лексике и грамматике. II сертификационный уровень, Капитонова Т.И., Баранова И.И., Никитина О.М. Zlatoust (2019 изд.) 152 стр. 978-5-86547-820-1)/(Тесты, тесты, тесты… : пособие для подготовки к сертификационному экзамену по лексике и грамматике. III сертификационный уровень Капитонова Т.И., Баранова И.И., Никитина О.М. 8-й изд. 144 стр.
TRKI na 100% – Tests for Russian language B2 level; C1 level
This is much-needed new series of practice tests appeared only after I’d done the Second and Third Certificates. So, I haven’t used them myself but they sound very promising: first, they are actual past papers (each volume contains two complete papers), second, there are answers included, third, the exam audio is accessible online. There’s one volume for each level from A2 to C1. Can’t wait to have a look!
(Details: ТРКИ на 100%. Тесту по русскому языку – B2, Виноградов et al, Zlatoust (2019 изд.) 156 стр. 978-5-90712-362-5; ТРКИ на 100%. Тесту по русскому языку – C1, Левентал, И.В et al, Zlatoust (2021 изд.) 140 стр. 978-5-90749-316-2)
Uchebno-testirovochnye testy po russkomu yazyku kak inostrannomu
There are four books in the “Learning and Testing” series of TRKI 2nd and 3rd Certificate materials and we’ll look at each one in turn.
“1. Grammatika. Leksika”
Five chapters, each with about a hundred multi-choice questions as found in the vocab/grammar subtests at both levels. Most questions are suitable for both levels but there is a block of questions (each time about 15) aimed just at TRKI-3.
Then there are five more chapters, each of which delves into the topics tested in the first five. There’s a useful table of commonly confused words (гористый горный духовный душевный).
There’s a key to all the multi-choice questions, so this volume is great for self-testing.
The first two brief chapters offer some theory and reading skills tips. Then there are a further four chapters with a wide range of texts across different genres (popular science, journalism, sociological (economy, politics), creative literature). There are multi-choice questions to each text.
You get other types of exercise for each text too, for example identifying words or phrases which perform a particular function or are typical of a particular style of text. There are sometimes open questions arising from a text. There’s a key for self-correcting the multi-choice questions.
Volume three begins with a brief initial “theoretical” section explaining the different types of rhetorical styles (scientific, business/official, conversational etc. and different types of text.
Then there are five chapters, each focussed on how to write different types of text (short business texts such as memos, formal and informal letters, essays. There is DVD with video clips which serve as sources for some of the writing tasks (e.g. a letter, description or essay).
According to my Russian teacher, some of the stylistic recommendations in the book are rather old-fashioned (pre-internet).
It’s not always made explicit how the material relates to which exam and it’s not always clear. Chapter Two “Записываем содержание изходного текста” is only four sides long and has a section on acronyms and abbreviation of words and how to précis a text. This appears to be aimed at question 2 of TRKI-3 for which you are required to use these. No keys to the exercises (as most involve free composition).
“4. Listening. Speaking”
The first section (two chapters) are theoretical background explaining and illustrating concepts such as the difference between “language” and “speech” and explaining what homonyms, synonyms and paronyms are or how when people listen, different types of listening (for gist, detail).
The meat of the book is section two (three chapters).
Section II Chapter 1 One focusses on speaking with material and exercises on intonation, and relevant to speaking tasks such as resolving conflicts or discussing a film. Chapter 2 is “Let us listen and answer” and Chapter 3 is “Let us listen and discuss”. There are a wide range of materials to listen to and different types of exercises (with a key at the back for the multi-choice ones).
There is a DVD with audio and audio/visual clips for the exercises.
The book closes with a short third section “Preparation for giving a speech” which seems to be of limited relevance given that this is not required in either exam.
If an exercise in this volume is “of a type found in the certificate exams” (задание, подобное сертификационному), it’s marked with a big “C”. This is a minority of the exercises and it’s not made clear which level or which particular question rubric the exercise relates to. I think that the volume is best approached as a broader education in the skills and providing materials and exercises to think about what’s going on when you speak and to practise listening.
Overall, this series has a much more academic feel than the other books mentioned above.
I think the theory would have sat better if it was more tightly and explicitly linked to what you need to be able to do for the exams. Likewise, the “point” of the exercises throughout could have been made clearer.
I think the most useful are the “Reading” and the “Grammatika. Leksika” the vocab grammar volumes would be useful even in the last weeks before the exams.
The other two books feel to more like something you’d use in the long run up to the exams rather than in the immediate preparation phase. Yes, there’s lots of useful training material in “Listening. Speaking”, but you’ll need to use it along side the past papers to get a sense of where the authors are coming from. The “Writing” volume needs handling with care.
(Series details: Учебно-тренировочные тесты по русскому языку как иностранному. А.И. Захарова, Е.Н. Лукьянов et al. М.Э. Парецкая, И.Н. Савченкова, Г.Р. Шакирова, Выпуск 1. Грамматика. Лексика, 136 pages 2019 10-й изд. 88 стр. 978-5-86547-815-7; Выпуск 2. Чтение. 2012 4-й изд. 88 стр. 978-5-86547-494-4; Выпуск 3. Письмо. 2019-изд. 96 стр. 978-5-907123-17-5); Выпуск 4. Аудирование. Говорение. 2019 5-й изд. 168 стр. 978-5-907123-23-6)
TRKI 2nd and 3rd Certificate materials: Choose and use!
All the TRKI 2nd and 3rd Certificate materials reviewed above come from the Zlatoust press in St Petersburg, whose website you can check out for content page pdfs and sample pages for the other texts. You can generally obtain them from specialist foreign language booksellers and some may be on larger, well-known online stores.
Except for the past papers, the Testy books, TRKI na 100% and the “Gramatika. Leksika” volume in Leaning and Training Test series, all of the books discussed above have a wider purpose of getting you thinking about Russian and offering explicit instruction. You’ll find that the exercises range wider than the actual tasks require in the two exams and you’ll be exposing you to a lot of Russian texts whether written or audio/audio visual.
They’ll overlap then, with other types of exposure that you’ll want to use at this level.
Needless to say, as you move up through the levels, you’ll be getting as much general listening and reading input as possible. You’ll also be speak Russian as often as you can and don’t neglect the writing. For speaking and correction of written work in particular, taking lessons on Skype on a platform such as italki is convenient, flexible and good value. The other thing you’ll want is a good descriptive grammar book (I used Wade’s A Comprehensive Russian Grammar – but grammar books are a topic for another post).
Have you found other TRKI 2nd and 3rd Certificate materials, whether books or other resources that you’d recommend or that I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments below. Good luck with your exam preparations and don’t forget to enjoy the challenge and the journey. If you want to check out more on my chequered TRKI 3rd Certificate history, start with this post. Whichever exam you’re taking: yдачи вам!