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And why guidance is important

The exam Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market (Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt, ONA) is not an exam for which you can study. However, a great deal of preparation is needed. To pass the exam, you must be able to demonstrate that you have seriously and actively investigated what work you would like to do and what opportunities there are to find that job. That may sound simple, yet many people fail the ONA exam the first time. To save yourself time in the long run, you are best off taking time to prepare for the exam.

Why guidance is essential in preparing for ONA
Many people find the Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market exam difficult because they do not know exactly what is expected of them, and what they need to do to pass the exam. There are no correct or incorrect answers, and yet it is possible to fail the exam. To increase your chance of success, it is important to find good guidance when preparing for the ONA exam.


If you want guidance in preparing for the ONA exam, you have two options: you can follow a course or ask someone around you to help. The kind of guidance you choose depends on your personal preference, your budget, your network and how much insight you already have into the Dutch labour market.


The advantages and disadvantages of following a course



  • If you have followed at least a 64-hour course, you do not have to do a final interview with DUO. Only the portfolio then needs to be approved.
  • The instructor knows exactly which requirements your portfolio must meet. This increases the chance that you will pass the exam.
  • If you follow an ONA course as part of your integration course, you will be working on your language level at the same time. The better your Dutch, the easier it is to successfully complete your ONA exam.


  • The costs can be quite high. The price of an ONA course differs by school and depends among other things on the number of classes and whether it is a single course or a combination course.


Find an integration course via the website of Blik Op Werk >


Advantages and disadvantages of informal guidance in an ONA process



  • You can make your own arrangements about how often and where you will work on your ONA exam. So it is flexible.
  • It costs nothing if you ask someone from your own network to help you.
  • If you get help from someone you know (well), it is easier to discover together which work fits your skills and interests.



  • If you have not followed at least a 64-hour course, you must do a final interview with DUO. This can make it more difficult to pass the exam.
  • Informal guidance is especially useful if you find a supervisor with sufficient knowledge of the Dutch language and the labour market.
  • It may be unclear to an informal supervisor what it takes to pass the ONA exam.
5 reasons to seek help in your preparation for the ONA exam

Do you doubt whether you need help with your preparation? Here are five reasons to look for guidance:


  1. If you have attended at least a 64-hour course at a school with a Blik-op-Werk certification, you do not have to do a final interview with DUO. In order to pass the exam, only your portfolio needs to be approved.
  2. To fill in the results cards, your Dutch must be at A2 level. However, often you are already preparing for ONA while you are still learning Dutch. It is therefore important that you get guidance from someone with sufficient mastery of the Dutch language.
  3. The Dutch labour market is probably different from the labour market in your home country. If you are new to the Netherlands, it may take you a lot of time and energy to learn about it, especially if you do not speak Dutch. An ONA guide already knows a lot about the labour market and can tell you a lot about it, making it easier to fill in the results cards correctly.
  4. For your portfolio, you must think about your characteristics and skills, and which jobs are appropriate. Perhaps you have never thought about yourself in that way. An ONA guide can help you to ask the right questions and can teach you to think about your abilities.
  5. You must be able to handle a computer properly and search the internet if you are going to create your portfolio. Most of the information you need is on the internet. If you find this difficult, it may be great if someone who has more ‘digital search’ experience helps you.

What steps should you take?

When you start the Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market (Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt, ONA), it may not seem that difficult an exam. Still, there is more to consider. The most important work for the ONA exam must be done before you fill in the results cards. You are going to do research into the Dutch labour market, the work you would like to do and what it takes to get that job.


To pass the ONA exam, it is important that you prove that you have really researched: a portfolio is not approved if something has simply been filled in. But how can you best work on it? Where do you start?


The entire ONA process consists roughly of three phases:


1. Orientation

In this first phase, you do all the advance work. That actually means that you are looking for the answer to the questions ‘What can I do?’, ‘What do I want?’ and ‘How do I reach my goal (of getting work in this profession)?’.


In this phase, you use tools to guide your search: the results cards, the explanation of the results cards and the glossary. However, you do not complete the results cards. You may encounter obstacles during the orientation process, which means that you need to take one or more steps back. You may find that there are no job vacancies for your job, or you do not have the funds needed to follow a course that can lead to the desired job. It is therefore good at this stage to think about alternatives.


Do you have foreign diplomas or evidence of a non-graduate education? If these are relevant to your desired occupation, you can have these evaluated. Read more about diploma evaluation on the ‘Useful Information’ page.


In order to be able to fill in the result charts in the second phase, you have already collected various evidence in the orientation phase. You can read in the explanation to the results cards what the evidence is. This may be a diploma and diploma evaluation, application forms, cover letters, and a CV. Sometimes it takes time to collect or prepare this evidence, so start on time.


2. Fill the result cards

In the second phase, you will complete the results cards, based on all the information you have found in the first orientation phase. Only if you have already prepared for all the subjects of the ONA exam can you be sure that your portfolio is consistent and complete. Did you fill in all the cards? Also check the ‘Checklist for ONA Portfolio’ to see whether you have forgotten anything.


3. Final interview with DUO: only if you have not followed a 64-hour course

Have you not attended a course of at least 64 hours at a school with a Blik-op-Werk certification? Then you have to do an interview with the Education Executive Agency (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs; DUO), the agency that assesses your exam. In this final interview, DUO staff will ask you to explain your portfolio (the completed results cards and the accompanying evidence).


Read more about filling in the results cards and the final interview on the page ‘What does the ONA exam entail?’ >

Book Werken in Nederland: additional help with ONA
Whether you are working independently or in a course on the Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market (Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt; ONA), it may be nice to have an additional tool for your process.The book Werken in Nederland is specially written for people who need to do the ONA exam. With the assignments in this book, you will gain insight into the Dutch labour market and, on the other hand, think about your place in that labour market. It helps you find answers to questions like ‘What do I want?’, ‘What can I do?’ and ‘How do I reach my goal?’.


In Werken in Nederland, there is also a description of how to combine the assignments in the book with the subjects of the results cards so that you can approach your search systematically.

Read more

Almost ready to submit your portfolio? Before you do, check the ‘Checklist for ONA portfolio’.

Read more