Немно́го о языке́ 9.6 Ке́йтлин сдаёт экза́мен

Сдава́ть / сдать экза́мен

The idiom “to take an exam” in Russian is сдава́ть экза́мен. The verb in this idiom is a prefixed form of the verb дава́ть, and it will have the same conjugation as дава́ть. The perfective form is from с + дать, which has an irregular conjugation.

Stem: сдай-
я сдаю́
ты сдаёшь
он/она́ сдаёт
мы сдаём
вы сдаёте
они́ сдаю́т
Past сдава́л

я сдам
ты сдашь
он/она́ сдаст
мы сдади́м
вы сдади́те
они́ сдаду́т
Past сдал

Aspect and the idiom сдава́ть экза́мен

In Unit 6, we noted that imperfective aspect places a focus on the process, on the action happening, while perfective verbs focused on achieving a result, or achieving an expected outcome.

Thus, the imperfective verb сдава́ть экза́мен translates as “to take an exam.” Its perfective counterpart сдать экза́мен is closest to English “to pass an exam” (you go through the process of taking the exam, and you achieve a [positive] outcome). Consider the meanings of the following sentences and select the closest English equivalent.

Я сдаю́ экза́мен сего́дня.
  • I am taking an exam today.
  • I will pass an exam today.
За́втра я бу́ду сдава́ть хи́мию и фи́зику.
  • Tomorrow I will take (exams in) chemistry and physics.
  • Tomorrow I will pass (the exams in) chemistry and physics.
Мне на́до сдать экза́мен по матема́тике.
  • I need to take a math exam.
  • I need to pass the math exam.
Я не сдал экза́мен по матема́тике.
  • I didn’t take a math exam.
  • I didn’t pass a math exam.
Я не сдава́л экза́мен по матема́тике.
  • I didn’t take the math exam.
  • I didn’t pass a math exam.

Talking about exams, tests, grades and papers in Russian

Academic cultures in higher education differ significantly between Russia and the U.S. and so the talk about course work also differs. Экза́мен in Russian refers to a comprehensive course exam, and is closest to the English notion of “final exam.” Экза́мены are held one a semester, and the exam period in Russia is know as “Се́ссия.” Toward the end of a semester, teachers often make a list of questions based on the material covered in the course. At the экзамен the student will pick a card билет which has a subset of the course questions. The student has some time to prepare and then answers the questions orally.

Some courses in Russian universities will have smaller tests during a semester to make sure that students have control over the material. These smaller tests are sometimes called контро́льная рабо́та, and since they are often written, the standard phrase for “taking a unit/chapter test” is писа́ть/написа́ть контро́льную рабо́ту.

Grades on exams, tests, and courses are reported in a four point scale that uses numbers as well as evaluative adverbs.

Number Name of number Verbal Grade English
5 (пять / пятёрка) отли́чно A / excellent
4 (четы́ре / четвёрка) о́чень хорошо́ B / very good
3 (три / тро́йка) удовлетвори́тельно C / satisfactory
2 (два / дво́йка) пло́хо D / poor

Since 2 / дво́йка is not considered a passing grade, teachers do not use the lowest theoretical grade of 1.

Little in the Russian educational tradition matches up to the American “I have to write a paper.” Depending on the exact assignment, you might use:

писа́ть курсову́ю рабо́ту to write a term paper
писа́ть сочине́ние to write a composition (some creative work)
писа́ть эссе́ to write an essay
писа́ть рефера́т to write a paper/report/synopsis