UPDATE, 20.8.2020: See my new post here for the updated version of this post! I'm leaving this one up because there's some useful conversation here on some of the older textbooks.
What are your top ten tips for the YKI-test?
YKI (from Yleinen kielitutkinto) is the language test that you have to pass at an intermediate level if you wish to apply for Finnish citizenship. The advanced YKI-test is a popular way for advanced speakers to show their proficiency to prospective employers and, for instance, when applying to universities.
For the first half of my career so far, I was constantly teaching preparatory YKI-courses and also deeply involved in language testing and assessment through Testipiste, where I had the privilege of working for the first few years of its existence. However, the last time I taught a whole YKI course was in 2013, so I might not be completely up to date on the latest developments in the world of YKI. Those courses were great fun to teach, and I hope to get to teach one again in the near future.
As requested, here are my top ten tips for those planning to take the YKI test. I'll be focusing on the intermediate one (levels 3 and 4), because it's the one that most people take, but most of these apply to the advanced test (levels 5 and 6) as well.
1. Start by assessing your current level in Finnish. If you have access to a Finnish language professional to help you figure out what your current level is, great (you could even hire me to help you with this if you like). If you don't (and actually, even if you do), check out the criteria for the YKI levels and maybe also the self assessment grid for the CEFR, which is available in many languages here.
2. Set a realistic goal. If you've only just begun to study Finnish, it'll take a year at the very least to get to level 3, and this is if you can study and practice daily. It might take much longer, because things like life and stress and insomnia and falling in love and spending all your time playing the guitar have a tendency of getting in the way of language learning. But if you're a gifted learner and have all the right resources to study hard and learn quickly, it's possible to get there in a year.
3. Read all of Hanna Männikkölahti's YKI tips on her excellent blog Random Finnish Lesson. Consider signing up for one of Hanna's online YKI courses, she's a real expert when it comes to YKI.
4. Make some kind of plan. When will you take the test? Will you attend a course or hire a private teacher beforehand to help you prepare? There are many excellent teachers and YKI courses out there.
5. Check out the book Hyvin menee 2. This book is meant for students on CEFR level A2 (YKI level 2) who want to reach level B1 (YKI level 3), and if there's a better book out there to prepare you for the YKI intermediate test I haven't heard of it yet. Which of course is always possible, as I do have a tendency of missing things sometimes.*
6. Do all the exercises in Yle's YKItreenit. If you plan to attend a course, you might also do these during the course, but some repetition never hurts.
7. Get as much information about the test as you can. Get acquainted with the structure of the test, and if at all possible, do some kind of practice test. Most longer YKI preparative courses will include a practice test or even several.
8. Study in the months and weeks before the test, but relax the day, night and morning before. Panicky last minute revision may work for some people doing some tests some of the time, but the YKI test is a test with the goal of assessing all of your knowledge of the Finnish language. The day before, if you're not ready then it's too late anyway, so you might as well spend your time doing something fun to take your mind off it and to balance out the hard day of testing ahead.
9. Put it into perspective. Tests are never perfect, and they unfortunately never capture the whole truth about anyone's language skills. So if happen to fail or get a worse level than you hoped for, don't despair - maybe you had a bad day or some bad luck with the topics assigned in the test. Take some time to figure out where the problem was and make plans to try again.
10. Believe in yourself. You can do this, I know you can!
* EDIT (28.10.2018): Reader Harry pointed out that Hyvin menee 2 doesn't include answers to the excercises, which makes it a bit tricky for self study. Thank you so much Harry, I hadn't thought of this pretty crucial aspect of self study! The answers and lots of extra material are available in a separate teacher's guide (Opettajan opas). Also, the audio has to be obtained separately as well, and listening comprehension is a pretty important part of YKI prep, so you need to get your hands on that as well. If you're in Finland, all of this is available for free via your local library, but if you want to buy it new, it'll cost something in the neighborhood of 150 euros altogether.
Another, much cheaper textbook option is Suomea paremmin by Susanna Hart, which includes the answers to the exercises and the audio for about 40 euros. I don't think that Suomea paremmin is nearly as good as Hyvin menee 2 for YKI prep (for one, the audio includes Finnish actors pretending to be learning Finnish as a second language, which... cringe!), but it has many advantages for self study. It's much more concise so it can be a lot less overwhelming to study with, but that can be a mixed blessing - a less overwhelming textbook may mean a much more overwhelming test experience, so it's super important that you supplement it with more demanding online materials.