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German Language Examinations

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Learn More About German Examinations

German is one of the ten most commonly spoken languages in the world and it’s, in fact, the most spoken native language in the European Union – it’s an official language in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and parts of Switzerland. The economies of the German-speaking countries are among the strongest economies worldwide, which accounts for a lot of relevant companies and businesses speaking German. As a result, especially if we leave aside the hegemony of the English language, it’s safe to say that learning German is an extremely attractive option that could open many doors in your future.

If you have been learning German for a while and have already reached a good level, it might be time to obtain an official German certificate to prove it. Taking an official German level exam and getting the consequent certificate will be a great asset in your CV that will definitely impress your potential future employers. German certificates and examinations play an important role even before diving into the professional environment. Have you ever considered studying at a German university, either on a graduate or postgraduate level? If so, you will most likely need an official proof to demonstrate you have achieved a certain level of German proficiency.

Some might think that taking an exam to receive a certificate might be superfluous and that having the actual knowledge is more than enough. However, the truth is that many institutions, universities or Human Resources recruiters will first read your resume and evaluate your qualifications. If they are impressed with what they have seen, you will get a personal invitation to have the chance to introduce yourself and show off your skills.

The choice of German language examinations available is quite wide and which one is the right for you depends on the level, your ultimate objective and the school you plan to apply to. The most widely recognized German exams are the DSH, the TestDaF and the Goethe Institut examinations, which cover all CEFR levels, from A1 to C2. Below you will find additional information on a selection of certificates, the reasons why you should choose one or the other, and how Lingoda can help you succeed!


Main German Language Exams

 Exam  DSH  IELTSTestDaF
Name DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang)  Test DaF (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache)
 Testing  board German Universities  TestDaF Institute, Hagen (Germany)
 Since 1996  2001
 Level  From B2 to C1  From B2 to C1
 Validity  Lifelong. This certificate does not have an  expiry date.  Lifelong. This certificate does not have an  expiry  date.
 Results  Scale score from 1 to 3, 3 being the best  grade. Apart from the overall grade, each  part will also be given an individual grade.

Correspondence of DSH levels with the %  of correct answers and CEFR levels:

  • DSH 1 (≥57%): Level B2.2
  • DSH 2 (≥67%): Level C1.1
  • DSH 3 (≥82%): Level C1.2
 The results are assigned to one of three levels,  being  5 the highest:

  • TestDaF level 5 (TDN 5)
  • TestDaF level 4 (TDN 4)
  • TestDaF level 3 (TDN 3)
 Purpose  Test for foreign students wishing to apply  to a German-speaking university. It can  also be useful for those who need a  German certificate for a job qualification.  This exam is primarily for entry in German-speaking  universities, and every university in Germany  recognises it. It’s also useful as a qualification for  academic professions.
 Price range  100-150€  125-175€

Goethe Institut Examinations

Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom

 Name  Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom
 Testing board  Goethe-Institut
 Since  2012. It replaced the previous existing exams:

  • Goethe-Zertifikat: Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung (ZOP)
  • Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom (KDS)
  • Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom (GDS).
 Level  C2
 Validity  Lifelong. This certificate does not have an expiry date.
 Results  The exam has 4 modules (reading, writing, listening and  speaking) which are graded from 0 to 100. to A minimum score  of 60/100 is required to pass each of them.

Scale score:

  • 90-100: very good
  • 80-89: good
  • 70-79: satisfactory
  • 60-69: adequate
 Purpose  This exam entitles foreign students to be admitted to German-  speaking universities or other higher education institutions, and  it’s recognised as evidence of the skills required to teach  German.
 Price range  220-295€


Goethe-Zertifikat C1

 Name  Goethe-Zertifikat C1
 Testing board  Goethe-Institut
 Level  B1
 Validity  Lifelong. This certificate does not have an expiry date.
 Results  The exam has 4 modules (reading, writing, listening and  speaking) which are graded from 0 to 100. to A minimum score of  60/100 is required to pass each of them.

Scale score:

  • 90-100: very good
  • 80-89: good
  • 70-79: satisfactory
  • 60-69: adequate
 Purpose  Ideal to prepare for studying at a German-speaking university at  graduate or postgraduate level and to demonstrate a very  advanced knowledge of German for employment prospects.
 Price range  170-250€


Goethe-Zertifikat B1

 Name  Goethe-Zertifikat B1
 Testing board  Goethe-Institut
 Since  2014. It replaced two other exams:

  • Zertifikat Deutsch (ZD)
  • Zertifikat Deutsch für Jugendliche (ZDj)
 Level  B1
 Validity  Lifelong. This certificate does not have an expiry date.
 Results  The exam has 4 modules (reading, writing, listening and speaking)  which are graded from 0 to 100. to A minimum score of 60/100 is  required to pass each of them.

Scale score:

  • 90-100: very good
  • 80-89: good
  • 70-79: satisfactory
  • 60-69: adequate
 Purpose  This certificate allows students to attend a preparatory course  (Studienkolleg) to qualify for admission to university in Germany. It  is also widely accepted for employers as a proof of intermediate  German knowledge.
 Price range  120-180€

Which German Exam Should I Take?

One of the main points you need to take into account is your level. Here you can see a table comparing the different exams according to the 6 levels of proficiency established by the CEFR, as well as a brief explanation of each one of them. As you will see, and as we have mentioned before, the TestDaF and the DSH exams are test for upper-intermediate and advanced users (B2-C1 level). On the contrary, Goethe-Institut offers 6 different exams, one for each CEFR level.

If you are not taking the exam for a specific purpose, but just to have a certificate to prove the level of German you have achieved so far, Goethe-Institut examinations could be the best option. The Goethe-Institut is the world’s leading institution for the promotion of the German language and culture. The certificates they issue are recognised and highly valued by employers and schools worldwide. To take one of these exams, you need to know in advance which level you are aiming to achieve. Unlike TestDaF and DSH, where the level of your certificate depends on your test score, Goethe examinations are designed for specific levels. This means that, if you pass it, you will only get a certificate of the level they have been designed for.

If you wish to apply for a place at a German university, you will need to sit the TestDaF or the DSH exam. Both are quite similar and cover the same range of CEFR levels (B2-C1). However, there are some differences that you should take into account. The first one is about where to take the test: whilst you can take the TestDaF in your home country (it’s offered in more than 90 countries around the world), you can only sit the DSH in Germany. Both exams have similar formats and evaluate the candidates in the 4 basic skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Second, if you take the DSH you will also have to solve a specific grammar section, which is not part of the TestDaF. The third diffence is that the exam fees depend on the country and institution, but TestDaF is usually slightly more expensive.

Another aspect in which TestDaF and DSH differ are the results. Candidates taking the TestDaF need to pass every single part of the exam in order to be successful in the overall exam. However, to fulfil the language requirements in the DSH exam it only matters if you get a pass in the total grade. This means, for example, that if you fail the listening part but have a really good grade in the speaking, you can still get your DSH certificate. The results from TestDaF usually take longer to be issued than those from the DSH. Apart from that, since every German university has their own admissions policy, the score they require in the whole test or each subtest can depend and the best would be to check directly with the admissions department of each of them.

Trust Lingoda and Prepare for Success in Your German Tests!

If you are aiming to sit one of the German language tests mentioned above, apart from having reached the actual level, you also need to be familiar with the exam itself. It is important that you research about the different parts of the exam, the variety of exercises that you will have to solve, the time you will have for each part, etc.

There are many resources available online that can be very valuable, including past papers from previous years. However, the best way to make sure your German is exam-ready would be taking classes with a qualified teacher, who knows about the exam and is able to evaluate you and help you improve your weaknesses. At Lingoda we offer online German courses, which are taught by qualified native teachers and offer you the flexibility traditional language schools are lacking. With us, you can learn whenever you want, from wherever you are and as often as you choose to.

Forget about the strict timetables that don’t fit into your everyday schedule and make going to class a big effort. Use your time efficiently and learn with the innovative learning methods that Lingoda puts at your disposal. Join us and discover the advantages of learning online under the guidance of your own personal adviser, who will help you organise your classes so you can meet your goals and obtain that German certificate you need!