Anyone wanting to study in Germany or who needs to speak German in their job should know about the language certificate that is required. An overview.
Despite the fact that in Germany there are increasing numbers , almost three quarters of the international bachelor’s degree and a third of master’s degree students are enrolled in study programmes that are taught wholly or partly in German. This emanates from a DAAD survey conducted in winter semester 2020/21. Those interested in pursuing such studies need to demonstrate extensive language skills to gain admission. They should ultimately be able to understand demanding texts, comprehend academic discourse and be able to express themselves in a differentiated and linguistically correct manner.
Interested students should always enquire directly at the higher education institution to learn which language certificate is required for their study programme. The same aspects apply to all certificates: participants are tested in reading, listening writing and speaking. The most common are ‘TestDaF’ and ‘Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang’ (DSH). The TestDaF test can be taken on paper or digitally in certified test centres and is offered at Goethe Institute facilities, by DAAD lecturers, and in higher education institutions and language schools around the world. TestDaF testing also takes place in all regions of Germany on a monthly basis. The fees are around 210 euros. Preparatory courses can be taken at higher education institutions, adult education centres and private language schools.
The DSH is conversely offered exclusively at higher education institutions in Germany, generally as part of the admissions procedure. These higher education institutions often also provide preparatory courses. The DSH test varies somewhat among higher education institutions. Costs are also variable and range from 0 to around 250 euros. The enrolment rate is reaching 67 per cent of the possible marks, thus achieving DSH Level 2.
German higher education institutions also accept substantiation via the Deutsches Sprachdiplom der Kultusministerkonferenz (DSD II – German Language Certificate of the Education Ministers Conference), although this is only available to pupils aged between 16 and 18 who have received multiple years of German lessons. This test is taken directly within schools.
There are two further German certificates that enable adults to gain admission to higher education: the Goethe C2 certificate or ‘Großes Deutsche Sprachdiplom’ – can be awarded by a Goethe-Institut at one of its 158 global locations. The associated exam can also be taken at any of its 12 German programme locations and costs 355 euros. Preparatory refresher and intensive courses can be booked at a Goethe-Institut and are available both online and in person.
Test applicants can only obtain the ‘Telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule’ certificate in Germany. The private provider telc gGmbH conducts its tests nationwide at adult education centres and private language schools. The costs vary depending on the test centre. Both the Goethe-Institut and adult education centres/language schools offer courses in preparation for the Telc certificate.
Even those who are taking an English language study programme should learn German – especially if they want to after graduating. It may be true that the working language in large German companies is now often English. But the German labour market is dominated by small and medium-sized businesses. There it’s usually .
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR or CEFRL) distinguishes six levels of foreign language proficiency: from A1 (beginner) to C2 (near-native proficiency). Proficiency at B2 level is generally expected in professional life. Official substantiation is crucial in relation to an occupation in the health professions: doctors and physicians must demonstrate German language skills at B2 or C1 level depending on the Landesärztekammer (Regional Medical Association). Nurses require B1 level in some German federal states, B2 level in others.
There are many opportunities – such as in our ‘Learning German’ section. Our sets a new grammar task every day. In addition to articles and infographics on topics of everyday life in Germany, the Alumniportal also provides and at A2 to B2 level.
The Goethe-Institut and Deutsche Welle (DW) websites also contain an abundance of free interactive exercises, videos and podcasts, entertaining explanations of German idioms, and much more besides. The DW website also provides daily access to slowly spoken news reports.
Language learning apps make it possible to learn in small bites whenever an opportunity arises – such as on the bus or in a waiting room. Duolingo, which contains many playful elements, is particularly suitable for refreshing language skills. The ‘DerDieDas’ app, which is also free, focuses on a problem that confuses a lot of people learning German: the three definite articles. And the chargeable ‘Babbel’ app can be used to practice grammar and expand your vocabulary in a targeted manner. The magazine "Deutsch perfekt" published by the "Die Zeit" publishing group, which is specifically designed for those learning German, also combines reports about current topics with audio and practical exercises.
"Nicos Weg" | Learn German with videos
You can of course also learn a lot by simply reading, listening to and watching the same material as the Germans themselves: for instance the wonderful youth novel ‘Tschick’ by Wolfgang Herrndorf, the political podcast ‘Stimmenfang’ by Spiegel magazine, films about German history such as ‘Das Leben der Anderen’ and ‘Der Untergang’ or the Netflix series ‘Dark’, which combines a highly complicated plot with easily understood language. One thing is clear: the best way to learn is by having fun doing so.