If you are planning to work in a German company or study at a German university, you may need a certificate that confirms your level of German. There are a number of German language proficiency tests that you can take. Here is an overview of a few of the most important ones.
TestDaF – Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache
TestDaF is a standardized language test of German proficiency for non-native speakers. It is generally aimed at students who want to study at German universities or scientists and researchers who want to work there.
You can take this test in 95 different countries around the world. It covers listening comprehension, reading comprehension, writing and speaking. The TestDaF certificate is valid for an unlimited period of time.
There is one exam, but the mark shows you are at one of three levels “Niveaustufen” 3 to 5 (which correspond to Common European Framework of Reference for Languages B2-C1).
The exam runs six times a year with the same dates worldwide (except for China: there are different dates and just three times a year). Not only university applicants can take it. Everybody has the same questions/tasks and the test is marked centrally.
It takes six to eight weeks for you to get the results. You can take the test again as often as you like. The fee varies from country to country.
DSH – Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang
DSH is a language proficiency test required to enter a German university and to undertake all classes in the German language. It is organized by each university individually. While the universities follow a common test framework there may still be some variation in the rules from one university to another.
There is one exam and three levels. These levels correspond broadly to TestDaF 3 to 5 (B2 to C2).
Some universities require you to have enlisted for a course before you can take the DSH. Others run an “open” DHS exam. It is usually held before the beginning of the semester. Some universities run it twice a year, others – four times. Some places charge you for DSH, others do not.
Goethe-Institut German exams
Goethe-Institut has developed a series of exams for learners of German as a foreign language (Deutsch als Fremdsprache, DaF) at all levels: A1 up to C2. You can take these exams both in Germany and abroad (over 90 countries), and they have been adapted to fit into the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFL), the standard for European language testing.
The exams consist of four parts: reading, writing, speaking and listening. The length and complexity of the parts increase as you move up through the levels. The focus is on general language and discussion of topics of general interest.
Goethe-Institut German proficiency certificates do not expire. They can be applied in a variety of situations: visas for spouses wishing to join their husband or wife in Germany, citizenship, studying in German universities, working in German companies.
Deutsches Sprachdiplom Stufe I and II (DSD) – German as a foreign language
The Deutsches Sprachdiplom is an official German language certificate of the German education authorities and the Foreign Office certifying levels of knowledge of the German language in schools worldwide.
DSD is an exam only offered to children at participating secondary schools, of which there are more than 11,000 worldwide. The program prepares children for studying in Germany in matters of language and cultural issues.
At the end of the program, children receive a language proficiency certificate on level A2/B1 or B2/C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The certificate together with national school leaving examinations entitles foreign students to apply for university entry in Germany.
DSD II, DSH, and TestDaF are accepted by any university in Germany. They are officially recognzed as university entrance qualifications. Goethe-Institut German tests may be considered, but no guarantees are given – it is necessary to check with each particular university. In other German-speaking countries, the situation varies.