A number of tests and qualifications are available that can demonstrate your knowledge of the German language. The choice of which one to go for usually depends on why you need the certification (for example, to study or work in a German-speaking institution or to apply for a visa, permit to stay, or citizenship). All of these exams and credentials are generally recognised by German authorities and educational establishments.
The Goethe-Institut is a German government-supported organisation that encourages the learning of the German language and cultural exchange around the world. The institute is composed of 159 branches in 98 countries and has developed tests that certify the proficiency of the language at six different levels, in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Examinations can be taken at any Goethe-Institut or with one of its partners, and upon successful completion of the exam, the Goethe-Institut certificate is awarded. This exam can be used as proof of proficiency for university entrance examinations, visas, residence permits and citizenship applications.
GDS or C2 level certificate at Goethe
The Goethe Institut offers the GDS (Das Große Deutsche Sprachdiplom) which is designed for learners of the German language and is classified at the C2 level. With this certificate, those who have graduated have the opportunity to study, do research and even teach in Germany.
Two types of A1 Zertifikat exams at Goethe-Institut
Additionally, the Goethe Institut has two different exams at the A1 level – Goethe Zertifikat Start German 1 and Goethe Zertifikat Fit in German 1. Start German 1 can be used to apply for an au pair position in Germany, receive proof of language proficiency for the visa for spouse reunification, and as a general certification to prove language learning success at level A1. Fit in German 1 is for children and young people between the ages of 10 and 16 to prove basic knowledge of German and learning success at level A1.
Before taking one of these exams, it is important to be aware of the level required for it. For instance, if you choose to take the B1 exam and pass it, you will only be certified at the B1 level.
TestDAF and DSH exams award you a level based on your score.
TestDAF and DSH exams
(Read more about the TestDAF exam here for details about levels, scoring, format, results, certificate, pricing and test centres)
If you wish to apply for a program at a German university, you will need to take 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.
|Where is the TestDAF taken||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|
|Exam Format||Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.||Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking and a Grammar section.|
|Fee||around 90 Euros||Around 40-140 euros|
|Results||Candidates taking the TestDaF need to pass every single part of the exam in order to be successful in the overall exam
This means, for example, that if you fail the listening part but have a really good grade in speaking, you will still fail the TestDAF 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
|Correspondence with CEFR||TestDAF awards students at three levels corresponding to the B2-C1 levels of CEFR
TestDaF level 3 (TDN 3) B2.2
TestDaF level 4 (TDN 4) C1.1
TestDaF level 5 (TDN 5) C1.2
|DSH awards students with three levels corresponding to the B2-C1 levels of CEFR
DSH 1(>=57%) B2.2
DSH 2(>=67%) C1.1
DSH 3 (>=82%) C1.2
TELC (The European Language Certificate) provides language accreditation in 10 diverse languages, including German. They have more than 2,000 test centres in 20 different countries. Telc standard tests are in line with the CEFR levels, but they also have specialized exams concentrating on topics such as language in the workplace, language for nurses and carers, medical language and university admission. Their globally-acknowledged accreditation is accepted in Germany for visa, residence permit and citizenship applications.
Deutschtest für Zuwanderer (DTZ)
The Deutschtest für Zuwanderer (German Language Test for Immigrants – DTZ) is a certification particularly designed for immigrants in Germany and is often taken at the end of an integration course. Passing this test is equivalent to attaining a CEFR level A2 or B1. Fresh arrivals in Germany regularly have to complete the integration course and DTZ as a requirement for obtaining a residence permit. Successful completion of an integration course and DTZ is also necessary for some visa applications.
ÖSD – German Language Certificate Austria
The Austrian German Language Diploma (ÖSD –Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch) is a German examination which has been sanctioned by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Education, Science, and Cultural Affairs. It evaluates the German language as a foreign and a second language. This examination is acknowledged in all parts of Austria for numerous reasons and is also accepted as proof of German expertise in numerous universities in Germany, Switzerland, and South Tyrol (Italy). It corresponds to the level descriptions of the CEFR, and is equal to the Goethe Institut Zertifikat Deutsch and TELC examinations. There are more than two hundred test centres in Austria and around two hundred centres in other countries such as India, with the two OSD centres located in Chandigarh and Bangalore.
ÖIF – Austrian Integration Fund
Furthermore, there is another German proficiency test called ÖIF (Österreichische Integrationsfonds) which administers German tests for different levels of proficiency throughout Austria. It also evaluates immigrants whose level is still below the A2 level.
Established in the year 1960, The Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF) works in collaboration with the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and many other pertinent organizations dealing with migration and integration in Austria.
Those who successfully complete the A2/A3 test can receive a reimbursement of up to 50% of the German language course fees from the ÖIF.
These are the major German examinations you can appear for at based on your requirement.