TestDaF, orDeutsch als Fremdsprache is an international exam used to assess the foreigners’ knowledge of the German language. It is a prerequisite for admission to a university or studienkolleg in Germany. TestDaF results are accepted by most German universities.
Preparation for international examinations
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Reading. The section lasts 60 minutes and includes tasks of three difficulty levels. The first level suggests reading short texts. On the second one you are asked to read a journalistic text and to answer questions about its contents. The third level is the most difficult. It confronts the examinee with academic texts (often on economic and commercial topics).
Tip for the reading section.Put a clock in front of you and watch the time. Allocate 10 minutes for the first part, about 20 minutes for the second and third. The remaining time can be spent checking the answers.
Listening. This 40-minute-long section is divided into three blocks. In the first one, you need to listen to a dialogue from a student's life, for example, a phone call with a teacher. The second part is an excerpt from an interview. In the third block, you are given a short text on a scientific topic. The first two recordings can be listened to only once, and the third one — twice.
Tip for the listening section. Take notes while listening.
Writing. The student has 60 minutes for this section. The task is to describe graphs and argue your position on the proposed topic. It assesses a candidate's ability to express their thoughts logically and consistently. Punctuation and spelling errors are not taken into account, but still try to minimize them.
Tip for the writing section. Prepare phrases in advance to describe graphs and tables. It is better to write the essay correctly straight away, since there won’t be time for rewriting.
Speaking. The duration of the section is 35 minutes. The candidate is offered 7 tasks of different difficulty levels. For example, in one, you need to make an appointment with a doctor, and in the other, you need to talk about German migration policy. The difficulty is not only in the subject of the conversation but also in the fact that you will have to talk to a computer. Moreover, you need to be prepared for noise, because there will be other examinees in the room.
Tip for the speaking section. Don't write whole phrases — just jot down a few key points. For each section, learn the keywords and actively use introductory constructions so that speech sounds natural.
Since 2020, TestDaF has been gradually moving online. Now students can choose the format in which to take the test: digital or paper-based. Universities recognize both. The general structure of the test has not changed, but the number of tasks has increased. For example, in the "Writing" part of the Digital TestDaF, you need to write two essays instead of one. The first is a reasoned answer to a given question, and the second is a comparison of graphs. New tasks have also appeared in the “Reading” section: fill in the blanks, rearrange the paragraphs of a text, find errors, connect related statements. More information about the structure of Digital TestDaF can be found on the website.
How is TestDaF evaluated
The works are evaluated on a three-point scale:
TDN-3 (corresponds to the B2 level) — the lowest score. It is rather difficult to enter German universities with it. If a student earns C’s in all parts of the exam, they might want to consider enrolling in an English-language program instead.
TDN-4 (average between B2 and C1). This result is usually enough for admission to prestigious universities in Germany, although there are exceptions. In linguistic and medical specialties, an advanced level of German is required.
TDN-5 (corresponds to levels C1-2). 5/5 in all parts of the exam make it possible to apply to any educational institution in Germany for any specialty.
Language proficiency requirements vary from institution to institution. Find out in advance what TestDaF results are needed to enroll in the desired specialty.
How do I register for TestDaF
Registration for the exam opens 8 weeks prior to testing and lasts 4 weeks. The number of applicants is growing every year, so you need to sign up as early as possible.
Registration for TestDaF is done via the Internet. Simply go to the official website of the exam, choose a suitable date and testing center, fill out an application and pay the fee. When registering, the candidate chooses the exam format: paper or digital. The price is the same: 164 USD for an attempt. The exact cost depends on the country and the certification centerit varies by 11-34 USD. It is more expensive to take TestDaF in Germany — there it costs 198 USD.
The exam results will be available on the official portal one month after testing. Paper certificates are sent from Germany to certification centers in 1.5-2 months. For those who want to get results as soon as possible, it is better to sign up for Digital TestDaF.
How to prepare for TestDaF
Start preparing in advance
Read as much as possible in German, especially magazine articles in the Zeit, Spiegel Online or the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The test will surely contain an academic text on science, technical development or economics, so it is important to be familiar with such publications. Listen to German speech to improve your speaking skills. You can take preparatory courses, go to a conversation club, or watch movies and listen to the radio in German. This will help you build vocabulary and learn more common expressions. Another effective method is communicating with a native German speaker. If it is not financially possible, it is enough to register on a website for language learners, for example Tandempartners.
Use high-quality study guides
Don't skimp on study materials. The tasks in the test are anything but basic, and even a native speaker will experience difficulties if they do not familiarize themselves with the format in advance. Only daily practice will help you achieve high results. A list of the best study guides can be found on the official exam website as well as on the Goethe Institute website.
Manage your time effectively
The amount of time allotted for the test (3 hours 10 minutes) is often not enough to complete, check and enumerate all tasks. To successfully pass TestDaF, learn how to manage your time correctly. You should not stall for too long on one hard question: it is better to skip a difficult task and move on to the next. Otherwise, you may never get to the last tasks of the section.
Practice writing essays
The writing part is perhaps the most difficult. Describing statistical graphs in an essay is a very specific task. The statistics can come from any field — for example, comparative population growth rates of England and Germany. In order to have the time to cover all the necessary points in the essay, sketch out a short outline and break the text into parts (introduction, main part and conclusion). To deal easily with describing graphs and tables, familiarize yourself with the relevant vocabulary (various parameters, percentages, comparisons and descriptions, growth, increase, decrease, etc). The writing section assesses the candidate's ability to write coherent text using introductory words and set expressions. A list of popular speech constructs can be found here.
Plan your spoken response
Speaking is usually the most stressful part of the exam. Very little time is given to think about the answer. It will not be possible to write down all your thoughts, so it is better to sketch out a small plan of the answer and highlight the keywords that you can use as reference while speaking. Use sample tests to study the speaking tasks in advance and prepare answers to them.
Take a practice test
Be sure to take a few practice tests before the exam. You can find them on the Internet or in tutorials. Try to make your practice as close as possible to the real exam: comply with the time limits and gradually solve the tasks section by section.
What else do I need to know about TestDaF
You need to arrive at the test center 30 minutes before the exam starts.
Several pens with blue or black ink are required for the exam. Answer forms are checked by the computer and it does not recognize other colors.
In addition, do not forget an ID with a photo (used when registering for the test), a brightly colored marker to underline keywords, drinking water (0.5-1 liter), a snack (a couple of sandwiches, a chocolate bar). You can eat during the exam.
TestDaF permits the use of a monolingual German dictionary. However, in reality, you rarely get to look into the book, because of the time limits.
There are breaks after each section: 5-10 minutes after the first two, and a 30-minute break after the third.
The exam takes place in a crowded classroom. Everyone has their own habits — someone clicks a pen while considering the answer, and someone has come with a runny nose. All this noise is very distracting and annoying. You can address this problem with ordinary earplugs. They are especially useful during the writing section.