Moving to Germany for studies? Planning to learn German?

Seems as a smarter plan…Yes! Good German language skills will help you to feel more at home in Germany and will be of more help for your academics!

You should possess a sufficient level of German language skill to understand lectures and participate in discussion in your university seminars, to get along with your new German friends, etc.

A fixed level of German language skill is actually must while you are planning to study in Germany and also few other countries that have German as their official languages, which include Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, & Belgium, and in some parts of Italy, Slovakia, & Brazil.

German Language Dialects

Like all other languages, there are regional differences in pronunciation and intonation in the German language. Different dialects of German were spoken around Germany. Some of them include Bavaria, Hamburg, etc. But the German universities use High German i.e. “Hochdeutsch” for academics purposes.

It is advisable that you adapt to your regional dialect as soon as possible, as you will have to communicate to your classmates, professors, neighbours in Germany with their dialects because the High German that you learn and is used in the classes is not the language that is generally used in conversations.

Now, while planning to learn the German Language, you may have come across the terms as Level A1, B2, etc., what actually are they, let’s see…

What are the Levels of German Language?

Acquiring the German Language skill is progressive, and is represented in levels ranging from beginners to advanced levels as defined by the Common European Reference Framework (CEFR) for all European languages.

A = Elementary (Basic user)

B = Intermediate (Independent user)

C = Advanced (Proficient user)

There are six levels of proficiency ranging from basic user to proficient user, i.e. from A1 to C2.  The beginner level consists three modules, namely A1, A2 & B1, and is followed by the intermediate level which consists two modules, namely B2 & C1, this intermediate level is followed by the final level, i.e. advanced level which consists of C2 module.

In each level, certain language skill is attained and each level of language proficiency is attained through tests that prove you are capable of the language and promotes to the next level. Some of the most commonly used assessments include Goethe Institut, free assessment test, DSH, ZD, TestDaF, and other online tests.

Skills are acquired across the Levels?

You will be in need of spending an approximate duration of 160 class hours for one proficiency level. Spending 160 hours, what outcome do you get in the proficiency of the language?

Levels Skills Acquired
Basic User A1 – Beginner Ability to understand and use everyday expressions and basic phrases.
A2 – Elementary Ability to understand sentences & frequently used expressions that have the most relevance.
Independent User B1 – Intermediate Ability to understand clear standard input on familiar matters that are regularly encountered.
B2 – Upper Intermediate Ability to understand the main ideas of complex text on concrete and abstract topics including technical discussions.
Proficient User C1 – Advanced Ability to understand a range of longer texts, and to recognize implicit meaning.
C2 – Highly Competent Ability to understand with ease everything that is heard or read.



There are various standard organizations that conduct German Language proficiency tests and each provides different estimates on the length of each level assuming the regular instruction in a language.

There is no particular methodology for attaining the set levels of proficiency is given by the Common European Reference Framework (CEFR) or by any other institutions.

But certainly, there are few test-based evaluations that could be made, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), etc.

Some of the standardized tests include:

  1. Goethe-Institut

Goethe-Institut is a German cultural association, operating worldwide with its 159 institutes, promoting the study of German Language abroad.

The Goethe-Institut has adapted to offer German Language courses and their certificates and levels that match the CEFR levels. Goethe-Institute has developed a series of exams for learners of German as a foreign language at all CEFR levels (A1 to C2). These exams can be taken from both in Germany & abroad.

Goethe-Institute also offers free assessment tests online for the German language.

  1. DSH

The DSH (Deutsche Sprachprufung fur den Hochschulzugang) is a language proficiency examination that tests the ability of taking on studies in German universities and to undertake classes in German language.

This exam is in written and oral form and has to be taken before the commencement of studies in the universities and is for all foreign applicants to study in Germany.

The grading scale of DSH is from 1-3; 3 is the best possible grade.

DSH proficiency exam has certain levels that are in accordance with the proficiency levels of Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Language

  1. TestDaF

The Test Deutsch auf Fremdsprache (TestDaF) is a standardised German language proficiency test for non-native German speakers.

This test is aimed at people, who would like to study at, or academics, and scientists who want to work in German universities. And it assesses whether the person has the German language skills that are necessary for him/her to study or work in Germany.

TestDaF is recognised by German universities as proof of the prospective students’ ability for German language.

The TestDaF exam’s grades are marked in terms of three levels, i.e. TDN 3-5 that corresponds to the CERF levels B2 & C1.

  • TestDaF-Niveaustufe 3 (TDN 3):
  • TestDaF-Niveaustufe 4 (TDN 4):
  • TestDaF-Niveaustufe 5 (TDN 5):

This test does not suit beginners.  The certificate provided by TestDaF is valid for an unlimited period of time.

  1. Zertifikat Deutsch

The Zertifikat Deutsch (ZD) is an internationally recognized exam of German language ability that tests for a level of ability equivalent to level B1, according to the CEFR levels.

In order to obtain the necessary fluency to pass the ZD exam candidates typically need around 300 – 600 hours of instruction in German. This exam is for the students regardless of whether they are from inside or outside a German-speaking country.

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