10 min

How to Pass the TestDaF

If you want to study at a German university, you need a language certificate. Teacher Zinaida Ryzhkova who has a German C2 certificate told StudyFree why one should choose the TestDaF exam and how to prepare for it.

What Is the TestDaF?

TestDaF (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache) is the most popular exam format among students pursuing to study in German-speaking countries. It is acknowledged by all universities in Germany. Besides, you can get a job with the TestDaF certificate, including in education.

In the test, you get 3, 4, or 5 for each part. A 3 corresponds to the B2.1 – basic B2.2. A 4 is in between B2.2 and C1. A 5 means you are a solid C1.

N.B.: To be admitted to most faculties, you need to have Bs in each part of the test. For some universities and majors, you’d better have a couple of As in your pocket too.

It takes up to six weeks to issue the results of the test, so make sure you take it early enough to apply to the university in time.

The certificate is valid for an unlimited period. However, I’d recommend you to check with the university or the employer whether they have any special requirements.

What Are the Advantages of the TestDaF?

There are many German language examinations. Among them are the popular Goethe Zertifikat, the TELC, and the Austrian ÖSD. The TestDaF is what I recommend taking for university admission.

Firstly, it is specifically designed for future students. When preparing, you coach yourself for the common study-related topics and situations that you are likely to face in Germany.

Secondly, the TestDaF results give you a realistic picture of whether you are ready to study in a program taught in German. If you got 3 in all the parts, I advise you to prepare more and retake the exam in a few months, because hardly any universities will accept you with this level. If you have all fives, congratulations! Any German university will be happy to welcome you.

You need to find out about the requirements for the language level confirmed by other certificates at each university individually. Some accept applicants with the Goethe Zertifikat C1, while others require you to have at least the minimum score to reach the C2.

Structure of the Test

TestDaF is available in the conventional paper-based and, from 2020, digital formats. No matter which format you choose, the tasks are the same. The only difference is how they are presented.

The test consists of four parts — Lesen, Hören, Sprechen, and Schreiben (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing). It lasts 3 hours and 15 minutes without breaks.

The main distinguishing feature of the TestDaF, which can be confusing, is the non-standard oral response format. The Speaking part goes without the examiner: the response is recorded on tape. The student listens to the tasks using a headset and then has to give their response to the microphone within a certain amount of time. 

There are three or four other people in the classroom with you. Many examinees complain that headphones do not prevent you from hearing what other students are saying. Obviously, this is very distracting. I believe this is why the TestDaF management is planning to eliminate the traditional face-to-face format soon and just offer the digital one.

After the exam is over, your recording and answers for Writing are sent to the experts for review. They analyze whether you completed the tasks correctly and comprehensively, and then give you a grade.

You can read more about how the works are graded and how many points you need to get to achieve a certain grade here. For example, to get a 5 for Reading, you need to score at least 24-26 out of a maximum of 30 points, with 24 being the threshold in a more difficult version and 26 being the minimum score in an easier version. The level of complexity is assessed by the examiners. In Listening, you need to score a minimum of 19-21 out of 25 points to get a 5.

How To Register for the TestDaF and How Much Does It Cost?

The exam is administered by licensed test centers on the same dates all around the world. There is already a schedule for 2022. You can see it and register for the date you prefer here. There are three days to choose from to take the paper-based test and five days for the digital format.

The cost of the exam depends on the country of residence. To find out the exact price, you need to contact a licensed test center. In Germany, for example, it’s €195.

How Long Does It Take To Prepare and Should I Study With a Tutor?

The preparation time varies depending on one’s current level and on how much time they are ready to invest. For example, with the C1, you can handle it in a month, while preparing for the test from scratch may take one and a half to two years.

I strongly recommend you to study with a tutor or join a course for a while at least. It won’t be a waste of time. After all, your results may determine whether you will be admitted or denied.

A good teacher will give you a clear explanation of what the structure is and what aspects need your special attention. They will advise you on the best learning materials, help you become aware of what might be tricky, and give you tips on how to mentally prepare for the test. Besides, they will review your answers for Writing and Speaking. It’s hard to do that yourself if you don’t have experience with international exams.

What if I Fail?

If you aspire and strive to study in Germany in a German-speaking program, the only option is to try again and not give up.

You might have not worked hard enough to prepare or just got too nervous during the exam. Analyze your results and think about what could have gone wrong. After you figure it out, focus on these aspects when preparing and register for a retake after a while.

Preparation Tips 

Create a German-speaking environment around you. Listen to podcasts and news, watch videos and educational series in German, read articles (fortunately, there are many online publications), and subscribe to German bloggers who generate a lot of content, like Karolina Kauer or Carmen Kroll, for example.

If you have no one you can regularly speak German to, retell and record everything you read, watch, and listen to at least three or four times a week.

Keep a journal in German. Writing down your thoughts and activities in a foreign language is a great writing practice.

Buy books with practice tests and work through at least five or six of them or better yet, dozens of them. Know when to stop though: exercises there are generally very similar. If you deal with too many of them, there is a risk of getting bored and coming to the exam with a lack of motivation. 

Timing is crucial! When practicing the tasks, make sure that you stay within the time limits.

Preparation is the key to peace of mind. The structure of the exam tasks is exactly the same as the ones you go over many times during preparation. Knowing this will help you calm down and focus.

To find out more about learning German and preparing for the TestDaF, don’t hesitate to follow me on Instagram.

By Zinaida Ryzhkova