The German language

Last update: September 2017

The teaching language in most degree programmes at German higher education institutions is German. Sufficient language skills are therefore a prerequisite for studying in Germany. The most important questions and answers:

Are German language skills always necessary?

Because the language is important for your studies, you will often have to present proof of proficiency in German when you apply. Exceptions are international degree programmes and certain postgraduate programmes. The requirement to prove your language skills may also be waived if you only want to study in Germany for one or two semesters. Contact the International Office at your higher education institution for details.

How do I prove my language skills?

Usually you will be expected to take a German language test before you are admitted to your degree programme. There are official tests with which you can prove your German language skills.

What do these tests look like?

The Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache (TestDaF) is offered in around 100 countries, so you can already take it in your home country. The Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH) has to be taken in Germany and is offered by many higher education institutions. Both tests consist of several sections that assess your reading and listening comprehension as well as your ability to communicate. If you achieve at least the medium level in all sections you can be admitted to your degree programme.

The Goethe-Zertifikat C2, the Telc Deutsch C1 examination and the Deutsches Sprachdiplom (level II) of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs are usually also recognised by higher education institutions. If you completed your school leaving certificate giving right of entry to higher education at a German-language school abroad, you will not be required to take a language proficiency test.

Please be sure to contact your higher education institution for information on the rules that apply for your degree programme.

When and where can I take the test?

Testing is offered several times a year. Information on test locations and dates is available on the websites of the test providers and from the contacts at your higher education institution.

Does it cost anything?

The test can cost between EUR 40 and EUR 175. The exact fee depends on the institution and the country where you are tested.

How can I find out how good my German is?

There are many ways to test your German language skills on the Internet – for example on the website of the Goethe-Institut. The Common European Framework of Reference defines the differences between the various proficiency levels.

What are the rules for international degree programmes?

You can usually enrol in international degree programmes without proof of German language skills. However, you will then need proof of other language skills, usually English. Some higher education institutions do not require proof of language skills from exchange students who only come to Germany for one or two semesters.

Why is it nonetheless worth learning German?

Of course you don't learn a language just so you can be admitted to a degree programme. German language skills will significantly affect how comfortable you feel in Germany. Speaking a country's language makes it easier to find your way around and make new friends.

What is the best way to prepare for the language?

We recommend taking a German language course at your home higher education institution or a language institute like the Goethe Institut beforehand. Online language courses can also be helpful. The Goethe-Institut offers a German language forum with exercises for all proficiency levels. You can use the DAAD Language and Short Courses database to find language courses in Germany.

The practical test: how much German do I need to know?