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What language skills are required to study in Germany?

Depending on whether you want to study in Germany in English or German, you need to prove the respective language skills. In this article, you will get to know what language skills are needed, how to prove them and why you don’t need any German skills in order to study in Germany.

Many international students who want to study in Germany think that they need to know the German language in order to be admitted to a German university. But this is not the case, since there are lots of private and public universities which offer international study programs or special postgraduate courses which have English as the language of instruction and therefore don’t require German at all. Moreover, there are some study programs where both German and English language modules are part of the program. In that case you have to provide evidence of both languages.

Study programs with English as language of instruction

It is also possible to study in Germany for free without knowing the German language. If you want to study in English in Germany you can prove your language skills with one of the following certificates. The required minimum score of each test can be found on the website of your desired university. Be sure to also read the section about further proof of English language skills since you don’t need to attend language tests if you meet certain requirements. 

 

TOEFL 

The Test of English as a foreign language is one of the most recognised English tests and is valid for two years. You can take the TOEFL worldwide at special test centers.


IELTS 

The International English Language testing system is offered in two different variations: The General and the Academic Test. While the General Test is mainly for people who want to go abroad for a longer period of time or even emigrate completely, the Academic Test is primarily aimed at students who want to apply to a German or foreign university. The test is administered by the British council in more than 800 test centers and is also valid for two years.


Cambridge English Certificates

The difference to the TOEFL and IELTS is that the Cambridge Certificate is offered in different levels of difficulties which means that you do not get a central test and are placed in a language level based on your results, but you choose your language level beforehand and then have to pass this test. The test is offered by more than 2.700 examination centers worldwide and is valid for a lifetime.


PTE Academic

The Pearson Test of English academic is one of six different language tests offered by the international Pearson education group in over 295 examination centers. The special thing about it is that the evaluation is carried out completely by artificial intelligence, whereby dialects and accents, for example, are not assessed so an unbiased evaluation should be possible. The PTE Academic is valid for up to two years from the date of the examination.

 

Further proof of English language skills

If you meet certain requirements, you can replace a language certificate with one of the following proofs of English skills.

 

GMAT

Some universities recognise the GMAT as proof of English for master’s degree programs.


English as a school subject in the German “Abitur” 

Only a few universities accept that as a proof for sufficient English skills. 


Educational Certificate of an English-Speaking School

You have to have completed at least 5 (B1) or 6 (B2) years in a school where the main language of instruction was English.


Previous English language university studies 

You can prove your English language skills via the language of instruction in your previous academic education - for example, the language of instruction or a specific amount of credits in English-speaking modules in a Bachelor's program. Proof of the language of instruction is provided by the Transcript of Records or the final certificate. English language content must account for more than 50% of the total performance.


University’s own English tests 

Some universities, especially private ones, also have their own tests which assess your English language skills and, after successful completion, enable you to study at that specific university. 


Time spent abroad

For some universities it is also sufficient if you spent a specific time in an English-speaking country (at least for six months or for some universities a year).

Sometimes universities also accept other proofs of German or English language skills so be sure to always check the website of your desired university for more details.

 


Which language course is the best?

If you didn’t choose a university yet or if your desired university doesn’t have any specific requirements, you are free to choose one of the tests mentioned above. All certificates are equally recognised by most institutions, so you can decide which certificate you want to take based on your preferences. Is there perhaps only one TOEFL test center near you? Then, for the sake of simplicity, it might be best if you take the TOEFL. In any case, the advantage of the Cambridge certificate is that it does not lose its validity after two years, unlike TOEFL, IELTS or PTE. 

 

Are you looking for an English-taught programme offered by a private university in Germany? Then click here.

If you wish to study at a public university, you can find all English-taught bachelors and masters programmes here.

Study programs with German as language of instruction

If you want to study a program where German is the language of instruction, sufficient German skills are often a prerequisite. There are different ways and certificates on how to prove your German skills whereby the required level of proficiency varies between universities and study programs:

 

TestDaF („Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache“)

The “Test of German as a Foreign Language” is offered in over 90 countries all over the world and takes place six times a year (only three times in the People’s Republic of China) at a TestDaf testing centre. If you pass the TestDaF with at least TDN 4 (intermediate level), you are eligible for direct admission. However, if you achieve lower scores on some test sections, you can still get admission depending on the requirements of the individual university. The costs for the TestDaF depend on the country you live in and the institution where the test is administered.


DSH („Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang“)

The “German Language University Entrance Examination for Foreign Applicants” can only be taken in Germany at several universities and Studienkollegs. You can contact the International Office at your university for more information about upcoming testing dates. If you pass the test with DSH-2 (intermediate level) or DSH-3, you are eligible for direct admission. However, if you achieve lower scores on some test sections, you can still get admission depending on the requirements of the individual university. The costs for the DSH also depend on the country you live in and the institution where the test is administered.

DSD II: German Language Diploma from the German Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) – Level II

The German Language Diploma from the German Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs requires a very good knowledge of German which has been acquired at a school abroad, either a German school or a German department, in at least seven consecutive classes. It is taken in the last class of secondary school. You need to have acquired at least level B2.


Telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule 

The Telc is one of the over 90 German language certificates offered by the non-profit company Telc and is administered at over 3.000 examination centers worldwide.


Goethe-Zertifikat C2 („GDS – Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom“)

You can take your examination in Germany and worldwide at Goethe-Institutes and at examination cooperation partners in your area.


Further proof of German language skills

If you meet certain requirements, you can replace a language certificate with one of the following proofs:

Final certificate from a German (higher) education institution in Germany or abroad 

The German “Abitur” or the certificate of a German-language degree program (e.g. Bachelor).


Studienkolleg 

The German examination part (Prüfungsteil Deutsch) of the final examination (“Feststellungsprüfung”) at a Studienkolleg is sometimes also recognised as proof of German skills. 


IB Diploma

If you have "German A (Higher Level)" or German, biology or history on Higher Level in the Mixed Language International Baccalaureate with a focus on German.


School-leaving certificate of a European school in Germany

The “Abitur” from a European School in Germany can only be recognised with successful completion of an examination in German as a first language (L1) or second language (L2).

 

Are you looking for German-taught programmes offered by internationally recongized, private universities in Germany? Click here!

Possibilities for Learning German

If you don’t have the necessary German skills yet, there are plenty of different ways on how to learn German. Here are some of them: 


German universities

Many German universities offer language courses so just check the website of your desired university.

Private language schools

There are plenty of private language schools in almost every city of Germany where you can learn German in groups or on you own with intensive tutorial guidance.

Goethe Institut

The Goethe Institut is a cultural organization representing Germany worldwide. Courses are not only offered in Germany but in lots of different countries around the world.

“Deutsch-Uni Online” (DUO)

The DUO is an online portal for learning German. You can learn on your own, in courses or with guidance.

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