German (Deutsch, [dɔʏtʃ] ) originated is a West Germanic language under Aryan languages that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium and Liechtenstein. It is one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages that are most similar to the German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch, including Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
One of the major languages of the world, German is a native language to almost 100 million people worldwide and the most widely spoken native language in the European Union. German is the third most commonly spoken foreign language in the EU after English and French, making it the second biggest language in the EU in terms of overall speakers. German is also the second most widely taught foreign language in the EU after English at primary school level (but third after English and French at lower secondary level), the fourth most widely taught non-English language in the US (after Spanish, French and American Sign Language), and the second most commonly used scientific language as well as the third most widely used language on websites after English and Russian. The German-speaking countries are ranked fifth in terms of annual publication of new books, with one tenth of all books (including e-books) in the world being published in the German language. In the United Kingdom, German and French are the most sought-after foreign languages for businesses.
The TestDaF, formally Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache (“Test of German as a foreign language”), is a standardised language test of German proficiency for non-native German speakers. It aims at people who would like to study at, or academics and scientists who want to work in, German universities. The test is run by the TestDaF-Institut.
The test can be taken in 95 different countries around the world. The test covers listening comprehension, reading comprehension, writing and speaking, and is recognised by German universities as proof of prospective students’ ability.
The grades of candidates are marked in terms of three levels, TDN 3 — 5, which correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages levels B2–C1.
The certificate is valid for an unlimited period of time.
All the topics and tasks in the test are set within the general context of higher education. They are intended for candidates of all disciplines and academic backgrounds.
The examination consists of 4 parts:
|Reading Comprehension||Reading 3 texts and answering 30 questions||Candidates need to demonstrate their ability to understand written texts related to higher education. They have to answer a set of questions which require comprehension of context and detail as well as implicit information. There are three texts at different levels of difficulty. The types of text and task also vary. For example, there could be short texts on everyday life at university, newspaper, magazine articles and articles from academic journals.||60 minutes|
|Listening Comprehension||Listening to 3 audio-texts and answering 25 questions||Candidates need to illustrate their ability of listening comprehension by understanding spoken texts related to higher education. There are three listening texts at different levels of difficulty: a dialogue typical of everyday life at university, a radio interview with three or four speakers, and a short lecture or an interview with an expert. The types of text and tasks also vary. Understanding of context and detail as well as implicit information are required.||Approximately 40 minutes|
|Written Production||Completing 1 writing task||Candidates’ writing ability is tested by writing a well-structured text about a specific topic. They need to describe statistical data, which is presented in a graph or a table, in the first part of his text, and then state their opinion on a specific question for discussion related to the above-described data.||60 minutes|
|Oral Production||Completing 7 speaking tasks||Candidates need to prove their ability to speak German in different situations related to the field of higher education. This part comprises seven tasks at variable levels of difficulty and the candidates are asked to respond in various situations in university, like discussing with fellow students, describing a diagram during a discussion section, stating your opinion on a particular topic, or forming hypotheses.||Approximately 30 minutes|
The examination as a whole lasts for 3 hours 10 minutes, not including the breaks. The first three parts of the exam are tested in a classroom context, while the oral examination is done by speaking to a computer.
The result of TestDaf is not marked as simply “pass” or “fail”. Since the question papers are the same for candidates, and the test needs to separate the examinees into different levels, the results of the examinees are given in three different levels:
- TestDaF-Niveaustufe 3 (TDN 3)
- TestDaF-Niveaustufe 4 (TDN 4)
- TestDaF-Niveaustufe 5 (TDN 5)
If the candidate does not reach the lowest level, “unter TDN 3” (lower than TDN 3) is printed on the certificate.
The test consists of four parts. Each part is separately graded and the sub-grades are also shown on the certificate. Some universities demand their applicants to get a certain grade in all parts of the exam (the grade is depended on the applied programme and subject), but some count the marks just in total. When a candidate fails to reach the required grade, he can re-take the exam.
The exam is marked centrally by well-trained markers.
The three TestDaF levels are designed in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as well as the performance descriptions set by the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE). TDN 3 and the lower half of TDN 4 correspond to the B2 level in CEFR, and the upper half of TDN 4 and TDN 5 correspond to the C1 level.
|Sub-test||TDN 3||TDN 4||TDN 5|
|Reading Comprehension||The candidate can understand the overall meaning and the most important details of written texts relevant to common study-related situations; he can also partly understand written texts on general academic topics.||The candidate can understand the overall meaning and specific details of written texts relevant to common study-related situations and on general academic topics that are mainly written in non-specialised language.||The candidate can understand the overall meaning and specific details of linguistically and structurally complex written texts relevant to common study-related situations and on general academic topics. He can also extract implicit information from them.|
|Listening Comprehension||The candidate can understand the overall meaning and the most important details of spoken texts relevant to common study-related situations; he can also partly understand spoken texts on general academic topics.||The candidate can understand the main ideas of spoken texts relevant to common study-related situations and on general academic topics that contain mainly non-specialised language.||The candidate can understand the overall meaning and specific details of linguistically and structurally complex spoken texts relevant to common study-related situations and on general academic topics.|
|Writing||The candidate can write generally comprehensible and structured texts in common study-related situations (e. g. a report for the grant awarding body); can write simply structured texts in a general academic context (e. g. course notes, synopsis of a lecture); linguistic and structural deficiencies may impair understanding.||The candidate can write generally structured and cohesive texts in a style generally appropriate to the context in common study-related situations (e. g. a report for the grant awarding body) and in a general academic context (e. g. course notes, synopsis of a lecture); linguistic deficiencies do not impair understanding.||The candidate can write well-structured and cohesive texts in a style appropriate to the context using a differentiated vocabulary in common study-related situations (e. g. a report for the grant awarding body) and in a general academic context (e. g. course notes, synopsis of a lecture).|
|Speaking||The candidate can communicate in common study-related situations (e.g. university registration, course enrolment), linguistic deficiencies may, however, slow down understanding; in a general academic context (e. g. current affairs discussions) the communicative intention is only partly realised.||The candidate can communicate in a style generally appropriate to the context in common study-related situations (e. g. university registration, course enrolment) and in a general academic context (e. g. current affairs discussions); linguistic deficiencies do not impair communication.||The candidate can communicate clearly in a style appropriate to the context using a differentiated vocabulary in common study-related situations (e. g. university registration, course enrolment) and in a general academic context (e. g. current affairs discussions).|
Within six weeks the candidates receive a certificate issued by the Test Centre. The certificate shows the grades of all parts of the examination and the detailed description of the reached level can be read at the back side of the certificate. If the candidate has not reached the lowest level, i.e. TDN 3, then “unter TDN 3” (lower than TDN 3) would be shown on the certificate. The certificate is valid for an unlimited period of time.
In general students must get TDN 4 in all parts of the examinations in order to be admitted into universities in Germany. But since every university in Germany has its own admissions policy, it is at the discretion of individual universities to admit applicants whose scores are below TDN 4 to their courses of study, depending on factors such as the course subject, type of degree awarded and course duration.
If the candidate gets a score of TDN 5, it shows that they have a very good knowledge of German, above that required at the beginning of their studies.
There are approximately 450 test centres in 95 countries worldwide, offering the TestDaf exams six times a year. the officially approved test centres, which are managed by TestDaF-Institut, are usually located at German and foreign universities and other higher education institutes, DAAD editorial offices, Goethe-Institut, as well as the Adult high schools (Volkshochschule) and language schools in Germany. The test centres are responsible for:
- Advice and registration for the interested people,
- Organisational preparation and conduct of the examination,
- Offer of preparation course for the exam,
- Issue of the certificates,
- Advertisement of the TestDaf.
Preparation for TestDaF
There are lots of preparation courses for TestDaF in Germany as well as foreign countries. These courses are offered by official test centres as well as other language schools. Relevant information can be obtained at the official website of TestDaf.
At the website of TestDaF, tips for the examination are available and sample papers can also be downloaded.
Sometimes, new tests of TestDaF need to be tested, and if possible, there are chances that one can register to do the new test under test in order to be familiar with the test format.
Before registering for the exam, it is also possible to do a placement test at the website of TestDaF, so as to check the level of one’s language and decide if it is suitable to register for the examination at that time.
The TestDaF-Institut, however, does not release the test to the public, making it very hard to study alone, and most of the time, acquire a preparation course which could get expensive, considering the already high price of the test.