Language Exams: comparing TestDAF and DSH

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Congratulations on passing! :)

 

I think your very detailed comparison of both exams will be very useful for others in the future. Would you mind also indicating how many German courses you had and why it took you two years? Many foreigners plan to learn German in 6 – 9 months with the intention of studying in German (I don’t really think it is possible to attain the necessary level that quickly) and it would be helpful to know how much instruction you had before taking the exam.

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Good idea, engelchen. Here is my life story, as it pertains to learning german. Some basic background information: I'm in my twenties, have a Bachelor's degree, and back in the day used to be the nerd who messed up the grading curve in your math class. I worked full-time in a not-very-flexible and low paying job while pursuing language studies, so i had both time and financial constraints to consider when picking out courses and scheduling language exams. I spoke english at my job (but heard a lot of german), and only spoke german with my german flatmate at home.

 

September 2010. Moved to Germany. Wanted to start German classes right away, immediately ruled out all private schools on the basis of price. The only private schools I could afford (Hartnackschule, DeutschAkademie) had horrible reputations, so I went to the Volkshochschule (VHS). Enrolled in an intensive A1.1 course that began in October.

 

October 2010-December 2010. Three months of intensive German! 8:00-12:00 with a twenty minute break somewhere in there, starting from A1.1 (when I got to germany I could say 'ja', 'nein', and 'ich gehe gern wandern') and ending at A2.1, or one level per month. This was at the VHS Neukölln. It was a six month series that you could enroll in each month, though if for example you did A1.1, you got first dibs on a space in A1.2, otherwise you had to face the wrath of the queue at the VHS. The first week of each new level had anywhere from 20-25 students, but attendance dropped quickly and was typically 8-10. I had the same teachers during this time, and many of the other students were also enrolled for the entire course.

 

January 2011-April 2011. Three MORE months of intensive German! This was the second half of the course I began in October. It took me from A2.2 to B1.2. At the end of these courses, I could have a basic conversation, order things in restaurants, ask questions. I was reading children's books for fun; I think I started reading Harry Potter in german around that time. Also around this time I looked for an apartment using WG-Gesucht, and I remember being able to read the advertisements alright, but sounding like an idiot when I met potential roommates. These classes covered the entirety of basic german grammar, so I had a good grasp of how the language worked.

 

Summer 2011. The VHS takes a summer break during this time; only a few locations in Berlin offered courses and there was only one place that had a B2 course, which was Kreuzberg. I tried to enroll but was placed at the bottom of a long waiting list. I had two options: take private courses or stop language school until September. It was important to me to continue, so I enrolled at DeutschAkademie and did two months of school there (9:00-12:00 four days a week). I actually skipped B2.1 and started with B2.2 and then did C1.1. I would not suggest this; their placement test said I was fit for the higher level class, but B2 is where you take all of the building blocks from the earlier courses and turn them into an actual language... being awesome at the Schritte Plus worksheets does not a fluent german speaker make. I think I've already left a scathing review of DeutschAkademie somewhere else on this site, so I'll just say that I think my time would have been better spent reading books, watching German tv, talking to real live germans, or sitting around and picking my nose til the fall.

 

September 2011-December 2011: back to the VHS, this time in Mitte for C1.1 and C1.2. I had to take a placement test at the VHS and I barely qualified for this course, but they let me enroll. I think it met from 8.30-11.30 2x/week. We used the Aspekte books, which I liked. Lots of vocabulary, interesting reading material, lots of helpful grammar tables and charts. This course kicked my ass every week; lots of crying. Higher level grammar is hard, and it took awhile for the basic stuff to seep into my head and stay there. I was still trying to remember basic adjective endings and trying to learn how to turn a sentence from nominalstil to verbalstil on top of that, and plus learn 20 new words a day. I learned a lot, but felt like an idiot the entire time. We did do a lot of exercises that mimicked the TestDAF and DSH exams, which was very helpful for my later exam prep, and I cannot say enough good things about my teachers. We read Thomas Mann (which was miserable) and Max Frisch (which was very doable). I could read a newspaper slooowly, watch movies (nothing with a tricky plot or lots of talking, but I saw Ein Tick Anders in the theaters and understood it)

 

January 2012-April 2012: Sometime in the fall I realized I ought to start thinking about taking a language exam. Because you have to register for the TestDAF so far in advance to get a spot and because it takes so long for the results to come, the only exam date that worked for me was in late April. At this time there were no language courses at the VHS that worked with my schedule. I did a month 'TestDAF/DSH Prep course' at the Friedländerschule in Friedrichshain, but only because with my enrollment came the Bescheinigung I needed for a Studienvorbereiter visa. The class itself was not helpful (most of the students were around B1, so not at all ready to take either exam) and the teacher cancelled the last week of classes without offering nachholstunden.

 

During this time I set about studying for the exams myself. I studied for four hours/day for I think 8 or 9 weeks. This was the most helpful website I found: http://deutschlernen-blog.de/ and I used it for both DAF and DSH prep. I went to the library and worked through the practice exams they had. I read newspapers and pop-science magazines. I watched tv and listened to the radio. I wrote essays. I did buy some of the practice exams that TestDAF published-- they're at Dussmann and cost 9 euros each (I think). I wrote some essays, and forced my native german speaking friends to practice the TestDAF speaking format with me.

 

By April of 2012, 18 months after I began language courses, I was beyond ready to pass the TestDAF.

 

In June, I found out my scores: Reading and Listening-- 5, Speaking-- 4, Writing-- 3. I got a 3 on the writing because I didn't finish writing my essay-- I didn't do enough practice writing timed essays, so when the proctor said pencils down, I was about half finished. Lesson learned. Anyway, these scores were high enough to be allowed to apply to a german university, but it was not high enough to be exempt from taking Humboldt's DSH.

 

June 2012-September 2012: Applied to University through Uni-Assist. Holy hotdog, do this before July 15th. Get your application in with them as early as possible. It takes them four to six weeks to look over your application, and they never, ever answer the phone to respond to your increasingly desperate questions. They approved my application and forwarded it on to Humboldt. I was accepted in September for a master's. In my acceptance packed was an 'invitation' to the DSH exam two weeks later. I asked several different people at the university what would happen if I didn't pass the exam and received two different answers from two different places. According to one authority, if you fail the exam, sorry charlie, try again next year. According to another, you can enroll but must pass the exam within your first semester.

 

September 2012-October 2012: more studying! Back to the four hour a day thing. Did a lot of extra grammar practice, which was probably useless, and took a lot of practice exams. Passed the exam! Hooray!

 

Okay, if you're still reading this: six months sounds like an insane timeframe to me, though it might be easier if you're living in a small german town where you only speak german all the time. Nine months sound slightly more realistic, but still generally crazy. Learning the language plus dealing with all of the bureaucracy plus actually having a job and a life outside of learning german made everything take a little longer in my case.

 

But you (hopeful language learner) can do it! One word at a time! Exclamation points!!1!

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Good for you! :) Sounds like you worked really hard. It took me WAY longer to get a grasp on German.

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I also bombed the grammar portion of the DSH, but passed the exam overall. I think I got 22% on the grammar portion! I just couldn't get myself to learn all those esoteric grammar topics. I could care less about the seven different ways to do reported speech.

 

At Saarland University where I took the test, I think the spoken part was super easy. Most of the students were so empty-headed inexperienced that they couldn't even say anything intelligent about the prompts in their native language, never mind German. We did a practice test where we read some article about the glass ceiling and saw some graphs about how the fraction of women shrinks as you go up in the hierarchy, and then they asked us to summarize the article, explain why it might be the case, and propose some ways to improve the situation. The students could summarize the situation but had no ideas about why it happens or how to improve it. (Maybe cultural issues were at play as well?)

 

In any case, if you could say anything intelligent, no matter how crappy your German, I think you ended up with a good score.

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I don't have anything to add on the exams, but do want to congratulate Backpackrucksack - first on passing both tests, and getting into uni, and then for writing these excellent postings. Long, but a very enjoyable read, and sure to be a great resource for others asking about these exams. All the best as you gear up to start uni, and no, I don't think you'll be experiencing the "big fat failure" syndrom! :)

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Hi, thanks so much for that detailed information. I have a question related to this..

 

I'm going to be in Germany for a couple of weeks next month, and I was hoping I could buy testdaf or dsh study materials so that I can bring them back home with me and start studying (I'm trying to apply for 2013 winter). Anyone know where I can buy such things? I'm willing to take anything, as back in Canada I can't find anything... thanks in advance!

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Most decent-sized bookshops (Thiele, Deuerlich, etc.) have Deutsch als Fremdsprache books. Just ask the nice assistant! I just did the TestDaF yesterday, used a yellow book called "Training TestDaF" by Langenscheidt for practice, I found it pretty good. It has exercises and a sample exam question for each part of the exam. You can also download 2 "official" sample exam papers (Modellsätze) here: http://www.testdaf.de/teilnehmer/tn-vorbereitung_modellsatz.php (Just click on the hyperlinked "02" and "03".)

 

Speaking of Langenscheidt, might also be a good idea to get one of their trademark yellow German-German Deutsch als Fremdsprache dictionaries while you're over here. They're well laid-out and it's supposed to be better to use single-language dictionaries when learning foreign languages. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find German-German language dictionaries in English-speaking countries. Also, they look good on any bookshelf...

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For the TestDaF, I would suggest buying the Musterprüfungen... I bought them at Dussmann in Berlin but I think they also have them at Hugendubel and any other bookshop with a large Deutsch als Fremdsprache department. For the DSH, I didn't find the study guides as helpful because the books that I used for C1 and all of my B2 C1 classes had so many DSH-like activities. One series of books that I liked a lot was the Aspekte series-- some of the grammar tables are a bit confusing, but the level is quite good and the vocabulary covers a lot. The charts and redemittel in the back were very helpful for my test prep. I've also used the Schritte series, Lagune, and em neu, but found Aspekte to be the best. One book that I used a lot for grammar training just before the exam was Lerngrammatik zur Studienvorbereitung by Dorothea Stein-Bassler from Verlag Liebaug-Dartmann. Otherwise, there are so many DSH exams online that you can prepare pretty well without buying any books.

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Hi,I have a question and I really hope you can help me .. :( Today I held TestDaF here in Sofia, in the Goethe Institut. Everything was fine until the speaking part. When they put is in the rooms and places it was total chaos, and when we first pressed "record" and then "play" after a couple of seconds (we hadn't even said out our numbers) the personel told us something and i accidentally (I didn't think about it stupid me) paused the thing.. The exam part or even the instructions hadn't begun. But it was still recording. After like a minute i resumed it and then instructions, questions answers etc everything fluent. Do you think what happened will be a problem?? I am so scared :( ...

And also one more question, on the speaking again, I did not do very good at some questions (my time was not enough for example) but for example on the 6th which is hardest, i did a very good job. How do you think this will be graded? It is an old thread but if you answer me I will be sooooo grateful ... Thank you in advance!!

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libelle,

 

i'm not really sure what will happen with your speaking exam. at my exam they told us that if we were caught pressing the pause button, we would be thrown out, but you weren't, so that's probably a good sign. i can't really tell you anything about how you did; my only advice is to find something worthwhile to take up your time while you wait. in my case, i spent 7 weeks worrying that i didn't get a high enough score on the writing exam, which turned out to be true-- in the end it was just better to go ahead and make plans to take the test again so that when the results came in i already had a plan for what to do next. congratulations for getting this far and good luck!

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Wow! Congratulations, you manage yourself through all the heavy stuff!

 

Since you have all these experiences maybe you can give me a piece of advice, I finished B1 in Hartnackshule and now I need to take B2 and the DAF exam for the uni, my problem is that my deadline is in February and I don't know where I can do these in 2 months, do you think that is possible to pass the DAF test without doing B2 course and just taking classes for the DAF Test preparation? Where would you do it? I took the level test in deutsch akademie and they told me that I should do a gramatik kurs before moving on to B2 and I'm not sure what is the best to do for taking the DAF test.

 

Thank you!

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Don't skip B2. If you just passed B1 and your German grammar is weak, you most probably won't be able to meet the deadline. Even if you somehow managed to pass the exam, you won't be able to follow your courses (the semester starts in 3 months). I think it is possible to learn the material covered in A1 and A2 without attending a course, however, at the latest by B2 you really need a good teacher and feedback.

 

Take the latest grammar course, then the B2 course, and the DaF prep course.

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backpackrucksack, how were you able to work full time with the 4hr course each day?

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Would it be possible to study and learn enough german to be able to pass a TestDAF test by next July 15th(the deadline for applying to German universities)?

 

[adminmerge][/adminmerge]

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You could, but it would be a real challege to learn to write well at an academic level in that interval (perhaps also to read due to the vocabulary).

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Thanks backpackrucksack! That was really, really helpful. I am also on my journey, starting (and currently) at a VHS, and I'm hoping to enroll in intensive courses in preparation for Uni studies in Gießen next spring. So I need to figure out which exam to take, when, and what I need to do to pass it. Thanks for the input, folks!

 

Sarah

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If you want to be well prepared for the exam, you have to have good books. The best help I got was from the DaF Begleiter C1: it is good for the TestDaF as well as DSH. Check it out here: http://www.lindnerverlag.eu/. :)

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Thank you for this list of interesting extra books.

 

I came in last night from my C2 German pretty depressed, feeling an idiot and too old to be learning the language at 49. Then I remembered I'm sort of higher level than when I came here 15 years ago, and if I can gain some kind of overview of the advanced courses, I might gauge how much I already know. So has anyone done such an overview?

 

Here is my toungue-in-cheek outline of learning the language:

 

1. Beginner - "bakery German" "Ich möchte ein Semmel bitte". Basic everyday stuff everyone needs here.

2. Intermediate - everything with an umlaut - simply the ability to express abstract stuff with the Konjunktiv II which I think is pretty cool. "Hätte ich Geld, dann wäre ich reich" etc.

3. Advanced - this is where I'm stuck. I have no overview.

 

So for those who have already DAF'd, how did you do it?

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For 3. Advanced I'd suggest "posh newspaper" German. Gotta love all those adjectival phrases and all the subjunctive you could ever wish for.

 

I'm in a similar situation to you -- an oldie (wrong side of 50) just about to start a C2 course. I did C1 over 15 years ago so no idea how I'll take to studying again after such a long break. I'll let you know how I did it if I actually succeed :)

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