Questions for those who have achieved =>B2 exams

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Hi Everyone,

 

I'm curious to know if you have particularly successful techniques for studying for, and strongly passing, the B2 and above examinations. I'm of the opinion that exam study (to achieve the highest grades) can greatly benefit from focus and targets, given the difference between normal day-to-day German-using life and exams. Obviously, both help with learning German, so I'm not undervaluing the importance of regular day-to-day reading, writing, speaking and hearing.

 

Here are the 5 examined components:

 

  1. Schriftliche Prüfung
  2. Leseverstehen
  3. Sprachbausteine
  4. Hörverstehen
  5. Schriftlicher Ausdruck

 

I'm particularly keen on improving my ability in:

 

  • Sprachbausteine
  • Hörverstehen

 

 

What resources have you used, that were very effective in improving your exam skills?

How did each help, and for which exam level and specific exam in that level?

Do you study by translating every word you do not know?

Do you find completing practice and old examinations helpful? If so, in what ways?

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P.S. When it comes to learning vocabulary, what I do is this:

 

Go through the vocabulary in the book. I hide the right-hand column and see if I can say the meaning of the word on the left-hand side. I go down the page. If I make a mistake, I go back to the top. When I can do it that way, I might start from the bottom and go upwards.

 

If I'm at home and near a table, I take a piece of scrap paper and cover up the right-hand column of the vocab book and write down the word while I quietly mutter it to myself. Then when I've reached the bottom of that page, I check my results.

 

Then I turn the book over, look at the column of words on the piece of scrap paper and then write the words in the other language (i.e. translate them back). Then I turn the vocab. book over, and check the results.

 

Then I cover up the first column of words on the piece of paper and translate the words into the other langauge again and so on until I cannot fit any more columns in.

 

The piece of scrap paper then looks something like this:

 

the table - der Tisch(e) - the table - der Tisch(e) - the table

the chair - der Stuhl (..e) - the chair - der Stuhl (..e) - the chair (those two dots are supposed to represent the Umlaut in the plural form)

 

I always include 'the' or 'to' because if you just see 'march', then you don't know whether to write 'marschieren' or 'der Marsch(..e)'.

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P.P.S.

 

I also try to make up conversations in my head. Or at least make up sentences using the words and phrases I've come across.

 

Then, if I realise that I don't know the word for something I want to say to someone in my head, then I go and look it up.

 

I also find that the largest paper dictionaries (i.e. NOT online dictionaries) very useful because

 

1. they give you example sentences of the word you are looking up and

2. you come across other words when you're looking up stuff. Other words catch your eye, you read them and the next day, you may well come across the same word in a book you're reading.

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If you like using flashcards then flashcardmachine.com is a program worth using (free) on the bus/train or whenever you have some spare time. Use it with a smartphone or tablet but do all the input on your laptop or PC.

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Memrise is still the best site for me for learning vocabulary. You can even make your own courses if you have specific things to learn.
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I took German courses at the VHS. I started with A1, skipped A2, then did B1, skipped B1+, did B2, and C1. I was planning on taking the B2 test but was already going to miss several weeks from the course so I didn't take it. I did take and pass the TELC B1 and Goethe Zertifikat C1 tests. I found the C1 test and test training that we did in class was easier for me than what we had done for the B2 test. For example the writing section on the B2 test was to make up a response to a clip you were given from a newspaper or something. I'm just not good at making up stuff like that in german or english. For the C1 test you get some graph, analyze the data and write about it, which was much easier for me.

 

I did as many practice tests as I could find online. I used a test prep book from Klett that my teachers didn't already use in the class. I found it helpful as it gives you tips and strategies on how to approach each section. I used Memrise and a vocab workbook from Hueber which helped increase my vocab. I also listened to german podcasts when I was riding the bus. Studying and making a list of Nomen-Verb-Verbindungen was very useful. I think it is also useful to be up to date on current affairs/things in the world. For example if you get a text that you don't completely understand, but you already know about the topic like fair trade coffee then you don't need to understand every word or really even read the whole text to answer the questions.

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P.P.S.

 

I also try to make up conversations in my head. Or at least make up sentences using the words and phrases I've come across.

 

Then, if I realise that I don't know the word for something I want to say to someone in my head, then I go and look it up.

 

I also find that the largest paper dictionaries (i.e. NOT online dictionaries) very useful because

 

1. they give you example sentences of the word you are looking up and

2. you come across other words when you're looking up stuff. Other words catch your eye, you read them and the next day, you may well come across the same word in a book you're reading.

 

For each of your thoughtful, and helpful, posts, thank you so much. Thanks for taking the time and care to explain what you are doing that you are finding successful. Do you study every day? If so, for how long? Have you every identified a weakness in a particular section for yourself (mine are listed in my original post)? If yes, how did you improve it specifically?

 

 

If you like using flashcards then flashcardmachine.com is a program worth using (free) on the bus/train or whenever you have some spare time. Use it with a smartphone or tablet but do all the input on your laptop or PC.

 

Thank you very much.

 

I already use a few of these websites. My favourite is probably cram.com right now, because it is the website where I have found the least errors. I feel confident, when I have inputted the data I am trying to memorise/know the source, but have less confidence when not, as I often find mistakes, so worry about learning mistakes.

 

 

Memrise is still the best site for me for learning vocabulary. You can even make your own courses if you have specific things to learn.

 

Thanks for your reply.

 

I use memrise, but only where I know the content is of good quality. I have a frustration with any of these websites, that allow you to add phrases and sentences, but then penalise for a different (though also correct) word order, or different word choice when translating. Of course, that's a limitation of the technology itself.

 

 

I took German courses at the VHS. I started with A1, skipped A2, then did B1, skipped B1+, did B2, and C1. I was planning on taking the B2 test but was already going to miss several weeks from the course so I didn't take it. I did take and pass the TELC B1 and Goethe Zertifikat C1 tests. I found the C1 test and test training that we did in class was easier for me than what we had done for the B2 test. For example the writing section on the B2 test was to make up a response to a clip you were given from a newspaper or something. I'm just not good at making up stuff like that in german or english. For the C1 test you get some graph, analyze the data and write about it, which was much easier for me.

 

I did as many practice tests as I could find online. I used a test prep book from Klett that my teachers didn't already use in the class. I found it helpful as it gives you tips and strategies on how to approach each section. I used Memrise and a vocab workbook from Hueber which helped increase my vocab. I also listened to german podcasts when I was riding the bus. Studying and making a list of Nomen-Verb-Verbindungen was very useful. I think it is also useful to be up to date on current affairs/things in the world. For example if you get a text that you don't completely understand, but you already know about the topic like fair trade coffee then you don't need to understand every word or really even read the whole text to answer the questions.

 

Thanks.

 

How did you score in your tests out of curiosity? For me, my goal is a high pass, so techniques for passing strongly are of interest to me. I find the speaking exams more interesting (so easier) the higher the level. I agree about the current affairs point strongly, as there are so many currect affairs that are not language specific, but often come-up in language training and examining materials.

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When I was studying for the B2, I used to buy Die Welt tabloid size paper. I found the Frankfurter Allgemein and Suddeutsche heavy going and with the Bild I couldn't be sure what was written wasn't slang. I think I was also reading Remarque books around that time, like 'die Nacht von Lissabon'. Sometimes I would look up all the words I didn't know, sometimes I would just plough on without the dictionary as that's what you have to do in the exam anyway.

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Thanks very much for your reply. How did you get on in the exams? Did you find that reading the things you outlined helped with all exam sections?

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"For each of your thoughtful, and helpful, posts, thank you so much. Thanks for taking the time and care to explain what you are doing that you are finding successful. Do you study every day? If so, for how long? Have you every identified a weakness in a particular section for yourself (mine are listed in my original post)? If yes, how did you improve it specifically?"

 

I try to chip away at my French for the exam next year. Sometimes more, sometimes less on one day.

 

During working hours, if I have no translating work, I might go and work on a practice translation exam paper. If I'm working, I might have French radio on in the background for a couple of hours or more.

 

I also flick through French science magazines as two of the texts in the exam will be specialised ones and I am thinking of choosing science for one and technology for the other. Or I might drop into TV5 and watch a news clip there.

 

And.. I'm off to bed now with one of two French books I'm reading. One is about a journalist and his life as a Jew growing up in France. And the other is by a journalist about life in France in general. Like how they are pretty lousy at normal sports (even though they think they're great at it), but they are good at doing silly records like rowing to South America from France or something.

 

As I say to my students, learning a language is like doing a sport. You don't train for a marathon the evening before the run. You have to do a bit of training regularly. Likewise with languages. Learning a language means you're in for the long haul. There are no quick fixes. Just are there are no quick fixes for getting physically fit.

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From my experience with language tests (B1 and C1 in German and B2 in French), I have to agree with the others. You have to prepare for the test doing sample tests/exercises. This is key because tests are usually not how use the language day-to-day and if your language level is up to it, you shouldn't shoot yourself in the foot by not being prepared for the test format. For most tests, you can find free sample tests and you can books with additional sample tests. This doesn't need to be daily, but fairly often especially when it is closer to the test. For Sprachbausteine, I found only practice helped, to me it is the least like how I normally use the language so it is hardest to cope with if I didn't have the practice.

 

You need to use the language daily, both written and spoken. If you are weaker in Hörverstehen, you really need to listen to more German radio (not music radio) and/or watch more German TV (though preferably documentaries and news programmes). It is obviously helpful to speak German with others too, but often these Hörverstehen are based on something like a radio show so are more useful for improving in this area. The C1 test had a speaking bit too, for which normal conversations with people was helpful. You should read newspapers regularly, preferably one of the broadsheet types (Die Zeit, Die Welt, FAZ, SZ, etc.), things like Bild have too much slang and a lot of the local papers really don't have the same quality as those read nationally. You don't even have to buy a paper, you can read most online for free.

 

I took a course as well, because I know even though my German is quite good, people don't bother to correct me (which I can understand) I still make mistakes and those were pointed out in the class. Additionally, it gave me the chance to practice the speaking part of the test, which would have been hard to do on my own.

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where did you take the test? In Germany or elsewhere? I recently took the B2 exam here in Minnesota and have been waiting for over a month so far for any results. Does it normally take this long or not?

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When I took the B2 the test was split into two sessions: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the afternoon we had to write a letter, which was the written composition part of the test. Weirdly, they gave us the instructions for the written composition in the morning, but they wouldn't let us start it until we came back after the lunch break, even if we had finished all the previous parts. During the lunch break I wrote a draft on scrap paper and used my smart phone to look up conjugations, genders and vocabulary I wasn't sure about as these came up. When I came back from the lunch break I was well prepared! I had the whole structure of the letter in my head, had memorized the gender of the nouns I wasn't sure about, the conjugations of the irregular verbs I was planning to use, and the vocabulary for which I didn't know what the German word was. I felt a bit like I had cheated, but had I really?

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"I learnt that you have to encounter a word between 7 and 13 times on average before it becomes part of your vocabulary. The more you read, the more you stabilise your vocabulary."

 

I thought Im the only person having this problem :)

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I had no such break when I took the test. Just went from one section immediately into another. Took about 4 hours or so.

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Maybe they've changed the format since I took the test, about two years ago. I chose a test that could be taken in one day so there was a morning part and an afternoon part. Most tests had to be taken over two days. I can't tell you exactly how long it was but it was definitely longer than four hours.

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I would highly recommend listening to music or watching comedy (above your current niveau) in the target language. Regularly. Cause it's entertainment, yo.

 

YouTube was my best friend when I was in college studying German, and it's free!

 

Without question, on par, importance wise, with practicing your German with others over drinks - even if it's with other students who may make mistakes themselves. Key here is working on your pace, efficiency and confidence.

 

On the other hand, completely foreign and new phrases and expressions are best learned in the proper context, and watching a comedy skit with a sharp ear and a dictionary at the ready is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to understand complex contemporary expressions. I would recommend that you start "dumb" ("Was guckst du", "Ladykracher", etc.) and work your way up.

 

The fact that you can pause and rewind if you don't really "get it" is also pretty damn neat.

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Approximately how long of a wait is there from the test date to when you obtain your actual results? I was told up to three months but I took the exam at an affiliated place and not at an actual Goethe Institut.

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