Guide to Language Exams: DSH

German universities are some of the most highly regarded in Europe and receive applications from all over the world. Although it is possible to find degrees which you can obtain in English, an adequate level of German is required if you want to attend any class held in the language. In order to determine their applicants’ German level, most of the top-tier universities use the DSH exam framework. If you are a non-native German speaker, it is almost inevitable that you will have to pass the DSH test if you want to study in Germany. Simply put, the DSH exams are each university’s individual German proficiency test.

In order to give you an idea of what you are up against when taking the DSH test, we have put together this short guide.

DSH Exams – What Are They?

DSH is the German abbreviation for Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang which loosely translates to Test of German for Higher Education. The DSH exams are actually a framework of language tests designed for foreign students coming to attend university in Germany. Although the DSH exams all measure the same language skills and follow the same broad guidelines, each university draws up their own individual test and there is no central organisation that develops and administers these exams.

These exams are specifically developed for students looking to attend their courses in German. If you are pursuing an international degree where the language of instruction is English, you usually do not need to pass the DSH. Some universities do not require a German proficiency result from their exchange students, either.

Since the DSH exams are developed separately by the schools themselves, there is little concrete info we can offer for the exam in any particular university. In order to get the most accurate idea of what exactly the school you got accepted to expects, it’s best to simply contact them directly. There are, however, some aspects of the test that are true for all of the DSH exams – the grading and general layout of the proficiency test itself.

How to Take the DSH Exam?

In most cases, you would sit the DSH exam when you have arrived at your university, shortly before the start of classes in the beginning of the semester. You can only take this exam when you’re already in Germany, at your university.

Most universities will charge an administration fee to accept your exam which can range from 30 to 170 euros. For more information on how to take your DSH exam, contact your school directly. Although the DSH exams vary from school to school, most universities would accept the result of the test you took in a different institution. It’s always necessary to check, however.

If you want to avoid taking the DSH exam in Germany altogether, the alternative is TestDaf you can take even in your home country before leaving. TestDaf results are accepted in universities across Germany.

What Do DSH Exams Look Like?

The DSH exams are divided into two parts: written and oral. The written part will consist of different exercises that measure your listening, reading and writing skills. The exams are usually developed to measure your German skills in relatively lifelike situations that you might encounter at your university.

So, you might have to listen to a part of a lecture and make notes, answer questions, or summarise. Additionally, you will have to read scientific texts and finish exercises about comprehension and be able to argue your point of view on an issue.

The written part of the exam makes up 70% of the final score and can take up to four hours to complete. During the written part, you are allowed to use a German-German dictionary to look up words you don’t understand.

When you have successfully passed the written part, you can proceed to the oral examination which counts for 30% of the final grade. In the oral part, you will again be tested in an academic setting – analysing scientific texts or commenting on a specific issue. This part will usually take around 20 minutes and you might be tested in groups of two or three, depending on your university.

To pass the exam, you will need to first successfully complete the written part and then the oral. If you fail, you will be allowed to retake the exam only once. You can earn a grade ranging from DSH 1 to DSH 3, with 3 being the best. These correspond approximately to the CEFR, with DSH 1 counting for B2.2, DSH 2 for C1.1, and DSH 3 for C1.2.

How to Prepare for DSH Exams?

In most cases, your university’s international office will be able to provide you with more training materials and maybe even a preparatory course. For specific materials and instructions, it’s best to approach them directly. Alternatively, you can take a look at this site which offers examples of the DSH exams for all the major German universities.

Naturally, our dedicated German teachers will also be able to help you prepare and feel confident when taking the exam.