Guide to Language Exams: TestDaF

What DELE is to Spanish and IELTS or TOEFL to English, that TestDaF is to German. If you are a foreigner looking to go to one of the many excellent universities in Deutschland, or looking for a job in the German-speaking academia, you will most likely be required to pass the TestDaF exam.

In this guide, we explain in more detail what TestDaF is, how to register for and take the exam, and ensure the best results.

TestDaF – What is it?

TestDaF stands for Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache – Test of German as a Foreign Language. It is one of the most common and widely recognised German proficiency tests out there. The tests are developed and carried out by the TestDaf-Institut who have been in charge of the exam since its birth in 2001.

TestDaF is an advanced language test, aimed mostly at either students who have finished high school in another country but would like to continue the studies in a German-speaking country, or people who need to prove their German skills for academic work. The certificate is recognised by every university in Germany.

How to take TestDaF?

TestDaFs are carried out 6 times a year and you can find test centres in 95 countries around the world. There are over 27,000 test takers each year.

To sit the test, you need to find a suitable test time and centre and register online at TestDaF-Institut. There are strict registration times which you need to follow – for example, the exam that takes place on September 20th, is only open for registration between July 16th and August 23rd. You can find more info on test times here.

There is also the test fee that you need to pay when you register. The fee depends on the country and institution where you want to sit the exam.

What does TestDaF look like?

TestDaF is an advanced level German exam, so there is no point in taking the exam before you have reached a B2 level of German (according to CEFR).

Since the questions used in the test are same for all takers, this is not a simply pass or fail test – the examinees are separated into three different groups based on their German skills: TDN 3, TDN 4, and TDN 5. These are accordance with CEFR, with TDN 3 and the lower part of TDN 4 corresponding to CEFR level B2 and higher TDN 4 and TDN 5 being C1. You need a level of TDN 4 to be admitted to almost any subject in any university.

Like most language proficiency exams, TestDaF tests the four skills required for fluency: reading, writing, listening and speaking. The reading section has a time limit of 60 minutes to complete 30 questions based on 3 texts. The listening part requires 40 minutes to finish 25 items about 3 different audio files. Test takers are then given 60 minutes to complete one writing exercise. The oral part consists of seven exercises carried out over 35 minutes. The entire exam takes around 190 minutes with a 50-minute break.

The results are then graded and if the test taker meets the minimum language requirements of the exam, they’re given a certificate in one of the three TestDaF levels (TDN 3, 4, or 5). The language certificate is acquired for an unlimited time.

How to prepare for TestDaF?

There are a lot of resources available on the TestDaF-Institut home page. You can also check the Goethe Institute which offers materials to order.

The TestDaF-Institut website is definitely the best site for finding up-to-date information on how to prepare for the test but most of the info is available only in German. They do offer an introductory brochure in English but this covers pretty much the same topics as this guide.