Levels of knowledge of the German language in Germany for work, study or relocation, tests for checking the level of your German language knowledge (proficiency level)
On this page of the website you will find out what levels of proficiency and knowledge of the German language are there in Germany. What levels of knowledge are required for work or study, as well as for permanent residence in Germany. You will also learn where and how you can take paid and free tests to check your language proficiency level.
§ German language proficiency levels as set in Germany
In order to identify the German language proficiency level in Germany, they apply the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, abbreviated in English as CEFR or CEF or CEFRL (hereinafter, “the EU Framework of Reference” or “the EU Common Framework”). This system has been introduced in the EU in connection with the fact that different countries have their own certificates of foreign language proficiency and therefore a system is needed to correlate the language proficiency levels as stated in these certificates. The system contains 6 levels of foreign language proficiency: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, and in each of those, 4 factors are taken into account: understanding the text being read, listening comprehension, writing and spoken language. These EU Framework of Reference was revised or adjusted for the German language and published in the book "Profile Deutsch" (The German Language Profile). Published by the Goethe Institute, this book or manual describes the requirements for the proficiency levels in German as a foreign language based on the EU Framework of Reference. The book is a practical guide with specific examples.
Another document, juxtaposing and explaining the language proficiency levels, is "Europäische Sprachenportfolio" (European Language Portfolio, ELP), devised as a means to support the development of the multilingual and multicultural environment of Europe. Published in the book form, it is meant for personal use by anybody studying a foreign language. It helps any foreign language learner to assess their level of proficiency in languages and culture. The document contains a passport, biography of any language described there, as well as a file related to it. The European Language Portfolio is available for free download as a book from the German Hueber Publishing House. Educational institutions recommend using this book in teaching the German language.
The German language proficiency levels under the EU Common Framework, adopted and adapted in Germany, are as follows: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.
The German language proficiency levels are the focus of language courses offered in Germany. Also, various certificates and language proficiency tests are usually comparable to the given German language proficiency levels. The table below provides a description of each level.
Core levels of the German language proficiency
- A - elementary, initial German language proficiency;
- B - independent, sufficient command of the German language;
- C – competent command, fluency in the German language.
Sub-levels of the German language proficiency
|A1 – basic knowledge (breakthrough or beginner)
|The person can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type; can introduce themselves and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where they live, people they know and things they have; can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
|A2 – fundamental knowledge (waystage or elementary)
|The person can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment); can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters; can describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in the areas of immediate need.
|B1 – advanced language proficiency (threshold or intermediate)
|The person can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.; can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken; can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest; can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans./td>
|B2 – competent command of the language (vantage or upper intermediate)
|The person can understand the main ideas of a complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization; can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party; can produce a clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
|C1 – professional command of the language, proficiency in language (effective operational proficiency or advanced)
|The person can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning; can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions; can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes; can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
|C2 – language proficiency level comparable to the one of an educated native speaker (mastery or proficiency)
|The person can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read; can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation; can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.
§ The German language proficiency tests and certificates in Germany
Upon completing the German language course in Germany, the students usually have their German language proficiency levels tested and receive the Certificate, issued by the educational institution and specifying the level of the attained language proficiency under the EU Framework of Reference, from A1 through to C2. Besides, the following tests and certificates are also valid in Germany: TestDaF, DSH, Deutsche Sprachdiplom, dsd, Goethe Institute Certificates, telc, CDC, DIHK, GDS, KDS, KMK, ÖSD, WiDaF, ZDJ, and ZOP.
«The German Test for Immigrants» (Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer – DTZ)
Migrants in Germany usually complete a state-funded integration course, and after that take 2 tests, one of which is of the German language – the "Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer". Upon this test, levels A2 or B1 can be conferred. On the Goethe Institute website, you can view the test description, active vocabulary containing the words you are supposed to know, and an example of the test. This may help in preparing for testing.
TestDaF - an exam to study at one of the universities in Germany
TestDaF is one of the tests, which provide certification of the German-language proficiency level for studying at a higher education institution of Germany. This test can be taken in most countries of the world. The official website of the TestDaf Institute presents information on where and when the exams would take place, and how to prepare for them. TestDaF has the following levels or grades:
- TestDaF (TDN 3)
- TestDaF (TDN 4)
- TestDaF (TDN 5)
DSH - an exam to study at one of the universities in Germany
DSH is a test for foreign students who are willing to study at one of higher education institutions in Germany, and it can be taken in many such institutions.
Deutsche Sprachdiplom (DSD) – the German Language Certificate of the Education Ministers Conference
The German Language Certificate, conferred by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany. This document certifies the knowledge of German as a foreign language being studied abroad. The examination has 2 grades: the first, I, corresponds to levels A2 / B1, and the second, II, corresponds to levels B2 / C1 of the EU Framework of Reference. The first grade is sufficient for entering a college of pre-university learning, and the second one – for entering a higher education institution.
Goethe Institute Certificates
The Goethe Institute certificates embrace all levels of the EU Framework of Reference: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. One of the most important certificates – the "Goethe Zertifikat B1" – confirms the knowledge of the German language as sufficient for daily life and for profession. This certificate is accepted by many employers as evidence of sufficient knowledge as to German by foreign employees.
TELC Test Center certificates
The TELC Center certificates of proficiency in European languages, too, are geared towards the levels of the EU Framework of Reference: A1, A2, B1, B2, and C1. These certificates are recognized by many government institutions of Germany as evidencing proficiency in the German language. For instance, depending on the confirmed level, the certificate may serve a ground for studying at a higher education institution, job placement, etc.
Other various German language proficiency certificates in Germany
- CDC – Carl Duisberg centers;
- DIHK – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
- GDS – the Goethe Institute Major Diploma of the German Language;
- KDS – the Goethe Institute Minor Diploma of the German Language;
- KMK – Conference of the Ministers of Cultural Affairs (the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs);
- ÖSD – Austrian German language diploma;
- WiDaF – in the economic sphere, German as a foreign language is coordinated by the Germany – France Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
- ZDJ – German Language Certificate for Youth;
- ZOP – Central Highest-Grade Examination to confirm a level of language ability comparable to an educated native speaker.
§ How to check, test your knowledge of German language skills for free: online tests
Various educational institutions offer you to take, right on their web-pages, a test of your proficiency in the German language, which usually includes checking the understanding of German words and phrases, written text and spoken language, as well as the correct spelling of German words and phrases. Below you will find a list of links to taking the tests of the German language.
- Goethe Institute Tests for Levels A1- C2
- Deutsche Welle Tests for Levels A1, A2, and B1
- Berlitz Language School Test of Proficiency in the German Language
- Online tests for German textbooks from Klett Sprachen
§ Required German language proficiency level for ethnic German resettlers, late resettlers
Persons wishing to move/ relocate to Germany as ethnic German resettlers/ late resettlers and their family members take the so-called language test or oral interview, in which their level of proficiency is identified; they must have basic, initial knowledge and be able to talk on simple everyday topics. Their German ethnicity would be confirmed by their knowledge of German at the level of B1. For more details, see the law of Bundesvertriebenengesetz §6.
Members of the ethnic German resettlers family, who also move to Germany for permanent residence, have to evidence their basic knowledge of the German language at the level of A1.
§ Required German language proficiency level for family reunification
In some cases, the spouse living in another country and willing to move to Germany for family reunification/ family reunion has to evidence their elementary knowledge of the German language. Only after that s/he may receive a permit to stay in Germany. The basic knowledge implies the A1 level of language proficiency.
§ Required German language proficiency level for working in Germany
The level of proficiency in German as necessary for working in Germany is not set by the law. Normally the levels being deemed sufficient are the ones from A2 through to B2, depending on the profession and the employer’s requirements. For example, the certificates that may be regarded as appropriate are TELC ones, such as: Arbeitsplatz Deutsch (A2), Deutsch für den Beruf (B2), as well as the Goethe Certificate of B2 and TestDaF, Grade 3.
As there are regulated professions existing in Germany, in order to work in such professions, you must have a certain level of qualification, while foreign specialists have to go through the foreign qualifications recognition procedure and have the certificate evidencing their knowledge of German at the level as set for the given profession. Such professions include the ones from the following sectors: medicine, law, school education, and others. Currently, Germany is still developing legislative provisions on the German language proficiency levels for regulated professions.
§ Required German language proficiency level for studying in Germany
Those, who are willing to study at a higher education institution in Germany, have to evidence their knowledge of the German language by presenting the certificate on successfully passing one of the valid tests – namely:
- Test für Deutsch als Fremdsprache (TestDaf);
- Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber (DSH);
- Telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule;
- Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom;
- Deutsche Sprachdiplom (Level II);
- and some others.
The DSH and TestDaf have different grades. In order to find out what particular grade is required at the selected college or university, you should contact the given educational institution.
§ Useful links
- European Language Portfolio (ELP) - PDF
- European Language Portfolio (ELP) – Principles and Guidelines - PDF
- TestDaf official website
- TestDaf in detail - PDF
- TELC Certificates