The TestDaF, formally Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache ("Test of German as a foreign language"), is a standardised language test of German proficiency for non-native German speakers. It aims at people who would like to study at or academics and scientists who want to work in German universities. The test is run by the TestDaF-Institut.
The test can be taken in 95 different countries around the world. The test covers listening comprehension, reading comprehension, writing and speaking, and is recognised by German universities as proof of prospective students' ability.
The grades of candidates are marked in terms of three levels, TDN 3 — 5, which correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages levels B2–C1.
A standardised language examination for foreign students enrolling in German universities was first proposed in 1996 during the Conference of the Cultural Minister (Kultusministerkonferenz).
In early 1998, the financial support from Foreign Office (Auswärtigen Amt) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) became available and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) was commissioned to hold a bidding for the project to develop a central language examination. In the same year, the contract was awarded to a consortium composed of the University of Hagen, the Department of Linguistic Research of Ruhr-University Bochum, Goethe-Institut and the Carl Duisberg Centre in Cologne.
The project began on 1 August 1998. Before 31 July 2000 three modal tests had been drafted and were tested worldwide. The performance description, marking criteria and evaluation procedures were worked out and an item bank for prototype, a database of participants and a test database were all set up.
The tasks of the TestDaF have been developed by the TestDaF-Institut, which is an institution run by the Society for Academic Study Preparation and Test Development (Gesellschaft für Akademische Studienvorbereitung und Testentwicklung e.V.). It is also supported by, among others, the German Rectors’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz), German Academic Exchange Service and the Goethe-Institut.
The primary target group of the TestDaf examination is the student applicants who have obtained their qualification in foreign countries but want to continue their study in Germany. In accordance to the Law of Higher Education (Landeshochschulgesetz), they need a proof of their proficiency in German in order to fulfil the language requirement, and thus TestDaF would be a useful.
- Students who need to prove their German proficiency in their home countries.
- Students who have studied in Germany as an exchange student, and subsequently want to have their German proficiency certified.
- Scholars who have an academic visit to a German university and would like to examine his competence in German.
- Persons who need to prove their competence in German for academic works.
The examination as a whole lasts for 3 hours 10 minutes, not including the breaks. The first three parts of the exam are tested in a classroom context, while the oral examination is done by speaking to a computer.
The result of TestDaf is not marked as simply "pass" or "fail". Since the question papers are the same for candidates, and the test needs to separate the examinees into different levels, the results of the examinees are given in three different levels:
- TestDaF-Niveaustufe 3 (TDN 3)
- TestDaF-Niveaustufe 4 (TDN 4)
- TestDaF-Niveaustufe 5 (TDN 5)
If the candidate does not reach the lowest level, "unter TDN 3" (lower than TDN 3) is printed on the certificate.
The test consists of four parts. Each part is separately graded and the sub-grades are also shown on the certificate. Some universities demand their applicants to get a certain grade in all parts of the exam (the grade is depended on the applied programme and subject), but some count the marks just in total. When a candidate fails to reach the required grade, he can re-take the exam.
The exam is marked centrally by well-trained markers.
The three TestDaF levels are designed in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as well as the performance descriptions set by the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE). TDN 3 and the lower half of TDN 4 correspond to the B2 level in CEFR, and the upper half of TDN 4 and TDN 5 correspond to the C1 level.
Within six weeks the candidates receive a certificate issued by the Test Centre. The certificate shows the grades of all parts of the examination and the detailed description of the reached level can be read at the back side of the certificate. If the candidate has not reached the lowest level, i.e. TDN 3, then "unter TDN 3" (lower than TDN 3) would be shown on the certificate. The certificate is valid for an unlimited period of time.
In general students must get TDN 4 in all parts of the examinations in order to be admitted into universities in Germany. But since every university in Germany has its own admissions policy, it is at the discretion of individual universities to admit applicants whose scores are below TDN 4 to their courses of study, depending on factors such as the course subject, type of degree awarded and course duration.
There are approximately 450 test centres in 95 countries worldwide, offering the TestDaf exams six times a year. the officially approved test centres, which are managed by TestDaF-Institut, are usually located at German and foreign universities and other higher education institutes, DAAD editorial offices, Goethe-Institut, as well as the Adult high schools (Volkshochschule) and language schools in Germany. The test centres are responsible for:
- Advice and registration for the interested persons,
- Organisational preparation and conduct of the examination,
- Offer of preparation course for the exam,
- Issue of the certificates,
- Advertisement of the TestDaf.
Preparation for TestDaF
There are lots of preparation courses for TestDaF in Germany as well as foreign countries. These courses are offered by official test centres as well as other language schools. Relevant information can be obtained at the official website of TestDaf.
Before registering for the exam, it is also possible to do a placement test at the website of TestDaF, so as to check the level of one's language and decide if it is suitable to register for the examination at that time.
Advantages and disadvantages of TestDaF
- All German universities recognise the TestDaF certificate.
- The TestDaF assesses the language skills necessary for study in Germany. The content and tasks of TestDaF are all academic, scientific and study-relevant topics.
- The four language skills are separately assessed and the certificate shows the results of all the sub-tests, giving the candidate an idea of his strengths and weaknesses in each area.
- The TestDaF can be taken in the home country of a candidate and the certificate is sent directly to him/her. This saves a trip to Germany and enables the candidate to collect all the required documents for the university application before travelling to Germany.
- The candidates can concentrate on specific preparation by working on model tests and samples tests provided by TestDaF-Institut at its website. And the sub-tests are guaranteed to be of same level of difficulty, regardless of the time and place of taking the exam.
- There is a world-wide network of licensed test centres where further information and advice are available. Informations could also be obtained from DAAD lecturers, Goethe Institutes, language centres and university departments of German studies or German embassies and consulates in the candidates' home country.
- The TestDaF certificate is valid for an unlimited period of time.
- The examination could be re-taken as often as one wishes, when the candidate is not satisfied with his results.
However, there is also disadvantage of taking the TestDaF, especially when compared with the Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH), where one could also fulfil the language requirement for entering German universities by getting a pass.
- The result could only be known in approximately six weeks, when compared to a much shorter time of DSH.
- The candidates need to pass all parts of the exam in order to fulfil the language requirement. But one can fulfil the requirement in DSH when his overall grade gets a pass.
- There is no specific grammar test, which is very common in a DSH exam.
- The price for TestDaF is usually higher than DSH.
- The TestDaF oral exam is done via a computer, and for some of the candidates it is strange and may affect their performance.
The number of TestDaF candidates has increased from 7,498 candidates in 2003 took to 24,261 in 2012. In 2003 there were only 211 test centres but this number had increased to 440 by 2012.
- "German examinations - Our examinations - TestDaF - Goethe-Institut". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "Grades and Performance Description" (in German).
- TestDaF Info
- TestDaF – Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache. Sprachprüfung für ausländische Studienbewerber. In: Schreiber, R. (Hg.), Deutsch als Fremdsprache am Studienkolleg – Unterrichtspraxis, Tests, Evaluation. Regensburg, pp.1-13.
- Information of TestDaF
- Performance Description for various levels
- Test Centres
- DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst. "German language". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "TestDaF-Institut". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- Tips and Sample Tests
- "TestDaF-Lückentest". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- 1112_TestDaF DSH Gegenueberstellung
- "TestDaF oder ZOP? Welche Prüfung sagt mehr über die Studierfähigkeit aus?". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "Was ist der Unterschied zwischen DSH und TestDaF?". Deutsch lernen und studieren in Deutschland. Retrieved 2 May 2015.