Meeting the Language Requirements to Study in Germany

Most articles that have been written about college in Germany over the last few years have emphasized two things:

  • You can study for free in Germany.
  • You can study in English in Germany.

Although the first point is mostly true (there are no tuition fees in Germany, but students do have cost of living expenses and small semester fees), the second is much more complicated. Currently, there are fewer than 200 bachelor's programs in Germany that are taught in English, but over 1000 are offered in English at the graduate and post-graduate levels. 

For this reason, we always recommend that bachelor's students plan to study in German. Although some English-taught programs may also be a good fit, if you want to keep your options open, you need to learn German.

For students planning to enroll in a preparatory course at a Studienkolleg, the requirements are much lower. You can start at a Studienkolleg with either a B1 or B2 level (depending on the location). But for students who plan to enroll directly out of high school in a German-taught program, a C1 level of proficiency is required. 

So, when it comes time to apply, how can you prove your language proficiency? Generally, there are four ways.

Before you decide which test to take, be sure to ask your German teacher if your school offers the DSD examination. If you pass the DSD-II, you will meet the requirements to study at a German university.  

The ZOP and GDS are both still recognized, but are no longer offered to new test-takers. Instead, they have been folded into the Goethe Zertifikat C2, which can be taken at a wide range of testing centers countrywide.

The TestDaF is another alternative that is offered by a more limited number of testing sites throughout the country. There are six testing dates annually that are standardized worldwide. It's important to sign up early, because space is limited.

The DSH examination can only be taken in Germany, and is offered by universities throughout the country. After you apply to a program and gain admission, you'll be given a provisional acceptance that requires a score of DSH-II. The test is usually administered in the fall prior to the start of the semester and consists of a written test followed by a speaking section.

All of these tests are very difficult and require a lot of preparation beforehand. Enrolling in an intensive preparatory course is a good idea if you plan to take the TestDaF or DSH after graduation.