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Goethe Vs Testdaf Vs Dsh Language Exams


Germany is well known for its commendable education quality and highly professional faculty – an academic hub perfectly filled with opportunities for students across all disciplines – be it art, agriculture, STEM or management. The country has a worldwide reputation for its remarkable excellence in high-quality research and modern educational developments. Students across the world strive to join these Universities and experience the rich knowledge first hand and learn with the best of educators.

Now, if you are planning to join these universities, you will be aware that certification of having proficiency in German is quite often a mandatory requirement in the admission procedures. The certification should be only from those centralized systems which are accepted by the German educational systems. Different universities have different minimum CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) Levels to be met for matriculation in the Universities. Some of the German examination certifications which are accepted at the Universities are – Goethe Language Exam, TestDAF and DHS.

Goethe Institut Language Test

The Goethe-Institut Language Test can be attempted by anyone interested, regardless of their citizenship. They are designed to assess the knowledge and proficiency in German as a second language. Their exams are recognized globally. These exams can be attempted and provided as proof of qualification for work or education purposes. 

The exams are for two age ranges – young people (candidates up to 16 years) and adults

The exams for the adult candidates are audited by the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE). They have also been awarded the Q-Mark quality seal. These exams correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) language levels, from A1 to C2 levels.

The various Goethe Certification Exams are:

  • Goethe-Zertifikat A1 – To  prove A1 level of proficiency (For young people & adults)
  • Goethe-Zertifikat A2 – To  prove A2 level of proficiency (For young people & adults)
  • Goethe-Zertifikat B1 – To  prove B1 level of proficiency (For young people & adults)
  • Goethe-Zertifikat B2 – To  prove B2 level of proficiency (For young people & adults)
  • Goethe-Zertifikat C1 – To  prove C1 level of proficiency (For adults)
  • Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom – To  prove C2 level of proficiency (For adults)

Other examinations offered are:

  • TestDAF (For prospective students)
  • Goethe-Test PRO – A 60-90 minutes computer based test (For professionals)
  • Goethe-Test PRO Pflege– A 60-90 minutes computer based test (For nursing professions)

These examinations can be attempted in Germany, at one of the 157 Goethe Institutes in 98 countries worldwide as well as with their examination partners situated globally. The examination dates vary as per the Institute and can be found on their official website.

One can pass these exams when at least 60 % of the maximum score have been earned, with every section of the exam mandatorily attempted.

The Goethe-Zertifikats (A1-C2) do not expire. But universities and companies expect the examination to be attempted within a timeline of 2 years.


The TestDaF, or the Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache (translated as the Test of German as a foreign language) is a standardized language test to test proficiency of the German language for non-native German speaker. The test is organized mainly by the TestDaF-Institut, which is supported by the German Council of Higher Education Institutions, the Goethe-Institut and DAAD. Prospective students who want to study or research at German universities can attempt the German language test.

The test is evaluated and graded as three levels – TestDaF Levels 3, 4 and 5, which correspond to levels B2, C1 and C2 of Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

The test can be taken in any of the 450 test centers in 96 countries worldwide. The examination fee depends on the 3 country groups defined by the TestDAF Institute, each having a different price for the exam. The exam happens only six times a year on the same dates globally (with China being an exception, having the exam on only 3 different dates a year). The certificate is valid for lifetime i.e. it has no expiry.

The TestDAF examination comprises of 4 parts:

  • Reading Comprehension, which has 3 reading texts with 30 questions, attempted over a duration of 60 minutes
  • Listening Comprehension, which has 3 listening texts with 25 questions, attempted over a duration of about 40 minutes
  • Written Production, which has 1 writing task to be completed in a duration of 60 minutes
  • Oral Production, with 7 speaking tasks to be completed in approximately 30 minutes


The DSH, or the Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (German language examination for university entrance) is a proficiency exam for all foreign student applicants to test the German language mastery required, before enrolling to a German university.

The exam is evaluated and graded at three different levels – DSH 1(>=57%), DSH 2(>=67%) and DSH 3(>=82%), with each level corresponding to the CEFR B2, C1 and C2 levels respectively.

The exam is in both oral and written form, where a German-German dictionary can be used during the written exam.

The examination fee varies from university to university, ranging between 40 – 170 Euros.

Written Examination

  • Listening comprehension of 5500-7000 words, and questions on the notes you’ve made. This accounts for 20% of the test and has a duration of about 60mins.
  • Reading comprehension with a scientific text of maximum 60lines with a graph include. Questions will be asked based on this literature. This accounts for 20% of the test and has a duration of 60mins.
  • Reading comprehension which tests the student’s ability to understand the grammatical structures of the German language. This accounts for 10% of the test and has a duration of 30mins.
  • Text production where you are required to write a text of about 250 words describing a given topic with/without pictures. This accounts for 20% of the test and has a duration of about 60mins.

Oral Examination

  • Speaking examination on a given extract for 20mins, which would account for 30% of the entire test.

Only on passing the written exam, you can attempt the oral examination.

The DSH exams can only be taken at the Universities, and thus the examination dates depends on them.

Goethe Institut Language Test Testdaf Dsh Exam
Who can sir for the exam? Prospective students, nursing professionals and other professionals Prospective students Prospective students
Levels used for grading the exam A1-C2 TDN 3, TDN4, TDN5 DSH 1, DSH2, DSH3
Expiry of the certification No expiry No expiry No expiry
Examination Dates Vary according to the institute Only 6 times a year Vary according to the University
Examination Cost Vary according to the institute Vary according to the country group Between 40-170 Euros


It would be well recommended to write these exams well in advance, so that you have time to retake the exams as well, if you are not satisfied with your performance. All these exams can be submitted as a proof of German proficiency at the German Universities. You can choose which exam pattern are you comfortable with, or can write the exam after confirming with their Universities. Good luck in attempting the exams!

Raksha Shet

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