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Tips on TestDaF preparation

Tips on TestDaF preparation
Or: tips on Testdaf preparation

(In the course of this exam preparation article, I will refer to the German language examination TestDaF as Testdaf, because it is simpler for me to type it out here in this post in this particular manner "Testdaf".)

Many students worldwide are interesting in learning tips and ideas on how to prepare for the Testdaf, the Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache. In my How to Learn German Fast blog, I have outlined a system of learning German for beginners or intermediate learners. Now I will be giving tips and ideas on how to prepare and study for the Testdaf, because that is one of the more common foreign language tests for foreigners who want to work or study in Germany, and also because the Testdaf was the test that I did for my German language proficiency. I myself have done the Testdaf and it was a very interesting and useful examination for me, personally.

I will outline my personal journey and personal preparation for the Testdaf examination, and then offer a system or suggestions that you may wish to follow or adopt for your examination preparations.

Firstly, I found out all about the Testdaf examination, information, format and rubric from the Testdaf Institute. This was in December 2005 (I did the examination in April 2007). You can visit the Testdaf Institute at this website http://www.testdaf.de/.

It is important to know the rubric of the Testdaf, the sections and the requirements for the various differentiated gradings, and the like. The results are either 3, 4 or 5 for each section, where Testdaf level 5 is the highest, and Testdaf level 3 is the lowest possible, since 2 and 1 are not graded and not shown on the results slip. Testdaf level 5 means that you have an excellent command of the German language and that your skills are above and beyond what is required. It is a good idea to aim for all levels 4 and 5 when you take the Testdaf. The sections are: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, writing and oral/ speaking. These four subsections in the Testdaf examination all carry a grade from levels 3 to 5. You can see my own personal Testdaf results here on this post. In any case, all the Testdaf levels (Niveau) are available freely on the Internet along with the requirements, criteria and description of the examination levels and what they mean, and, in addition, there are many online German courses and German programmes that you can choose to have a look at, some dealing with the Testdaf and others dealing with the German language.

Secondly, I started preparing for the various sections. I did this individually and separately. By the way, if you have not read how to learn German yet, my system on how to learn German fast offers insight into a training programme that is viable and fun, and that involves technology in terms of courses and youtube and entertainment via the Internet, among other tips and ideas. If you have read my articles and my system on how to learn German fast already, then you can focus on the tips and ideas part of this post and perhaps skip my personal Testdaf journey.

To prepare for the reading comprehension section, I read the Der Spiegel Nachrichten every day, choosing articles that had themes and ideas similar to the Testdaf examination topics. I also borrowed books and magazines from the University library in order to familiarise myself with formal and standard German. It was a rather interesting and enjoyable academic time!

To prepare for the listening comprehension section, I stepped up my youtube entertainment programme and also listened to many podcasts by Angela Merkel and Der Spiegel TV Online. I also listened to Ehrensenf and TV Total and tried to pick out what they were saying. Later on this proved invaluable to me because the listening comprehension section of the Testdaf is actually read and recited much slower and more clearly than are the programmes on actual German shows and TV. In addition, Der Spiegel Online is extremely useful. Preparation for the Testdaf was interesting and fun.

To prepare for the writing section, I wrote an essay every day. The thing about the Testdaf is that the section on writing can be simply prepared for if you know how to. There will always be a form of graph or diagrammatic explanation, and so you will need to prepare for that. There will always be some argumentative essay or topic to write on, and so you should prepare for that, but this time, instead of writing in your first language, try writing it all out in German. The planning, the preparation for the essay, and the thinking and linking processes are all the same, whether it is English or French or Spanish, but this time you remember to express yourself in German. One good thing about the Testdaf is that it does not test you for your German grammar per se, but tests your fluency and command. Hence, not knowing the articles of some nouns won't be as detrimental here as opposed to many other European administered examinations.

To prepare for the oral section, there are only two ways to do so, in my opinion. I recited many texts aloud. And I also spoke German as often and as many times as I could. That was how I did it and how I prepared myself for the Testdaf.

A System or Suggestions on Preparing for the Testdaf:

1. You could do what I did, and that might work for you, as it did for me. I did a sectional and very thorough preparation for the Testdaf and that might do wonders for you too.

2. You could implement the strategies and systems outlined in my How to Learn German Fast system and programme for learning languages in general, and German in particular.

3. Do an online course that specialises in preparing you for the Testdaf. Many are paid courses that require you to pay a fee and some are free, but those are rarer. I'd say you should have a good look around and evaluate a few sites and a few courses - do your own personal research before committing to any online courses or programmes.

4. If you have time, a long term approach is best: read more, listen to more German, speak more German and find more chances to express yourself verbally and orally, surf and check out the Internet slowly and surely day by day. Languages are not acquired in a week, despite what some people say, like "you can learn a language in a few days etc".

5. If you have not much time, and the Testdaf will be soon upon you, the best way to learn and prepare for the Testdaf is to memorise all the key expressions that you will use for your writing and speaking sections. That way you will ensure that you can pass two sections well. "This graph shows", "This suggests", "increasing and decreasing trends" and the like are all the phrases you need to memorise and commit to your memory if you wish to ace the Testdaf. Memorise anything and everything you need for the writing and speaking sections of the Testdaf and dump those words and key phrases every time and every chance you get to do so. This is a common examination technique employed not just by desparate Testdaf students but by language students and other exam takers all over the world.

6. Listen to the German news often - Der Spiegel is not the only source. Try Deutsche Welle, the Austrian and Swiss News Services, try any podcasts that you can lay your hands on. This will help you in your listening... partly. For the other part, the writing down part, be sure that you can write down things as fast as you can catch them, as you hear them.

7. Get German tuition or some assistance for the Testdaf from your university teacher, professor, friends, German friends, or coursemates. It's better to work and prepare in a team rather than suffer alone in silence, perhaps.

All in all, good luck for your Testdaf if you intend to pursue it. You can read about examination techniques in general in this post, How to Learn German Fast Part 9, where you can also read about where to go once you have mastered my system for learning German.

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