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What level German certification exam?

 Language Learning Forum : Immersion, Schools & Certificates Post Reply
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emk
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 Message 9 of 21
04 January 2013 at 12:51am | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
So what's the question, you might ask? The problem is that I have no idea of where my active skills are, and I'm not
sure how to figure it out, short of picking an exam an sitting for it. I don't have a lot of confidence in my active
skills, especially speaking. I don't get a lot of opportunities to practice well, which has been a constant problem.
Furthermore, the more my passive grammar knowledge, vocabulary and store of idiom grows, the less confident I
get at speaking, because I can't quickly access the words that I know are in my brain, and I'm always double-
checking my genders and endings.


I totally sympathize with this. I know a lot more French than I did during my DELF B2 exam, but as I mentioned in my log, a lot of the new stuff is semi-active knowledge, and it's hard to gauge how much I will be able to use fluently in any given conversation. This isn't for lack of speaking practice, as such—I get an enormous amount of speaking practice at home. Rather, it's a lack of speaking about intellectual topics on a regular basis with my new vocabulary.

I owe a huge chunk of my success on the DELF B2 speaking exam to my tutor, who was awesome. We did 3 sessions a week for several weeks, and much of that was focused on being able to have an intelligent conversation in French. She'd email some horrible topic 30 minutes before the lesson, and I'd figure out what opinion I wanted to defend, and what evidence I would use to defend it. And since she used to be a exam grader, she'd very nicely beat me up if I forgot to, say, summarize the each of the opinions that I was given, because the DELF B2 expected me to make a well-structured argument.

It doesn't take too many such sessions to sound reasonably coherent, if you've already got the underlying passive knowledge. After a good half-dozen sessions, I was saying things like, Pour lutter contre la corruption dans le tiers monde, il faut utiliser du pouvoir financier étranger. That sort of thing sounds halfway decent in an exam, but like everything else, it takes a little practice.

Now, I don't know anything about the Goethe Institute examinations. But in France, there are actually two sets of official exams, with slightly different goals. There's the TCF (Test de connaissance du français), which is apparently meant for assessing your level. Then there are the DELF and DALF, which are "diploma" exams. These require you to perform fairly specific academic tasks. For example, the DELF B2 usually involves writing a "letter to the editor" or something similar defending a viewpoint, whereas the DALF C1 requires writing a synthèse. And so if you're not familiar with how a synthèse works, you're going to lose a fair number of points.

Did you ever take an Advanced Placement exam in the US? It's the same sort of idea, except that there may be cultural differences in exam formats and skills. So it doesn't hurt to get some sample exams, carefully review what you're supposed to know, and do some studying. And if you have any professional goals riding on the exam, find a good tutor ASAP.

Quique wrote:
The active skills are the hardest to get, and B2 is already a pretty high level. For instance, French universities demand foreign students to pass the DELF B2.


I spent some time looking at university entrance requirements in Europe and the US. For the latter, I tried to convert various Cambridge English and TOEFL scores into CEFRL. It turns out that many universities want the following:

B2 will get you admitted as a foreign student at a decent number of universities, but there will usually be some sort of special help or support for the first year. In the US, you could get accepted to many state universities as a foreign student.

C1 will get you admitted almost anywhere, including most US Ivy League schools. This doesn't mean that you have the same skills they'd demand from a native, but rather that they think you can keep up with classes.

C2 is often demanded for law schools and other programs that require excellent language skills.

Edited by emk on 04 January 2013 at 12:53am

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geoffw
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 Message 10 of 21
04 January 2013 at 1:53am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
After a good half-dozen sessions, I was saying things like, Pour lutter contre la corruption dans le
tiers monde, il faut utiliser du pouvoir financier étranger.
That sort of thing sounds halfway decent in an exam,
but like everything else, it takes a little practice.
...
Did you ever take an Advanced Placement exam in the US?


Thanks for the responses, everyone!

Well, I apparently don't have good enough French passive skills yet to understand exactly what you wrote ["tiers
monde" threw me...this once, I'll know it next time!], but after Google translating it into mangled English, I had
little difficulty saying the same thing in German. Of course, you were doing a B2 exam, so maybe that just means
I'm ready for a B2 exam, as I thought.

[re: AP exams] Yes...I took the AP German exam! I didn't do anything to prepare, and I coasted to a 5 [the highest
score]. I took some math and science APs, too, but I'm not sure how preparing for those relates to preparing for a
language exam.

So here's what I'm thinking now:

I'm not trying to get a certificate to trick people into thinking I know German, but to prove the truth to myself,
because I want to know. Even if I pass a C2 exam in 3 months, I still will not believe that I speak at that level
(though I'd be excited, I admit). If I fail a C2 exam, I've learned nothing. Either way, I'm left with big questions.

If I pass a C1 exam, I'm happy AND I learn something...BUT, if I fail a C1 exam, I kick myself for not taking the B2
exam.

If I fail a B2 exam, I learn everything I need to know. If I pass a B2 exam, I learn a little about my speaking ability,
and I can always say I have a meaningful certification of my overall level, whether or not I later sit for a higher level.
I think this is the only exam that's guaranteed to pay off in all circumstances.

But now there's a further question: Zertifikat B2, or TestDaF?
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Luso
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 Message 11 of 21
04 January 2013 at 3:04am | IP Logged 
I guess your mind is made up by now. I'll just add some information.

I took the B1 exam in February 2010 and the B2 in June 2012. I'm currently studying in the local Goethe-Institut (level C2) and plan on taking the C1 test in June (maybe... I'm not yet sure).

I took the B2 exam after having finished my C1 classes, and I'm still not 100% sure about tackling the C1 one.

After some 5 or 6 years studying there, I know many professors, and according to them, the difficulty rises a lot between the tests: B2 is a lot more demanding than B1, and the Cs are very unforgiving.

I can vouch for the first part: my B1 test was a breeze, whereas I had some moments during the B2 when I thought it could go terribly wrong. Especially during the listening comprehension part: the recording was a bit blurred and it went quite fast. The difference between the two tests has convinced me that the C1 may be yet a lot more difficult.

Now for the criteria: passing grade is set at 60%, and you have to reach that mark in all categories. That goes for all levels.

Regarding your last question: my preparation materials for the B2 test were also appropriate for the TestDaF. I don't know whether there's a big difference between them (I think there isn't). Being a student at the GI, I'll stick to their logic. But that's just me.

Edited by Luso on 04 January 2013 at 4:38am

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Luso
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 Message 12 of 21
04 January 2013 at 3:05am | IP Logged 
Here you have FAQs about the TestDaF.

And here about Goethe-Institut's exams.

Edited by Luso on 04 January 2013 at 3:38am

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emk
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 Message 13 of 21
04 January 2013 at 4:28am | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
I'm not trying to get a certificate to trick people into thinking I know German, but to prove the truth to myself, because I want to know.


Thank you for this remark—it gets us right to the point of what I was trying to say amid all my confused babbling. :-)

If you want an accurate, unbiased assessment of your level, I'm not sure that a typical "diploma-style" exam is a good match. What you're looking for might be something like a German version of the TCF (at least according to my imperfect understanding). Ideally, it sounds like you want to walk into a room without studying, complete a set of tasks, and get back an accurate assessment of your level in German. Is this your underlying goal?

If that's what you want, then the diploma exams aren't necessarily a great match. The upper-level diploma exams for some languages seem to have an "academic" component which isn't completely about linguistic skills. Maybe you need to give a well-organized oral presentation without using notes, or write a specific kind of essay, or answer reading comprehension questions that would be slightly annoying even in English.

This can actually be kind of fun, but it's less of a unbiased assessment and more of an interesting challenge. As far as I can tell, you're actually supposed to study a bit for most of these exams and know what kinds of essays and presentations are expected.
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geoffw
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 Message 14 of 21
04 January 2013 at 4:56am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

If you want an accurate, unbiased assessment of your level, I'm not sure that a typical "diploma-style" exam is a
good match. What you're looking for might be something like a German version of the TCF (at least according to
my imperfect understanding). Ideally, it sounds like you want to walk into a room without studying, complete a set
of tasks, and get back an accurate assessment of your level in German. Is this your underlying goal?


Yeah, pretty much. The real "target audience," if you will, is me, not anyone else--and I've done enough online
tests and the like to be convinced I understand my passive skill levels (more or less), despite the dodgy nature of
most of those tests. Certainly I also like fancy, hard-to-obtain credentials to hang on my wall, but as I believe you
noted in your French log, learning a language to a high level is way too much work for vanity to motivate you for
long. If I had a C2 certification, I might put something like "certified at the highest level" in my professional bio, but
I doubt there's any utility to a "mid-level" certification for that purpose, because it would require a non-language-
geek to grasp the meaning of the various proficiency levels, and we know how unlikely that is, esp. in the US.

Unfortunately, I'm not aware of an exact German analog to the TCF (though I'll keep that in mind if and when I get
my French up to a respectable level).
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emk
Diglot
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United States
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 Message 15 of 21
04 January 2013 at 5:14am | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
Unfortunately, I'm not aware of an exact German analog to the TCF (though I'll keep that in mind if and when I get my French up to a respectable level).


Be aware that this is a second-hand description of the TCF. The actual test may differ from what I've been told.
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DaraghM
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 Message 16 of 21
04 January 2013 at 9:59am | IP Logged 
I know the Cervantes Institute provide free level assessments, and specfic exam preparation classes for each of the DELE diplomas. Does the Goethe Institute provide something similar ? I would strongly recommend doing some classes with a tutor, or attending a GI course, to test and boost your speaking ability. The main advantage is they'll know what the examiners are listening out for.



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