Studying in Germany For Members

What are the language requirements for studying at a German university?

Tom Ashton-Davies
Tom Ashton-Davies - [email protected]
What are the language requirements for studying at a German university?
Students at Heidelberg University sit in a lecture hall. Photo: picture alliance / Uwe Anspach/dpa | Uwe Anspach

Whether you're hoping to study in Germany for a semester or four-year degree programme, you'll want to make sure your German is in line with the official requirements.


Germany stands out as an ever-increasingly popular destination among students seeking to study abroad, with German unis boasting strong connections with employers post-graduation and offering generous scholarships to eligible international students.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) reported that 350,000 international students chose the country for their studies during the 2021/22 academic year.

If you're also considering a German uni - whether in Leipzig or Heidelberg - these are the official requirements for both entrance and language.

READ ALSO: An international students' guide to the top 10 German universities in 2023

Entry requirements for bachelor’s degrees: 

Some international students chose to receive their entire degree in Germany. If you're also interested in doing so, you must have completed 13 years of education and for both countries, and you need to hold a higher education entrance qualification, known as ‘Hochschulzugangsberechtigung’. 

However, if you lack this qualification or your leaving certificate is not recognised, you have the option to enrol in a foundation course at a ‘Studienkolleg’. 

Language requirements:

The following are the various language requirements for Studienkollegs and universities in Germany, both aligned with the European Framework of Reference for Languages.

  • Studienkollegs: If you plan to attend a Studienkolleg, you typically need to possess a language proficiency level of B1 or B2 in German. 
  • Other Bachelor’s Degrees: For most bachelor’s programs, a higher proficiency level of C1 in the German language is usually required.

READ ALSO: German universities expand support services for first year students


Admissions tests for proving C1 level: 

Several standardised tests can be taken to demonstrate your C1 level of proficiency. These tests are widely recognised by higher education institutions in Germany: 

Deutsch als Fremdsprache (TestDaF) 

To meet the C1 level requirement, you should aim for a TestDaF score of TDN 4. 

This test evaluates your proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking. 

Achieving TDN 4 in all four areas is essential. 

TestDaF is available at over 500 centres in 100 countries and is accepted by all German universities. 

You can expect to receive your TestDaF certificate approximately 6 to 8 weeks after taking the exam. 

German dictionary

Fair-goers walk past an oversized Duden dictionary of "Correct German Spelling" at the international Frankfurt Book Fair 04 October 2006. Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH) 

If you opt for the DSH exam, you will need to score at least Level 2 (DSH-2) or higher to prove C1 competence. 

This assessment consists of a written exam (administered first) followed by an oral exam for those who pass the written component. 

DSH exams are conducted at individual universities and preparatory colleges, and you are not necessarily required to take the exam at the university where you intend to study (except at the University of Stuttgart). 


The Goethe-Zertifikat examination can be taken in Germany, at any of the Goethe-Institut locations worldwide, or through their exam partners locally.


While the pass mark may vary depending on the administering institution, it typically falls around 60 percent to 65 percent. 

Goethe isn't always accepted by universities as proof of your language level, so be sure to check with your institution before sitting the exam. 

READ ALSO: How do I get a student visa for Germany and what does it let me do?

Telc C1 Hochschule

The Telc C1 Hochschule exam is primarily aimed at foreigners who want to prove their German language skills before studying at a German university, or before entering an academic profession in Germany.

Much like the ordinary C1 exam, the test is designed to scope out whether you can function at an advanced level in written and spoken German, and whether your listening and reading comprehension are also sufficient for university study.

However, you'll find that the topics covered in the exam tend to relate specifically to things like university life, careers, traineeships and academia, rather than the usual broad range of topics you might find in a C1 exam. In order to pass, you'll need to get a pass mark of 60 percent or over on both the speaking and the written parts of the test. 

Entry requirements for one-year exchange students

Although you should still use the same tests to prove your level of language competence, the requirements for different courses vary at different universities. 

For instance, at the Freie Universität Berlin, you will need B2 level German to study humanities/social sciences, but only B1 for natural sciences. 


You should check each university’s admissions page to see their requirements for exchange students. 

Studying for these exams might seem like a monumental task, but starting your preparation early with online courses or with a tutor will put you in a great position. 

Your commitment will undoubtedly pay off when you find yourself planning a weekend getaway to Hamburg with your new flatmates or experiencing firsthand the many techno clubs that Germany has to offer. 

Do be sure to verify the specific language requirements and admission criteria for your chosen university and program, as they can vary from institution to institution. 



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