Are you preparing for the German language exams? One of the biggest milestones of 2022 for me has been passing the German language test(s) and if you are prepping then you know that the B1 level is not an easy feat especially with a rather full life. So in this post I wanted to share with you my strategies, my top tips and tricks and other nitty-gritties that will help you pass the B1 Level German test even with the infamous time pressure.
Let’s address (and acknowledge) the elephant in the room – learning a new language is tough and this is a fact! But don’t confuse learning the language with preparing and passing an exam. These are two different things, and in this post I will breakdown the second part for you.
Learning a new language is a journey, clearing an exam is a significant milestone in this journey.Just don’t confuse the milestone with the destination.
Well as many expats, one of the main reasons for getting certified is to retain your residency or to apply for the settlement permit aka the C permit or maybe you’re at that next level – the Swiss Passport. Not discounting the fact that you might be doing your certification for securing your dream job or even to integrate.
Whatever be the reason – appearing for an exam can get stressful. Especially when it is a language test, a skill test is different, with languages your learning needs to be continual.
Which exam one should I opt for?
Well for starters these are the 3 that I know of – TELC, Fide and Goethe. All of these are globally recognized and there isn’t a hard and fast rule on which one is better. I do recommend doing your research and keeping your time/budget considerations in mind when choosing the format – only you understand your strengths, weaknesses and current situation.
I’ve had the good (or maybe the bad) fortune of appearing for 2 out of these 3 legit formats. I have passed the B1 oral test which was in the TELC format and the A2 reading, writing and understanding test in the FIDE format. Read more about the language levels here.
Both of the tests are quite different, but, if you follow certain techniques, and practice – you will be able to pass any of these formats. If you know me, then you know that I am all about being BASIC.
FIDE and TELC – Which one should you choose?
The main difference – when you appear for the TELC language exam, you prepare for the level (A1, A2, B1 etc.); however, in FIDE you are awarded the level you’re at based on your performance in the exam. I love the comparison that Academia has done, read here.
If you’re working towards getting a certification at a particular level, then I would recommend the TELC since the questions are a good reflection of what that particular level demands. However, if you’ve been learning German for a while, and are able to make conversations and in general have a fair understanding – try the FIDE.
My Exam Experience
The good news with TELC, you will find books as well as a ton of sample question papers to practice from. Also, the format of the paper is available for reference.
I took the B1 Oral exam in the TELC format, I was aware of how the questions will be structured, I knew that I will be paired with another candidate and that the duration of the test is 15 mins.
I was paired with a lovely girl and we had a chance to interact with each other before the exam started. This allowed me to feel quite comfortable cuz I remember I was very nervous on D day. You are given the paper and have about 15 mins to do some prep work, like you get a chance tolook at the questions and make your notes or prepare your script.
Here are the 3 sections, all the sections are conversations with your partner, there are no monologues here.
- Introductions – but as conversations
- Planning – for example – a birthday, an event, a picnic or a party etc.
- Themes – where one person speaks for it and the other one speaks against it….you could both have similar opinions, it does not matter.
Here is a sample test for your reference – TELC Sample
When I took the Fide test, I wasn’t nervous at all – but, unfortunately, I was quite sick that day. I remember I wrote the exam with a 102 F temperature as I had time constraints. It is very normal to feel more nervous and awkward during an oral examination as compared to a written test. It is a foreign language and there are 2 people catching on to every word you speak.
At the center, you first meet the 2 examiners and they decide based on your answers on a small sheet if you are going to give the A1-A2 or the A2-B1 exam. After this decision, the question and answer booklet is handed out to you. While you know the format of the exam, there are almost 0 sample papers available for practice.
Find the format here – FIDE Sample
Preparation and Practice
- If you can, then do enroll in group or private lessons. In my case, since, both of us (my husband and I) were preparing and both of us are always very stretched on time – we went with private lessons which were virtual. Our teacher was based in India and I can highly recommend her. She does not have a website or a YouTube channel but you can DM me on Instagram to get her deets. 🙂
- Regular classes help you build accountability and confidence.
- One thing that I really recommend is to start the conversion process inside your brain – once I started to gather interest in the language and I have to admit that it was much closer to the exam – I was translating all my sentences to German. It was rather annoying for my daughter who’s a multilingual kid! But this really helped me….especially to build a vocabulary. I have to admit that my grammar pretty much still sucks!
- Practice in your daily life – easier said than done. I am still a bit conscious inside stores in Switzerland, and then to practice my limited language abilities at coffee shops and grocery stores – it felt nightmarish. But to my surprise, the moment I tried – the regular eye rolls were replaced with luke warm smiles. I’ll take that!
- Sample papers, word lists and Youtube videos – This is how I studied (for the most part, self study is the most important element), apart from the language lessons we practiced a ton of sample questions, we had a shared excel sheet which we would used to expand our vocabulary and here is my favorite You Tube channels, I can highly recommend – Benjamin – Der Deutschlehrer
- Side Note 1: Create flash cards or have some printed sheets displayed clearly in front of your work desk or wherever you would see it.
- 2: Inside this excel sheet (which btw should be updated everyday during the prep time) – have a word list, have phrases, have common sentences, have grammar rules and finally samples. This is your MASTER sheet and you will study from only this during the last week/few days.
- 3: Watch a ton of sample YouTube recordings of actual exams, this really helps you gain confidence and also helps you figure out your prep level.
In all honesty, it’s not the classes that make the difference, but it’s the effort to integrate the learning mode into your already busy routine. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.
And lastly, getting certified is not at all equivalent navigating life in the local language. Firstly, Hochdeutsch is not the same as Schweizerdeutsch; and on top of that you need to consider the cantonal dialects which could sometime make the language look completely alien. 😉
Getting certified is the tip of the iceberg and a great starting point. It is your social circle, enthusiasm and work situation that contributes towards your language integration.
What are some of top tips when it comes to learning German or maybe even to pass the German language tests? Tell us in the comments section.
Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for more resources, we are talking about – swiss travel, ex-pat living, mental health, nutrition, wellness, transition, and parenting all through this season. Stay well and stay with us!
To read posts from July, click here