If you are planning to apply to a German University, chances are you have been asked to submit a proof of language proficiency and has you wondering which of the two more famous options to opt for. There is obviously the TestDAF – a standard examination conducted across various centres across countries and the DSH examination offered by the University applied to. While both of the examinations are essentially a test of your understanding of the language and the ability of express yourself in German – both in writing as well as orally, the structures vary slightly. Even the grading is different across the two and like any comparative, both the examinations have its merits and demerits. So before you decide which of the two is more suited to you, here’s a quick review of the two to help you decide.
TestDAF - Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache
TestDAF or Test of German as a Foreign Language is a standardized language test for learners of German that aims to rate your proficiency of the language on B2 C1 level. The exam, conducted by TestDAF Institut, Germany is available and is accepted across universities in Germany. The institute has close tie ups with the DAAD – the German Academic Exchange Service and many premier institutes like the Goethe Institut which in turn enables it to conduct the examination across various centres in over 90 countries. Accepted across universities, it is the more popular examination for students applying for higher education in Germany. To learn more about TestDAF, click here.
DSH - Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang
Unlike TestDAF, DSH - University Level Language Proficiency Test and is conducted individually by different universities across Germany and though has a steady pattern of testing your proficiency across your reading, writing, comprehension/listening and speaking skills, it has a marked difference in its structure as regards the weightage given to each part and the time taken to complete the examination. The DSH is also accepted across different universities interchangeably, as in it might not be necessary to write the DSH of the same university to which you are seeking admission. But then again, it would vary from university to university and is always advisable to check the University applied to for detailed information. The Goethe Institut in India provides preparatory courses for DSH at the University of Mannheim but the examinations are conducted in Germany.
Which one is better?
So, both test you on writing, reading, listening and speaking skills, both have the same level of B2 C1 and both are accepted widely across many universities. But there are small differences which we have tried to tabulate for you below.
Level of Difficulty
Yes, standardized pattern of examination facilitates preparation as you are aware of what would essentially be required of you
No, level of difficulty varies from University to University and you might be able to choose between an easier exam
80 Percent, graded across three levels of 5, 4 and 3, TestDAF 3 is not enough for a German Taught course but might be sufficient for you to apply to DSH course in Germany
67%, the qualifying level is usually DSH 2
Content and Structure
Divided across four equal parts of Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking, the examination is conducted on the same day over 3 - 3.5 hours
Divided into two broad examinations - Written and Oral spread across a week with Written Examination carrying 75% of the weight
You are graded across the parts and hence you can easily better your score as you go
It becomes necessary to score a minimum of 57% (passing marks) in both the examinations for you to qualify the DSH
Grammar is not an essential part of the examination.
Grammar is both important and sometimes even tested separately in a small sub section of the written examination
The exam is conducted across 90 countries and various centers and you can write the exam in your own country
The examinations are conducted by different universities within Germany hence you can only appear for the exam when you reach Germany and is usually conducted before the semester starts
You can write examinations multiple times which gives you more chances to improve your score
Most Universities only allow 2 attempts hence limited chances
€110 (standard across the world and payable online)
€ 40 - € 150 (Varies from university to university)
To conclude, both the examinations are acceptable and have its own set of merits and demerits but while TestDAF provides you standardization, DSH is the easier of the two to qualify and also offers cheaper options in term of finances. TestDAF in comparison gives you the freedom to first take the exam and be prepared to apply across universities in Germany. So, before you decide we recommend you understand the university requirements, assess your own proficiency in the language and choose which one is the right fit for you.