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From discussing the subtext in a Thomas Mann novel to just being able to order a Bratwurst in your local Metzger, there’s a world of difference in the levels of German attained by foreigners in Germany, and of course most people improve the longer they stay here.
But gaining citizenship requires formal qualifications, so we’ve put together some sample questions to give you an idea of the level required.
This article relates solely to your language ability – applying for citizenship has several other requirements, including having to demonstrate knowledge of German culture and history via the citizenship test.
The current citizenship rules in place require German at level B1 on the six-level scale of competence laid down in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
So what does B1 mean?
B1 on the CEFR scale is defined as being able to “understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”
A B1 candidate “can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken” and can also “produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.”
In other words, you are not required to be able to speak perfect, error-free German, only to be able to make yourself understood and understand any replies you are given.
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Testing in Germany for language competency as part of a citizenship application is handled at the state level. Therefore there might be some small variation in the requirements from state to state. It is important to check with your local authority on just what certificate is recognised.
Generally though, naturalisation authorities will recognize tests conducted either by the Goethe Institute or by telc Gmbh.
The testing is not done by state authorities so you will need to contact a nearby language school to find out whether they work with either of these organisations to do testing. A good bet is getting in touch with your local Volkshochschule where testing at all levels of language proficiency is done on a regular basis.
The nitty gritty
A full B1 test written by the Goethe Institute involves testing on four components: reading, listening, writing and speaking. You are not allowed to use a dictionary at any time during the test.
The reading component takes 65 minutes and involves having to comprehend several texts and answer questions about them.
The listening component requires you to listen to several pieces of audio and state whether statements about them are true or false.
The written component takes an hour and requires you to write a letter as well as express your opinion on a topic.
The spoken component takes 15 minutes and is done in discussion with a partner who is also taking the exam.
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The following questions come from a section of a sample test by the Goethe Institute. The text, which you can find here, talks about a project to create electricity in a village by using biogas. You need to decide which of the following options makes the statement true.
In diesem Text geht es um…
- die neue Technologie von Eckhard Meier?
- die umweltfreundliche Stromproduktion in Feldheim?
- einen Studiengang an der Universität Göttingen?
Die Wissenschaftler wollten zeigen, dass…
- ein ganzes Dorf von modernen Energien leben kann?
- eine Bio-Gasanlage mehr Strom produziert, als ein Dorf braucht?
- man größere Mengen Strom sparen kann?
Damit die Idee auch in anderen Dörfern funktioniert…
- benötigt man viel Geld.
- braucht man genug Platz für die Technik.
- muss die Bevölkerung dafür sein
Young men take part in a German course in Hesse in 2015. Photo: dpa | Andreas Arnold
For this section you will have to listen to audio of German people talking. The format of this section varies: for example, it could be a news report, an interview or a recorded discussion.
Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, in which you hear five short texts at the start of the audio (listen here). You have to decide which of the following statements about the texts are true.
Frau Stein soll…
- die Chipkarte mitbringen?
- zehn Euro bezahlen?
- möchte, dass Frau Brahms einen neuen Vertrag abschließt?
- braucht Zeugnisse von Frau Brahms?
- ruft später noch einmal an?
Auf der Autobahn gibt es Stau wegen…
- einer Baustelle?
- des Berufsverkehrs?
- eines Unfalls?
Welcher Zug fällt aus? Der Zug nach …
- Gewitter an der Elbe?
- Temperaturen unter 10 Grad?
- Starke Regenfälle im Westen?
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In the written section of the exam you are required to compose three texts. You are given them all at the same time and so you can chose which one you begin with but you will have to complete all of them in the 60 minute time frame.
The first task requires you to write an email to a friend addressing the following issue:
Sie haben vor einer Woche Ihren Geburtstag gefeiert. Ein Freund/Eine Freundin von Ihnen konnte nicht zu Ihrer Feier kommen, weil er/sie krank war
The email should be around 80 words in length and address the following three points:
– Describe the celebration.
– Which gift do you find especially great and why?
– Suggest a time for a meeting.
In the spoken component of the text you must present a short speech on a topic as well as discussing a scenario with your discussion partner.
In the following situation you need to discuss what to do with your partner.
Ein Teilnehmer aus dem Deutschkurs hatte einen Unfall und liegt im Krankenhaus. Diese Woche möchten Sie ihn besuchen und ein Geschenk von der ganzen Gruppe mitbringen. Nächste Woche kann er das Krankenhaus verlassen. Da er allein lebt, wird er Hilfe brauchen. Überlegen Sie, wie Sie ihn unterstützen können.
The discussion should last for three minutes.
You can find the full exam paper with the correct answers (at the bottom) HERE.
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