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Language and Admissions Tests for Application at a German Graduate School

By Christian Wilbers

TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, TestDaF - confusing acronyms dominate the global language and admissions test market. academics explains what is behind those acronyms and what you should keep in mind when you prepare, sign up for and take such exams.

Language and Admissions Tests for Application at a German Graduate School © LeventKonuk - iStockphoto.com When applying to a German Graduate School different language and admissions tests have to be passed
No matter where you apply, whether a German graduate school, a research training group or PhD program at a German university, you will likely need to provide evidence of your language skills to complete the application materials. In most cases PhD candidates should have a solid command of both English and German. It is common for specialized area and linguistic studies programs to ask for knowledge of other languages relevant to the course of study. Some graduate schools may simply accept documentation that verifies the applicant's high school education in the respective language. More frequently, however, the schools will ask the applicants for standardized language and admissions tests scores. Even if you speak a language very well, you should prepare for such tests carefully. Results are often determined not merely by a candidate's skills, but by his or her familiarity with the test format. Most exams are computer-based and will subject candidates to a series of stress tests that will almost certainly negatively affect test scores without adequate preparation.

TOEFL: The Test of English as a Foreign Language is the exam that graduate schools around the world require most frequently. The four core competencies tested in the TOEFL (which adheres to US English) are reading, listening, writing, and speaking. The biggest advantage of the TOEFL is the infrastructure provided by the test administrator ETS, which offers more than 50 dates every year and delivers results quickly (ca. 40 testing centers in Germany and more than 4,500 worldwide). Moreover, there are many different ways to prepare for the TOEFL, both online and through extensive preparation programs. The test itself usually takes between four and four and a half hours to complete, making it the longest of all comparable examinations. Most PhD programs require a score between 80 and 100 out of 120 possible points for the so-called TOEFL ibT - the internet-based version of the test, which is the only version still offered in Germany. Depending on the test location, the price for the TOEFL ranges from the local equivalent of $160 to $250.

IELTS: The International English Language Testing System represents British English in the global testing realm. It is administered by the nonprofit British Council, which offers both a general (IELTS General Training) and an academic version (IELTS Academic). Just like the TOEFL, the IELTS tests the four core competencies of reading, listening, writing, and speaking. Substantively, the three-hour IELTS exam is comparable to the TOEFL, however, someone with a background in British English might feel more comfortable in the IELTS listening section. The biggest difference between the TOEFL and IELTS exams is the speaking section: The score to this section of the IELTS exam is determined by a face-to-face personal interview, unlike the TOEFL, which requires candidates to speak into a microphone during the speaking section of the exam. Most PhD programs in Germany require an IELTS score between 5.0 and 7.0 of 9 possible points. The IELTS costs around $200.

Watch the YouTube-Video, explaining differences between TOEFL and IELTS

GRE: The Graduate Record Examination is a standardized admissions test that nearly all American graduate schools require for application. It has various specialized editions, which test particular fields of study relevant for specific graduate programs, and one general version, the so-called GRE General Test. The latter, which is most frequently requested by schools, has three components: analytical, which requires test takers to argue a point persuasively; quantitative, an advanced math exam; and verbal, which tests for the candidate's knowledge of academic English vocabulary. It should be noted that the skill level required for the GRE is much higher than for the TOEFL or IELTS exams - even native English speakers often prepare for months to master the GRE. However, the GRE is a much less common component of application packages in Germany. Fees for the GRE range between $160 and $190.

TestDaF: To study at a German university, foreign applicants usually prove their working knowledge of the German language with the so-called Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache ("German as a Foreign Language Test"). The TestDaF is offered in 93 countries across the world, which ensures that applicants can take the test in their respective home countries much like TOEFL or IELTS. However, there are only six test dates in 2014 and the deadline to sign up is often set weeks before the actual test date. Thus, you should prepare for the test well in advance. Generally, TestDaF level 4 will qualify you for acceptance into a German university, although some graduate schools require level 5 for admission. Depending on the test location, the TestDaF costs between $130 and $180.

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academics :: January 2014

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