To study in Germany, you need to prove that you speak English or German well enough to study in that language. This proof needs to be delivered by handing in an official language certificate, unless you are a native speaker or have graduated from an English or German speaking program. Of course, getting to this point requires hard work. But do not worry: Universities will not expect you to speak anywhere near as perfectly as a native speaker.
Even some of your professors will speak with accents, especially if you study in an English-taught international program. So as soon as you reach the required level, do not be afraid that you do not speak enough English or German. You will have to invest some time and effort, but the language level required from you is fair and reachable. Even if you have never been to an English or German-speaking country and feel like you are not as much of an expert as you would like to be – YET!
Which English language certificates are recognized in Germany?
While there are standardized regulations for German language certifications in place at all German universities, there is no legal obligation for German universities to accept a specific English certificate. That means each university can decide independently which English language certificates they recognize. Therefore, you should make sure that the programs you plan on applying to accept your English language certificate as valid proof of your language proficiency.
There are, however, two examinations that are accepted by almost all German universities. These are:
Other well-known certificates are not recognized by all universities. In that case, you should inquire with the International Office of the university of your choice if they will accept the certificate you own. Common examples are:
- Cambridge Assessment English, e.g. C1 Advanced (formerly known as CAE),
- BULATS (Business Language Testing Service),
- Telc English B2-C1 University (The European Language Certificate),
- London Chamber of Commerce and Industry – LCCI Certificates,
- Test of English for International Communication – TOEIC,
- UNIcert certificate
- Graduate Record Examinations – GRE Subject Tests.
Each program can decide on a level of English skills independently. Therefore, the minimum results required from you vary from university to university.
How well do I need to speak English to study in Germany?
The universities and each program can make independent decisions when it comes to setting the requirements for the English language. That is why it is important that you check with the program of your choice to learn precisely not only which English language certificate but also which proficiency level they expect you to hand in.
As a rule of thumb, your selected study program will require you to present a proof of upper intermediate to advanced language skills in English (B2-C1).
To let applicants know how well they should speak English, many German universities use the terms defined by the Council of Europe in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). On this scale, there are 6 levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2):
- A1 is the lowest level and designates that the student is a beginner.
- C2 is the highest level one can gain.
Upper intermediate language skills correspond with level B2, and advanced language skills correspond with level C1.
I do not have an English language certificate yet. Which one should I choose?
The most important thing is that you hand in a certificate the program/university of your choice will accept. Check out the requirements page of your German university to learn which examination you should take.
Since TOEFL and IELTS are accepted by almost all universities, it will make sense for you to get either of them. In the following table, we provide you with a comparison of TOEFL and IELTS. We only list the internet-based TOEFL test (TOEFL iBT), since 98% of test-takers take this test format.
Note that both tests are standardized. They are equally hard or easy to pass, no matter where you take it. The examiners and graders have been trained by the respective institutions and can, therefore, ensure fair judgment across all test centers and countries.
We recommend that you check out both tests. Your decision may depend on the price difference between the two tests in your location, how often they offer the examination in your country, or if there is a test center near you in the first place. Since test slots may be booked out far in advance, it is advisable that you book your appointment early on.
Another aspect according to which you may decide on a test could be the test format. For the TOEFL iBT, you, for example, have to conduct the speaking section with the computer whereas for IELTS you speak with a person.
There are other international English language certificates that are often accepted by German universities as well. You may also decide to get one of these certificates:
Cambridge Assessment: C1 Advanced+
Cambridge Assessment: BULATS+
GRE Subject Tests+
Telc English B2-C1 University+
To learn more about other certificates, you can follow these links:
Can I study in Germany without IELTS or TOEFL?
There are cases in which you can study in an English-speaking program without having to hand in an IELTS or TOEFL test before. Here are some examples:
You have got an alternative English language certificate+
You studied an English-speaking Bachelor’s degree+
Your native language is English+
Can I hand in my language certificate after the application deadline?
A first general answer is: Usually not. Your language certificate is part of your application and must, therefore, be handed in before the application deadline.
However, some universities grant applicants the option to apply with a placeholder, for example, a language certificate on a lower level, and hand in the actually required language certificate later. The applicant can be admitted under the condition that they will provide a language certificate at a high enough level when they enroll.
Keep in mind that if you have to apply for a visa, you will also have to hand in a proof of language proficiency or of your intention to take a language course to show that you are an eligible and serious candidate and can obtain the visa. Time management is therefore crucial.
To study in English international students have to prove their language proficiency at an upper intermediate to advanced level (B2/C1). German Universities usually accept one of these certificates:
- A TOEFL or IELTS certificate.
- Proof of previous studies in English.
- Universities can decide independently whether they accept other official language tests such as Cambridge Assessment: C1 Advanced, BULATS, TOEIC, GRE Subject Tests, Telc English B2-C1 University.
Each university can independently decide which scores they accept.
You don’t have to be a native speaker to do well in your studies in Germany, but you do have to pass one of the language examination tests. We recommend you check out the practice material before. A lot of it is available online for free. If you take some time before your language test date you will have gotten accustomed to the type of questions you can expect and maybe even certain tricky grammatical phenomena that are repeatedly asked for.