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German Language Tests for PhD Applications

Written by Mark Bennett

There are two tests which determine the level of proficiency in German:

  • TestDaF test of German as a foreign language
  • The "Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber" (DSH)

Both tests are equivalent and recognised by all universities in Germany. The main difference is that the DSH exam is only available at universities in Germany, and most often only at the university where you have applied or hold an offer of admission. The TestDaF is the only German language test you can take from your home country.

The TestDaF examination is centrally developed and rated by the TestDaF Institute based in Hagen, Germany. The test in available six times a year at accredited test centres in over 90 countries throughout the world and in Germany.

The DSH and TestDaF test consists of four parts: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, oral expression and written expression. Only those who already have a good level of German should take the test. For the TestDaF, you will be attributed a proficiency level:

  • TestDaF-Niveaustufe 5 (TDN 5 TestDaF level 5)
  • TestDaF-Niveaustufe 4 (TDN 4 TestDaF level 4)
  • TestDaF-Niveaustufe 3 (TDN 3 TestDaF level 3)

TDN 4 is often the minimum level required for university admission in Germany.

The fees for the exams vary across the centres and the countries in which these centres are. For example, the TestDaF in Germany costs €195, while the DSH (only possible in Germany) costs between approx. €70 and €150. For more information about the TestDaf, consult their website. For more information about DSH, consult your individual university.

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Last Updated: 01 November 2022