German Language Levels Explained: Check Your Level

How good is your German? Do you know which level you are at now and what your goal is?

The Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) gives a clear overview of A1 – C2, and these levels are recognized internationally. You can also sit exams to prove your level of German to a potential employer or academic institute.

A1 German

Are you a total beginner, learning from scratch? Then you need to take an A1 level course.

A description from the Goethe Institut states that after the beginner course of Elementary use of the language exam:

  • You can understand and use familiar, everyday expressions and straightforward sentences.
  • You can introduce yourself and others and ask others about themselves—questions like where someone lives and what they own. 
  • You can understand simple expressions if the person you are speaking to speaks slowly and clearly.

I recommend the Goethe Institut “Start Deutsch exam,” which they claim is ideal for people wishing to work as an au pair. It is also the legal requirement for a visa to visit your husband or wife in Germany.

Here are some online practice materials

A2 German

Too easy? Look at the following checklist to see if you are at level A2

  • You can understand sentences and commonly used expressions related to yourself, e.g., give personal information about yourself, your family, shopping, work.
  • You can talk about your daily routine and exchange information on familiar common topics.
  • You can describe your background and education, your immediate surroundings, and get your immediate needs in a simple way.

Goethe-Zertifikat A2 demonstrates that you have a basic knowledge of German. Check if that fits your picture here: A2 practice materials.

B1 German

Are you past this elementary stage? Good for you! Maybe you need to take a course at a B1 level to become an Independent User of the Language (Intermediate.) Then, 

  • You can understand the main points when clear, standard language is used, and the topics are familiar to you, e.g., issues associated with work, school, and leisure time.
  • You can deal with most situations while traveling around.
  • You can express yourself simply and coherently on familiar topics and personal interests.
  • You can report on experiences and events, describe dreams, hopes and goals.
  • You can justify and explain your opinions.

Studies have shown it takes around 400 hours of learning to reach B1 level. That means slightly over two months if you immerse yourself fully. Studying every day for four hours could get you to the level in four months, or learning 2 hours daily for nine months. 

Goethe-Zertifikat B1 is ideal if you want to attend a  preparatory course (Studienkolleg) to qualify for admission to a university in Germany. Check to see if you are at this standard here: B1 practice materials.

B2 German

So, you’ve worked hard and are now at a stage where you can communicate effectively with sympathetic listeners. Now keep going to reach the next target B2 – or Upper-Intermediate. At that point:

  • You can understand the main contents of complex texts on concrete and abstract topics.
  • You can understand specialized discussions in your primary area of specialization.
  • You can communicate fluently with native speakers without a great deal of effort on either side.
  • You can express yourself on a wide range of topics in a clear and detailed manner, and 
  • You can explain your opinions on current issues and justify your views.

Goethe-Zertifikat B2 is ideal for studying at a German university or preparing to work in Germany’s medical field. Do you think you’re there? Have a look: B2 practice materials

C1 German

If you have another 240 hours to invest in learning German, or even better, the time to do a lot of self-study, start aiming high and attend a C1 German course. “Autonomous Language Ability.” Here,

  • You can understand a wide range of challenging, longer texts.
  • You can grasp implicit meanings.
  • You can express yourself spontaneously and fluently with minimal effort to search for words.
  • You can use the language in your social and professional life or in training and studies.
  • You can make clear and detailed statements on complex topics.

To demonstrate your German skills to an employer or study at a German university, sit the Goethe-Zertifikat C1 exam. Click here to get an overview of the standard: C1 practice materials.

C2 German

And finally, if you are an English native speaker, at least an average learner of languages, and have had about 900 hours of formal training and self-study, BINGO!! The best of the best, the master of German. Wunderbar! Now:

  • You can effortlessly understand practically everything you read or hear.
  • You can summarize information from various sources and recount the reasons and explanations.
  • You can express yourself spontaneously and with high fluency.
  • You can make finer nuances of meaning clear in more complex topics.

Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Grosses Deutsches Sprachdiplom may be a requirement to conduct research in Germany or teach in a German school. 

If you can do the following exercises effortlessly, you can confidently say you are a C2 German speaker: C2 practice materials

I hope you found this article helpful and you can assess your level of German. Whatever stage you are at and wherever you want to go, “Viel Erfolg und frohes Schaffen!”

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Sarah Chadwick

Sarah Chadwick

I'm predominantly a teacher of English as a foreign language, with over 15 years of experience in this field. I've lived as much of that time in Cologne, Germany. I speak fluent German, which I am also qualified to teach.

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