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German B1 level is the third level according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for foreign languages. It is the stage before the A1 and A2 exams. When you pass the B1 level exam, it means that you are entering the intermediate level of the German language. You also get the right to call yourself a middle speaker.
The exam confirms that students are independent users of the German language and comply with the standards set by the CEFR. Successfully mastering German at the B1 level represents a milestone in your German language learning process. By providing a German B1 certificate, you get the benefit of German citizenship one year earlier than others, which is 6 years instead of 7 years.
What is the difficulty level of B1 level German?
To put everything into perspective, for the A2 level exam for beginners you should know at least 1300 common German words. For B1 level German, you need to learn at least another thousand German words. A total of 2400 German words.
There are two different German B1 exams. These are the Goethe-Zertifikat B1 is a German test for young people and adults and the Deutschtest für Zuwanderer (DTZ) is for migrants.
This learning can be quite difficult as there are many genders and plurals to remember.
So it’s basically up to you how seriously you want to learn the German language. If you have studied well in the previous levels, German level B1 is not a difficult task for you.
According to CEFR, B1 level means:
- You can handle most situations when traveling in different areas where the language is spoken.
- You can describe your experiences from various events, meetings, etc. Reaching the B1 level in German is something you should be proud of.
- You can understand the main points of familiar matters that occur in families, schools, the workplace, etc.
- You can create a text on simple topics that interest you personally in the language.
German A2 Exercises – Download Free PDF
What Grammar lessons to learn to pass the B1 German Test?
Getting professional at German level B1 means expressing your thoughts in a deeply sophisticated way.
There are a lot of things to expect when it comes to learning German grammar at an intermediate level.
German phrases are more complex and the position of verbs often becomes different from the English language.
You need to focus on modal verbs– which are auxiliary verbs used with other verbs indicating the ability, likelihood, permission, or obligation.
Take head-on challenges when it comes to genitive cases. For instance, “das Haus meines Vaters“- My father’s house. You may have come across genitive cases, but at this level, you need to tackle this by yourself.
At this stage, you also need to cover passive forms of verbs. For instance, “das Essen wird zubereitet” – the food is being prepared; “das Essen wurde zubereitet” – the food was being prepared.
Then there is an also imperfect tense that you have to cover in B1 level German. Imperfect tenses are mostly used in written languages but are commonly used for some verbs referring to the past in spoken language.
So far, keeping a balance is concerned, filtering and writing out is not the most effective way of learning. Instead, you must use a tool: spaced recall.
Spaced recall is a method, where one memorizes certain information from sessions by presenting it in regular intervals between each session. This method describes how effectively our brain learns when we space out time in between.
Whenever you get time, learn Chunks of the German language and emphasize isolated items of vocab. When you focus on chunks, you will be able to speak more rapidly and accurately.
How to achieve Beginner to Intermediate-level German?
Knowing the German language will help you gain much more confidence in speaking.
First, you need to practice a lot more language patterns. As you progress, new grammar will start coming to you. At the end of the lower middle German roller coaster, you must have all the mainstream structures covered. Once you start using a wide variety of verb tenses and focus on creating longer phrases, you need to do something in German.
Start your preparation by searching for the mock exams you can find. Explore the different types of questions asked, tasks needed and types of materials. You can also purchase additional material if you feel the need to learn more.
What’s the level of the German B1 exam?
The (lower) intermediate level – B1 on the scale of the Common European Language Framework – is not called the “threshold” level for nothing. If you pass the German B1 test, you feel like you’ve entered a new word. It’s all about growing up as an “independent user” or as I like to say, becoming a “business in progress” in the language.
Yes, you will still have your limits. What you can say remains relatively simple compared to a native speaker. Your conversation will still be mainly limited to the most common everyday topics. Often you can still only catch the main points of what is being said, even if it is expressed in clear speech that is not as fast.
Still, you’ll have the best part of the most common German grammar patterns covered. You should aim for a vocabulary of about 2,400 words. With an active command of many of these words and patterns, and a passive understanding of more of them, you can expect to be able to cope well with most real-world travel situations. You will also be able to use longer and more complex phrases than before to talk not only about your immediate situations or needs, but also about events, your attitudes and plans.
You can use the Goethe-Institut’s B1 German exam certificate to help you overcome several major “thresholds” in life. First, meeting the minimum for BRD citizenship is accepted. Second, the B1 certificate enables admission to one of the Studienkolleg year-long programs to study any field at a German university.
The German B1 exam format section by section
The German B1 test exam is ‘modular’ in the sense that you do not have to take (or pass) all four parts at once (see details on passes and retakes below).
The exam is divided into four parts. These cover the four skills of listening, reading, reading and writing. There is no separate grammar or vocabulary test (unlike, for example, the Russian TRKI exams).
Let’s look at the format of each section in turn. To prepare, I used the Goethe Institute’s own “model paper” (“Modellsatz”) (2nd revised edition, 2015). Always check the most current format before the exam in case anything changes.
Reading Section (Lesen)
The total time is 65 minutes
The reading test is divided into five sections (Teil 1 bis Teil 5). There’s only one correct answer for each.
Reading Part 1 (Teil Eins)(10 Minutes):
You get a text of about 300 words. In the model paper, this is a blog entry (approx 330 words) in which the blogger explains how she unwittingly lost her briefcase and got it back (minus the money that was in it).
You have to choose whether six statements about the content of the blog entry are true or false.
Reading Part 2 (Teil Zwei)(20 minutes):
You are given two short press reports (both about 180 words each).
In the model paper the title of the first articles is “Ein Dorf für grüne Energie”. It’s about a village in Brandenburg that is freeing itself from dependency on fossil fuels). The second article has the headline “Tour durch Murtens Geschichte”. The subject is a bike tour through the small town of Murten (Switzerland).
There are six questions in all, three to each article.
For each question, you are given the first half of a sentence and you have to choose which one of three possible phrases will complete it in a way true to the content of the article.
Reading Part 3 (Teil Drei)(10 minutes):
You’re faced with short, adverts/announcements from different sources in the German media (each one complete in itself).
In the model paper, they mainly concern German language courses.
There is a list of seven people and their needs. The task is to match the up each individual with the ad offering what they’re looking for.
There are two twists. First, You’re told that there’s one person for whom none of the ads fits. You must identify that person from his or her details. Second, given that there are nine ads and only six remaining people, you’ll need to rule out two of the ads entirely as there are nine in total but only six people remaining.
Reading Part 4 (Teil 4)(15 minutes):
In the model paper there are seven short newspaper “letters to the editor” (Leserbriefe). They are written in response to an article on a controversial topic. You don’t get to see the article but are told what it was about.
In the model answer, the issue was whether violent computer games should be banned.
You have to decide whether each of the seven correspondents is in favour of or against the issue (here: the games).
Reading Part 5 (Teil 5)(10 minutes):
You’re given a more official text (in the model paper it’s the “Hausordnung” for a vocational training centre).
There are four questions about what the rules are on a particular subject and you have to pick the correct answer (from three).
Listening Section (Hören)
The total time is 40 mins
The listening section of the B1 test in German exposes you to a range of different speakers (ages, accents) and to different registers of language (casual conversations, more formal announcements or reports, discussions).
The feel of the recordings is pretty realistic. It’s perhaps clearer than real speech would often but but the pace seems to me to be generally at or not far below the slower end of normal speech.
The whole soundtrack for the model exam is on the Goethe website.
Let’s look at the four sections in a detail!
Listening Part 1 (Teil Eins):
The recording lasts ten mins including repetition and the pauses for reading the questions and answering them).
There are ten brief monologues with two questions to each.
Before each part, you have ten seconds to read the questions.
The first is question is “true” or “false”. To the second question is a statement about the clip that you have to complete by choosing one of three options.
You then hear the “text” twice. The speed is at the slower end of natural speed (though the instructions are a little slower still ).
In the model paper the monologues are set in a number of different contexts, such as messages on an answering machine (complete with a bleep and a “tinny” sounding voice), a traffic update and a radio weather forecast , both with a radio jingle, a station announcement given by a man with a Swiss accent, with a slight loudspeaker echo effect and background noise from the station.
Listening Part 2 (Teil Zwei):
There is one recording and five questions (either sentences for completion or questions).
First you get sixty seconds to read all five questions.
Then you hear the recording, once only. You must choose one from three answers options to each question.
In the model paper, the speaker is your imaginary guide on a tour round the Münchener Stadtsmuseum.
Listening Part 3 (Teil Drei):
There is one recording of a conversation
You have sixty seconds to read seven statements before the conversation, which you only get to hear once. Then you have to say whether each statement is true or false.
In the model paper, the conversation is between a man and a woman at a bus stop. They’re talking about a birthday party that the woman attended over the weekend.
Listening Part 4 (Teil Vier):
The recording is a radio discussion of a topic.
In the model paper there is a presenter and two parents discussing the topic “Should small children go to a pre-school nursery?”
You have eight statements from the discussion and you have to chose which of the three said what.
After 60 seconds to read the questions, you hear the whole discussion twice.
At the end of all five parts, you have five minutes to copy your answers to the answer sheet.
Writing Section (Schreiben)
The total time is 60 minutes
Writing Task One (Aufgabe Eins)(20 minutes):
You have to write an email of about eighty words. You should cover the three points that are presented in the question. You are also told be pay attention to the “Textaufbau” (structure and presentation) of the email: the salutation, introduction, structure and the end of the email/signing off.
Writing Task Two (Aufgabe Zwei)(25 minutes):
You have to write about 80 words expressing your views on a given topical issue. You’re given the topic and a view to interact with.
So, in the model paper, you’re told that you’ve seen a TV discussion programme on “Personal Contacts and the Internet”. You are given the views of one viewer (from the comments on the programme’s on-line homepage).
Otherwise, there’s no further guidance.
Writing Task Three (Aufgabe Drei)(15 minutes):
You have to write an email of about forty words and are told not to forget the salutation and the sign-off.
In the model paper the scenario is that your course organiser has invited you to a meeting to discuss your learning goals. You can’t make the appointment, so need to write to excuse yourself and explain why you cannot attend.
Speaking Section (Sprechen)
The total time, during which you are examined with another candidate, is 15 minutes.
You are first given the three speaking scenarios and fifteen minutes planning time (you plan on your own and can make notes, which you can take in to the meeting with you as prompts, but you have to speak freely during the meeting).
Speaking Part One (Teil Eins)(about three minutes):
In the model paper, you’re told that a participant in your German class has had an accident and is in hospital. The task for you and the other candidate is to arrange to visit the patient in hospital and to decide on a suitable present.
You’re given four discussion points that you should cover (e.g. When should the visit be? How can we help the patient next week when he/she is discharged) You can also cover other aspects.
Speaking Part Two (Teil Zwei)(about five minutes):
You have to make a short presentation on an issue of the day (ein aktuelles Thema). To help structure your presentation you have five miniature presentation slides (topic title/”My personal experience”/The situation in my country/arguments for and against my position/conclusion and thanks. There is some space for you to jot notes during the presentation and brief guidance as to what you should cover to each slide (this is the same for both sets of slides).
In the model paper the two topics you can choose from are “‘Papa, ich will ein Handy!’ Brauchen Kinder Mobiltelefone” or “‘Mama es ist gerade so lustig… …Nur noch fünf Minuten!’. Sehen Kinder zu viel Fern?” There are two topics five slides each with a few words and sometimes a picture.
Speaking Part Three (Teil Drei)(about four minutes in total, so two minutes per candidate)
The task is to react to the feedback and questions of the examiners and your fellow candidate have about your presentation. You also have to give feedback on your fellow candidate’s presentation and ask him or her a question about it.
Preparation and Practice
- If you can, then do enroll in online german language class.
- Regular classes help you build accountability and confidence.
- One thing that really recommend is to start the conversion process inside your brain – once started to gather interest in the language and have to admit that it was much closer to the exam – It was translating all sentences to German.
- Practice in your daily life – easier said than done.
- Sample papers, word lists and Youtube videos
- Side Note 1: Create flash cards or have some printed sheets displayed clearly in front of your work desk or wherever you would see it.
- Side Note 2: Inside this excel sheet (which between should be updated everyday during the prep time) – have a word list, have phrases, have common sentences, have grammar rules and finally samples. This is your MASTER sheet and you will study from only this during the last week/few days.
- Side Note 3: Watch a ton of sample YouTube recordings of actual exams, this really helps you gain confidence and also helps you figure out your preparation level.
Pass marks and Retakes
The modular nature of the Goethe B1 German exam means that you can take one, two, three or all four parts at the center in one day. If you take and pass all four in one sitting or two or more sittings in one year, you can earn one certificate for the entire exam.
To pass it, you must obtain at least 60% in the module.
Either way, if you don’t complete them all at once, you will receive a certificate for the modules you have completed. As I understand it, if it takes you more than a year to complete all four, you can work up to passing all four sections with separate certificates.
You can retake the whole exam or one of the four parts as many times as you like (although the center where you took the exam may pause before you can take the next one).
You also have the option to take (or repeat) modules at different exam centres.