I’m not a big fan of language tests. The main goal for learning a language should be to speak, write and understand it. In June 2020, however, I took and passed the Telc Deutsch B1 test. In this post, I’ll explain why I took it and how I prepared for it.
Why did I take the test?
I started learning German in late 2018. My goal was to get enough fluency for daily tasks related to living in Germany.
Judging my fluency was tricky. When it comes to languages, I definitely prefer certain skills to others. I find it easier to read and listen to the language. Speaking and writing can be a challenge. Understanding grammar and memorising vocabulary are not a problem. Using that knowledge on the spot to make intelligible sentences is, however. Studying for a test that covers reading, speaking, writing and listening could be a good equaliser for those skills.
It is difficult to create a study plan and understand what to learn next unless I am taking a structured course. Preparing for a test brought structure into my learning process. It made it clear what skills I needed to cover and what is expected of me. It also gave me a clear goal that motivated me to keep going.
I gave myself a time span of around two years to reach the B1 level. I wanted to make sure I didn’t rush it or get too lenient.
What is the B1 level?
The Telc website states that people at level B1 can “communicate in a simple and connected way in everyday situations”. It is the minimum level required for German permanent residence and citizenship.
The Telc B1 exam tests reading and listening comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, writing and speaking. It covers all the areas needed for someone to be functional in German.
How did I prepare?
Before moving to Germany, I started using mobile applications. Duolingo and Babbel were my first choices. With their help, I learned the very basics of grammar and a limited set of vocabulary. Then came YouTube videos. They helped acquaint me with the sounds of the language. Podcasts and audio courses also helped with that.
Once I moved to Germany, I started attending courses organised in my office. A1.2 was a bit too easy for me, so I changed to A2. The class helped me start speaking the language and make sentences. The B1 class came next and strengthened my grammar knowledge. Having simple conversations with the teacher became easier. At the same time, I continued learning on my own using textbooks (Mention textbook here) and YouTube videos.
I was pretty comfortable with the grammar, but speaking was still a major blocker. I decided to take private lessons. For a couple of months, I had two or three lessons per week on Lingoda. Overall, the classes were hit or miss. Being matched with a different teacher every time was the major drawback. It made it impossible to measure my progress under the guidance of someone who knew my shortcomings. The courses gave me, however, the opportunity to speak more and cover topics I didn’t come across in the classroom.
As the deadline I had set for myself was nearing, I needed to speed up my learning and prepare for the B1 test more effectively. I decided to have private lessons with a tutor for a couple of months before my exams. In those sessions, we focused on speaking and writing practice. We had mock exams. The teacher helped me a lot and shared plenty of great tips for passing the exam.
I finally felt ready to have the exam.
The exam day
The exam day came on June 27th 2020. I was very nervous. It didn’t help that it took place on a very hot day in the midst of the Corona pandemic in Berlin. Despite all of that, the exam went like a breeze. The reading, listening and writing sections were quite easy. The speaking section, that was my main source of concern, was very manageable in the end. I felt confident that I would pass with good grades.
The results were sent by email. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the attachment. I scored 295 / 300 points. That was better than my expectations. I made only one mistake in the reading section. What’s next? I have no immediate plans to take another exam. I am continuing to study German, albeit not as intensely as before. My next goal is to reach the C1 level sometime in the next couple of years. In the meantime, I am enjoying the adventure of learning the language.
I have no immediate plans to take another exam. I am continuing to study German, albeit not as intensely as before. My next goal is to reach the C1 level sometime in the next couple of years. In the meantime, I am enjoying the adventure of learning the language.