How to Pass the German A1 Test

***(UPDATE: Due to the popularity of this article, I wrote a book to help test takers do as well as possible: Ace the German A1 Test. You can read about it here, or go straight to the Amazon page via this link: Ace the German A1 Test. For now, the book is priced at $2.99 and is available for immediate download.)***

On this site, I tend to focus on the enjoyment and excitement of language learning. I like to promote being easy on yourself and freeing yourself up to make mistakes.

I also recognize, however, that for some of you, learning a new language isn’t all fun and games. For example, as a requirement for family reunification in Germany, the spouse coming over has to speak German at a beginner’s level, as verified by an examination.

Castle Neuschwanstein
Image Source

Now, I’m not German and I’m not an attorney, so I don’t know any specific details about immigration or the family reunification process. But I do know how to learn a language. So here are my step-by-step recommendations for learning German enough to satisfy “beginner” requirements.

1. Know what’s ahead of you

To demonstrate that you are proficient at an A1 level in German, you have to pass the A1 examination. In Germany, the two main testing services are:

What does A1 mean? It refers to the proficiency level you need to be at in German, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Language. You’ve reached the A1 level–also referred to as the beginner or breakthrough level–when you can:

  • Understand familiar, concrete expressions necessary to carry out the basic needs of day-to-day life.
  • Introduce yourself to people and give personal details.
  • Maintain limited communication with another person, provided that he or she accommodates your limitations.

So you should be able to do things like ask and tell time, buy goods, order meals, and ask for simple directions.

With both the Goethe-Institut and telc, there are two portions of the A1 exam:

  • A written examination that tests your listening, reading, and writing skills, which lasts 65 minutes.
  • An oral examination that tests your speaking skills, which lasts 10 to 15 minutes.

So you have to be able to do the following at an A1 level: listen, read, write, and speak.

To reach the A1 level, plan for about 75 total hours of studying. This means that if you study two hours a day, you could be ready in six weeks.

2. Complete a course.

Let’s say that you have a soccer game coming up in a few weeks. If you spend all your time lifting weights and running, but not playing soccer, sure you might do okay. But you would’ve been much better off learning soccer in the first place. You prepared for the wrong game.

In a way, a language test is like a game, and you have to know its rules and objectives. You have to prepare for the right game. Sure, there are a lot of ways to learn a language, including “winging” things and picking up the language haphazardly. But the easiest way to know that you’re on the right track and learning exactly what you need to know is by taking a course with a well-designed curriculum.

You have a few options:

  • Take a class. A well-designed class will ensure that you’re getting exposed to sufficient vocab and grammatical instruction, and will ensure that you are getting practice in all four language skills. The Goethe-Institut offers classes throughout the world, as well as distance-learning classes.
  • Complete the Deutsch-Warum Nicht? course. This is a self-study course put out by the German radio station Deutsche-Welle. The course contains four series that together are designed to take you from beginner to B1 level. If you complete the first two series, you will have likely covered all material needed for the A1 test.
  • Pimsleur German – If you complete levels 1 to 3 of the Pimsleur German courses, your language skills will be at about an A1 level.

Each of these courses has its own pros and cons. A class is comprehensive, but might be too expensive. Deutsch-Warum Nicht? covers all the basics, but doesn’t really reinforce any of the material it teaches with exercises or drills. Pimsleur is great for drills and pronunciation, but it doesn’t teach explicit grammar (which might be necessary for a test), and its reading component is not as fleshed out as its listening component.

If you have the time and money, you could even take two of these courses at the same time.

German Kindergarteners in a Parade
Image Source

3. Fill in the holes.

No matter which course you decide to take, it might not teach you everything you need to know for a test. So fill in any gaps in your knowledge by doing other activities:

  • Take additional Deutsche-Welle courses. I like Deutsch-Warum Nicht? for its comprehensiveness, but DW offers several other courses for German learners.
  • Work with a tutor. If you don’t take a class, you’ll need to practice your speaking with someone. No matter how much you talk to yourself or study on your own, you’ll need to get some verification that your pronunciation is intelligible and that you’re putting words together adequately correctly.
  • Take part in a language exchange. If a tutor is too pricey, you can find German partners who are willing to offer a language exchange for free. You help them learn your native language, and they help you learn German. It’s a great way to get speaking practice. My favorite language exchange site is iTalki.
  • Study GLOSS material. The US military’s Defense Language Institute offers language-learning material via its Global Online Support System (GLOSS). You can search for German lessons and study the materials at the 1 or 1+ level (A1 and A2 respectively).

Really try to make sure you’re getting enough practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Do not cut corners with any single skill. For most people, speaking is the most difficult skill to do well at, so you might need extra help and practice with that. But at the beginners’ level, any improvements you make in the other skills will have a positive effect on your speaking.

4. Prepare for the test.

There’s a big difference between studying in a relaxed environment and performing under test conditions.

Go to the Goethe Institut or telc website and find practice tests, and then take as many tests as you can find. Additionally, if you work with a teacher, tutor, or language exchange partner, ask them to give you a mock speaking test and tell you how you’re doing.

Then on the day of the test, go in relaxed and confident, knowing that you’ve prepared properly.

Wrapping Up

The A1 test isn’t to be taken lightly, but it’s not impossible either. It’s a very basic test, and it’s not designed to throw any curveballs at you. If you go about things intelligently, you can pass this test and not have to worry about it ever again.

  • Ocularis

    Thank you so much for such information… very helpful as i am to take the a1 exam on march 28 and i have less than 20 days to review…

    • Ron G.

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes. Definitely take the practice tests at the Goethe website to see how close you are.

    • Ron G.

      How did it go?

      • Ocularis

        hi! i was about to give you the news last night but it slipped out my mind.. haha
        anyway, by God’s grace, i did it!! =)

        • Ron G.

          Hey, congratulations! I’m so glad to hear that! So awesome.

  • thetravelinggym

    Thank you

  • natasha setal

    So much things about the German A1 now I’m confuse :( & I have an exam this month….

    • Ron G.

      Hi Natasha! I’d like to help you if I can. Anything you’re having trouble with? If I can, I’d like to help you figure it out.

      By the way, I saw this video this month and thought it was interesting. It’s the A1 speaking test:

      • Guest

        Thanks for replying …. What should I do with the given words&pictures in the sample exam?can I write about myself in the written part?

      • natasha setal

        Thanks for replying……what should I do with the given words&pictures in the sample exam?can I write about myself in the written part(letter)?

        • Ron G.

          Hi Natasha. I’m not sure which practice exam you’re using. As far as the written part, I don’t believe you have to write a full letter. (That is much more difficult than A1-level.) According to the test prep materials, for the written portion you have to a) fill out a form, and b) Reply to a prompt with short answers (one or two sentences).

          I recommend using this exam to get started because it’s compiled together neatly:

          So there are two things to download there: the listening files, and the PDF with the written component.

          For all the listening portions, you have to a) read the instructions/questions in the PDF, and b) listen to the corresponding audio in the MP3 files.

        • Ron G.

          Hi Natasha — Ignore my earlier response because I did some more research to give you a better answer.

          Okay, with the written section, it consists of two parts. The first is filling in a form. The second is writing a short letter of about thirty words. Unfortunately, in the letter, you can’t talk about yourself. You have to follow the writing prompt. In the practice exam on both TELC and Goethe, it says that you are planning a trip to a city. So in your letter you write their tourist information office for information about museums, theaters, etc. Be sure to use a greeting (like, Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren) and a closing salutation (like, Viele Grüßen).

          As far as those pictures, I think you’re referring to the speaking portion. The person with the card asks the question related to the card, and the other person responds. These are simple sentences. So if you have a picture of a bottle opener, you’d ask something like:

          – Haben Sie einen Flaschenöffner?

          And the person you asked responds:
          – Ja, ich habe einen Flaschenöffner.

          Make sense?

          • natasha setal

            Thanks I think so … :) I’m working on it right away..I’m not really good at english forgive my errors…

          • Ron G.

            Nothing to worry about–your English is great. I’m sure you’ll do fine on the test too.

          • natasha setal

            You have no idea how nervous I am thanks tho

          • natasha setal

            Sorry to bother you but I really don’t know how to go about the letter :”( can you help me please?my speaking is okay ..also I know how to fill out a simple form…when it’s on to da letter part I’m blank :(

          • Ron G.

            Hi Natasha, no worries! Okay, so I’m referencing this page:

            After the form, it goes to Schreiben – Teil 2 (Writing – Part 2).

            It says that you’re visiting Dresden and you want info from the Tourist Information office. So your task is to write a short letter (about 30 words) getting info for your trip. (This is just the example for the practice test. The real test will have a different scenario.)

            So in this example, you have to fill out five parts:

            – A greeting (like, Dear so-and-so)

            – A brief explanation on why you’re writing

            – A request for info on cultural programs (films, the theater, etc.)

            – A request for info on hotel addresses

            – A closing (Sincerely, )

            On that page, click the link at the bottom that says “10 Punkte” to see an answer that would get full credit.

            Here’s info on how to write salutations:

          • natasha setal


  • natasha setal

    Well I took da exam …. Thursday …. I don’t think I pass :( waiting for da result …

    • Ron G.

      Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that. Was there any one part that gave you trouble? When are you allowed to take it again?

      • natasha setal

        I don’t get da result …well da talking part … da next exam will be July … I hope I pass …..cause I don’t wanna go through all dat again . …lol

        • natasha setal

          By da way I’ll know if I pass in a month time …that’s so long ….

          • Ivon Ne

            By THE way. It is VERY annoying to see da instead of THE

  • bhagyashree

    how to recognize articles?????

    • Ron G.

      Are you talking about der/die/das?

      • shashikanth sagunala

        Hi, I am a software engineer planing for MS in Germany, how about the opportunities after completion of MS, I have a total 4.8 years of experience as Windows and VMware administrator.

        Could you please reply me here or to my mail id:

        • Ron G.

          I don’t know for sure, to be honest, and I have to be careful about passing along this kind of knowledge because I don’t want people making life plans based on what I’m saying, since I’m by no means an expert in European immigration.

          What I can say is that Germany, Austria, and Switzerland all have immigration programs, and from what I understand, they hire skilled technical workers; there’s a lot of IT and engineering work that requires your skills. And having knowledge of German is a part of their immigration process. …whatever you decide, good luck!

  • Anita Kafle

    Hello !How Can Pass the German Language A1 Exam Please Help me . I Want Pass the A1 Exam. Please Provide The A1 Exam Practice

  • mayuresh naik

    this is a great blog
    I completed my A1 and now i am moving ahead to learn A2.

  • Remya Ramakrishnan

    really thanks a lot for the post. I plan to take A1 level exam on Aug 2015. Would you suggest me a book for self learning to pass A1 level?

    • Ron G.

      Hi Remya! I know I’m biased, but I really suggest my book:

      It doesn’t teach you German, but it tells you how to prepare for the test. There’s also a checklist of 500 vocab words you need to know, and a grammar checklist.

    • sudip midya

      join a class if you really want to pass, don’t take chance, believe me, the vocab is too big, this book is no match about content and type of questions, you will fail miserably if you just follow any book

  • Meliana Tesa

    Hi guys check my blog about how to pass german a1 exam without course at :

  • Stufe Ein

    Ron, I bought your Kindle book, and it has been great prep. I take the test on 24 September and I’m more concerned with getting a high grade than passing, thanks in part to your very helpful book.

    • Ron G.

      Hi, Stufe! Thanks for the note. Good luck! I bet you’ll do just fine. Please let me know how it goes!

    • Ron G.

      Hi, Stufe. How did you do on the exam?

  • Ana MLl

    Please Help!!! Im having the A1 Test on Thuerday! (everything was very Quickly, i got an offering to travel to Germany as an AuPair but I need the A1 Certification for the Visa) I’ve been in German Clases since last Year’s August, it’s a fast pase course but still im very worried, my German teacher told me that indeed it was a dificult test and told me that I wouldn’t be able to make ( i.i ) still i need to have the exam and obviosly have at least a 60% of it done correctly, fot those who already went through this, just tell me how similar is the exam (talking about content ) from the ones tha Goethe offer as practice.

    Thank you very much :)

    • Ron G.

      Hi Ana,

      When I took the exam, it was very similar to the Goethe practice test. There may have been slight variations in the vocab, but the subject matter is the same and the overall level of difficulty is the same as well.

      With only a few days left, the best thing to do is memorize as much as you can for the speaking portion.

      If you want, email me at and I’ll give you some hints on that.

  • Saif El Khateeb

    I have my test on Thursday and i’m really stressed out, but i’ll go solve Goethe Institut sample tests now and I took a course there so I should be fine right??

  • Alexa A Ferguson

    HI, my daughter is about to take the A1 test in about two weeks. I have two questions: what is the passing grade? and how long does it take to get your results?

  • Nafi Khan

    What is the passing score for A1 level Exam ?