Many people learning German want to take a language exam at some point in time.
Whether that’s to prove you’re eligible to study or live in a german-speaking country, or just because you want official proof of knowing the language, speaking exams are part of every language exam.
We can more easily prepare for the reading, listening, or writing parts of the exam, there are plenty of exercises to do online and they have solutions, which makes it very easy to get an idea of where you stand approximately and what you need to work on most.
The big question that arises is – how do I learn German for a speaking exam?
Here are some tips on how you can easily prepare yourself for a speaking exam in German:
Find example exercises for your exam
There are many institutions out there that offer German language exams.
Most institutions offer plenty of practice material on their website, and a great resource you can look into are the mock exams.
These will help you tremendously in understanding approximately what will be asked of you during the exam.
Usually, these mock exams will also include a guide outlining the criteria by which you will ultimately be judged.
This will be important later on when practicing more, so keep those in mind!
After looking at a couple of mock exams, you will most probably also notice some recurring topics.
It will be beneficial to make a list of the most common topics, as chances are good some of these might be in your exam, as well.
Find a tutor
You are preparing for a speaking exam, so the best way to practice is – you guessed it – to speak.
The great thing about tutors is that you can find a native speaker who seems really cool, and then just talk to them!
In my personal experience, I have found that this will not only help you improve your language skills, but sometimes this can even lead to friendship!
Another advantage of having a native tutor is that you simultaneously learn about the culture of a country, as well. You get an authentic insight into how people think and live.
Having a tutor will also boost your motivation to practice.
Not only are you paying for your lessons (which is a motivation on its own), but once you’ve found a tutor you click with, lessons will be fun and something to look forward to!
Speaking with native German speakers will improve your range of vocabulary, pronunciation, and most importantly your confidence!
You can tell your tutor about the criteria you will be judged by during your exam, so they can take it into consideration when giving you feedback.
Most tutors are experienced with preparing students for language exams, so they will have plenty of tips for you as well!
Practice, practice, practice
As with most things in life, you only become a better speaker by speaking more.
Try to incorporate the German language into your day-to-day life, especially in the weeks before your exam.
The more you read, listen to, and speak German, the more vocabulary and fluency you will have.
Try to think in German as often as you can! For example, on your way to work make it a habit to try and think only in German.
Or maybe you already talk to yourself sometimes. Try switching it up and do the same thing in German!
Maybe you have a friend who knows German or is also learning it. Ask them to text in German throughout the day. (Bonus points for voice messages to practice your speaking)
Watch German movies or TV shows to get a hang of the pronunciation as well as new phrases or sentence structures!
Here is a great article on why this is beneficial, as well as some great movies or shows to start with!
A thing to help you practice your pronunciation is to watch something (movie, tv-show, news) with subtitles.
When a new subtitle pops up, pause the video and speak it out loud. Unpause and compare your pronunciation to that of the native speaker.
This will not let you properly enjoy watching something, but it’s a great practice!
Listen to German podcasts when you drive your car or clean the house. Find time throughout your day to get your brain as used to the language as possible.
There are some apps like Hello Talk, that will connect you to native speakers for free and allow you to text with people from all over the world in their native language!
Boost your confidence
The biggest obstacle in language exams is usually not a lack of knowledge.
Most people know plenty of vocabulary, but the thing that stands in the way of them acing the speaking exam is often insecurity.
When learning a new language, it can be a bit scary sometimes to take the plunge and talk.
We are afraid of making mistakes, so more often than not, we’d rather not speak at all than speak with mistakes.
This can be a problem. Many speaking exams will excuse small mistakes here and there, so try to make a habit of speaking as much as possible and not caring too much about whether it was 100% correct or not.
Once you are confident enough to speak, you can work on perfecting your speaking.
Ideally, you should consider this point way before thinking of taking a speaking exam; if you are starting out with learning German, immediately work on getting confident with speaking!
Tips for your exam:
- Learn the core vocabulary of topics! Make sure you know the main nouns and their genders to talk about the different topics.
- Think about possible questions about the topics and prepare potential answers in advance.
- Avoid prolonged silence at all costs! Prepare a few phrases you could use as filler words while you are thinking. A few examples are: “Das ist eine gute Frage“, “Lassen Sie mich nachdenken“, etc.
- Think about always validating your opinion. Don’t just say “I like…”, get used to always following up with “because…” or, “I think…”
- Say as much as possible when answering questions. This will not only give the impression of you being very confident in your speaking, but it will also allow you to steer the topic towards things you know as opposed to getting questions you might not know the answer to. For example: If they ask you if you have siblings, don’t just say “I have a brother.”. Instead, say something like “Yes, I have a brother. He is older than me and studies Medicine. I want to study Medicine as well. I will study in Berlin.”
- Be prepared to speak in the past, present, and future. (unless you take an exam at level A1 of course)
- Try to stick to German throughout the exam and practice phrases like “Ich verstehe die Frage nicht“, or “Könnten Sie die Frage wiederholen?”. This will increase your credibility even when you didn’t understand the question in the first place!
Don’t be scared!
As scary as exams might seem, try to walk in with confidence in your heart.
If you studied, there is a good chance you will be okay.
The great thing about exams is that the boost of adrenaline you get (the one that doesn’t feel so great sometimes with butterflies in your stomach, nausea, and shaky hands) will actually help you immensely in remembering the things you studied for!
Take a deep breath and trust in your capabilities.