Exam preparation The new-look Goethe-Zertifikat A2

Good preparation helps in an exam situation.
Good preparation helps in an exam situation. | Photo (detail): © Lumina Images – Fotolia.com

The Goethe-Zertifikat A2 has been redesigned and is now more oriented towards day-to-day communication behaviour. If exam candidates are to demonstrate their best performance, teachers need to prepare them specifically for the test.

As of 1st April 2016, the new Goethe-Zertifikat A2 has replaced the previous examinations, Start Deutsch 2 für Erwachsene and Fit in Deutsch 2 für Jugendliche. There are numerous reasons why the exams are reviewed regularly: generally speaking it ensures that test papers are always updated to include the latest specialist knowledge and are in line with current social developments.

For this reason the new exam format of the Goethe-Zertifikat A2 focuses more intensively on digital forms of communication by using WhatsApp messages, text messaging or email in reading and writing exercises. Furthermore the revised version constitutes a more realistic precursor to the Goethe-Zertifikat B1 by testing speech fluency and more complex sentence structures. It also helps to counteract the predictable character of tasks, especially where productive skills are involved. This makes it possible to avoid memorising passages for the exam.

What’s new?

The exam versions for adults and young people are equivalent to each other in the new Goethe-Zertifikat A2. In other words the tests are identical both in structure and in implementation, the only difference being the themes used. These continue to be oriented to the environment in which the target group lives.

The reading and listening parts of the exam consist of closed tasks. The reading and listening parts of the exam consist of closed tasks. | Photo: © Bernhard Ludewig/Goethe-Institut Whilst the duration and text volume of the exam remain the same, the number of tasks has however increased. Using this approach, it is possible to check whether and how well the candidates’ performances are in line with the can-do statements of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Gemeinsamer Europäischer Referenzrahmen für Sprachen - GER). Further, the higher number of measuring points increases the reliability of the examination – the dependability of the results. In contrast with the previous tests, the reading and listening areas now only contain closed-task formats as well.

In order to pass the exam, candidates must now score 60 percent of the points for the entire written section (reading, listening, writing: a total of at least 45 points), as well as for the spoken section (at least 15 points). The four parts of the test are evenly balanced with each worth 25 percent, which is also new for the young students. Until 2016, the oral part of Fit in Deutsch 2 was weighted more heavily at 30 percent with less weight on the written paper (20 percent).

General preparation for examinations

To familiarise students with an exam format, the teacher should introduce the students to the construct of the individual components of the exam (see pages 35, 43, 49 and 53 in the handbook). This shows which skills are being tested with the individual tasks, and which type of task is being used to achieve this. As a result the exam candidates know exactly what challenges they will face.

The following parameters of the two receptive units of the exam, reading and listening, are specified in the handbook:
With the Activity parameter, which defines what the learners are required to do – for example understanding instructions – the text type (for example listing with reading passages and speaking with listening passages) is self-explanatory. The understanding goal – global, selective or detailed understanding, or a combination – varies in the individual tasks depending on activity and text type. It automatically defines the intended reading or listening style. A careful and precise approach to reading or listening, also termed detailed reading or listening, implies a slow, thorough method. With investigative and selective reading/listening methods, the aim is to find specified places in the text quickly and efficiently, and understand them. Speed-reading or global listening on the other hand enables students to pick out the key points.

Other aspects to be taken into account are the task format, the number of items and the allocated time. Teachers should not underestimate the time factor and therefore the time management involved. After all, the exam is not just about whether the candidates understand the texts in enough depth and are able to complete the tasks, it’s also vital that they are able to manage that in the time allocated.

The speaking section of the exam can be practised in the classroom too. The speaking section of the exam can be practised in the classroom too. | Photo (detail): © Bernhard Ludewig/Goethe-Institut Unlike the writing section of the exam, in which both tasks focus on interaction, the speaking part also tests monologue speaking.

With both writing and speaking the exam candidates have to produce different text types (text messaging and email for writing; conversations and descriptions for speaking). The domain defined by the text or speech environment is a key aspect of both examination areas. Depending on whether a text or conversation belongs in the private or (semi-) public sphere, the exam candidates have to select between an informal or (semi-) formal register. In other words they have to communicate in a way that is appropriate to both the speaking partner and the situation. As well as the format and tense parameters, they also need to take text length into account for the writing tasks.

Specific tips for exam preparation

  • Familiarise the learners with the text type used in each task, and practise the intended reading and listening styles.
  • Select texts that arouse students’ interest. That helps them to be more focused and able to absorb the text content more effectively.
  • With listening, practise one-off listening in particular to train their concentration.
  • Work with vocabulary relevant to the exam. In the exam the candidates are expected to have at least a secure receptive knowledge of it (refer to the list in the handbook).
  • Practise coping with unknown words. Learners should be used to working out unknown words from the overall context, and not allowing this to hold them up.
  • Practise the practical language skills and strategies needed for handling tasks within the disciplines of writing and speaking (refer to the list in the handbook).
  • Practise dialogue speaking in the form of role play.
  • Familiarise learners with ad-lib connected speech from an early stage.
  • Look at the examples from the speaking section on the Goethe-Institut website with the learners. These are helpful for alleviating anxiety about the oral exam.
  • Make sure the students are confident about the structure and formal aspects of the exam (exam times, announcements, answer paper).
  • Analyse the solutions after working on a model sentence: why is a particular answer correct and why are the others wrong?
A new exam format represents a challenge for everyone involved – examiners, teachers and of course the exam candidates. For this reason if students are to be successful in the exam it is essential to give them exam preparation in which they work intensively on the formats and strategies.


Hennemann Doris/Karamichali, Ekaterini/Perlmann-Balme, Michaela/Stelter, Claudia (2015): Goethe-Zertifikat A2 Deutschprüfung für Jugendliche und Erwachsene. Prüfungsziele und Testbeschreibung (Handbuch). Munich: Hueber Verlag.

Maenner, Dieter (2016): Deutsch Prüfungstraining. Goethe-Zertifikat A2. Berlin: Cornelsen.

Schaefer, Brigitte/Werff, Frauke van der (2016): Fit fürs Goethe-Zertifikat A2 / Fit in Deutsch. Deutschprüfung für Jugendliche. Munich: Hueber Verlag.