There is a saying that goes: “Never say never“— that phrase hit me right in the face. Recently one of my college friends reminded me how many years ago while sitting in our college’s cafeteria, I said firmly: “I will never learn German.” Fast forward eight years later, you would find me learning German, preparing for the Goethe-Zertifikat test: Start Deutsch 1, and… Getting ready to MOVE to Germany.  It’s crazy, right? Well, God has special ways of doing things.

What is the Goethe-Zertifikat test?

The Goethe-Zertifikat is an exam designed to measure a person’s proficiency in the German language. It is based on the six-level scale of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

This evaluation is created by the Goethe Institute, an organization that promotes the knowledge of the German language and culture internationally.

Goethe-Zertifikat test: Start Deutsch 1

According to the Goethe-Institut,  “the Goethe-Zertifikat A1: Start Deutsch 1 is a German exam for adults. It certifies that candidates have acquired very basic language skills and corresponds to the first level (A1) on the six-level scale of competence laid down in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).”

I had to take this test to fulfill all the requirements for a residence visa to move to Germany. Without this certification, my application would have been rejected without a doubt.

Structure of the Test

The exam consists of 4 parts: Listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

For the test, you will receive a booklet and an answer sheet. This booklet contains numerous activities designated for the different parts of the exam.
It’s a must to emphasize that you HAVE to fill out the answer sheet. At first, you can cross the answers in the booklet, but it’s crucial to transfer all of them to the sheet. Otherwise, you will lose those points.

The first part is listening (Hören), it’s divided into three parts and lasts approximately 20 minutes. You will hear short conversations and announcements. Later, you must complete the exercises according to the information provided in that audio.

Next is the reading session (Lesen), which lasts around 25 minutes.
This part is divided into three parts as well. You’ll read short letters, advertisements, etc. Afterward, you have to complete the tasks for every text you read.

The 3rd part of the test is writing(Schreiben), it lasts 20 minutes. In this part of the exam, you need to fill out a form and write a short text.

Lastly, the speaking (Sprechen), this part takes  15 minutes plus to be completed.  It also has three parts and will be developed in groups. First, you have to introduce yourself and answer the questions made by the examiner. The  2nd part is about asking and giving information. The 3rd and final part is making requests and responding to them. The examiner will show different cards that contain an image or a word. Each examinee will receive a card and must formulate a question for their partner related to this card.

To pass the test,  you must obtain  60% or more of the combined score.

Here is a sample booklet of the Goethe-Zertifikat test: Start Deutsch 1, provided by Goethe Institute’s website, for free. It will serve you as a model to have an idea about the structure of a real exam.

Now that we know the format, comes the most important part— preparation.

German A1 Level Content

What do you need to learn to achieve an  A1 level in German?

This is a pdf with the Menschen Kursbuch A1 content, which can serve you as a reference for the topics you should study.

The German A1 level includes:

  • Self-introduction
  • Personal pronouns and verbs in the present tense
  • The alphabet & the numbers
  • The articles: der/die/das/
  • Languages and countries
  • Verbs
  • Living & the home furnishings
  • Prepositions of time
  • The negation
  • People and hobbies
  • Prepositions of place
  • Occupations/Workplace
  • Indicators of space
  • Directions
  • Food and drinks
  • Personal pronouns in the accusative case
  • The seasons and the weather
  • Sentence connectives: conjunctions
  • Travel
  • Adjectives
  • Transportation
  • Health
  • And more…

There are different books recommended by the Goethe Institute and most of them cover almost the same subjects. Be sure to go through all the content included in this level. You don’t want to fall short and then be sadly surprised during the exam by a topic you have never seen.

Photo by Elijah Hail on Unsplash

Pre-Test Preparation 

First of all, it’s important to define your “why”. Why do you want to pass this test? Your reason will keep you going when you feel frustrated and want to give up.

Create a Road Map

If you want to achieve a goal, you need a plan. Are you going to take a course, work with a tutor, or study by yourself? Will you study daily or during the weekends?  Are you going to use a textbook or online material?  You need to define a strategy, if not, you will be overwhelmed by all the options available out there.

Set a Time Limit

How much time are you willing to spend studying?  How much time do you have to prepare for the test?

Do you have a full year or three months? Not everybody goes at the same speed, but one thing is for sure, we all need to be consistent. Define when you will take the test,  set a study schedule, and stick to it —if you don’t, you will not be ready by the time you need to.

Self-study, Tutor, or a Course?

This depends on the person, my approach was mixed. I used the Menschen A1 series and covered two units per week— concepts, vocabulary, grammar, etc. I would study and do the workbook exercises, then meet my tutor for 2 hours, during the weekends. In that meeting, I would get corrections, practice, and clarify any doubts. This study method allowed me to progress at the pace I needed.

However, you don’t have to do what I did, you can go faster or slower, take a course, or self-study. I know plenty of people who have studied completely on their own, using only online resources, and passed the test successfully too. Therefore, choose the method that works for YOU.

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

How to Prepare for the Actual Test


For this part of the exam, it’s essential to train the ear. Both books and online platforms have several audio resources that you can use to refine your listening skills. Also, on Youtube, you can find audio exercises like the ones used in previous exams.


To prepare for this session there’s no other way around it, you have to read. Practice reading short stories, texts, dialogues, etc. Imagine that someone is going to ask you specific information about that text, and be prepared to answer any question that might come up.

You can use previous test sample booklets available online to practice.  Also, I recommend the book: Easy German Dialogues: Fun & Simple Conversation Practice For Beginners And Intermediates. It has a series of dialogues and exercises very helpful to improve your reading comprehension and vocabulary.


Keep a journal where you write simple texts about different topics, in German. This will help you to structure your ideas with simplicity and clarity.

On youtube, there are multiple exercises for this session too. Search for Schreiben Goethe Zertifikat A1 and you will find countless videos to practice this part of the exam.


Preparing for the previous sessions will give you a solid foundation for this part of the exam. However, you need to practice the output regularly.

Ideally, it would be nice to have someone to practice with, but if you don’t— that should not hold you back. Memorize your self-introduction, practice so much that you can say it automatically. There are videos like this Start Deutsch 1 Sprechen A1, watch as many as possible, to exercise the way you respond.

3 Tips to Manage Time Effectively During the  Test

1Read the questions first. Whether it is the listening, reading, or writing session, always make sure you know what you are looking for— so you can focus on finding the answer within the audio or the text.

2If you don’t understand something, keep going. Don’t waste time focusing on a question or word that you don’t understand, move forward until you finish.  Then, go back and try to resolve that issue.

3Do not rush. Breath and read carefully all the requirements of each assignment, and focus on completing every task correctly.

Bonus tip: Never leave early. If you finish before the time is up, stay in your seat. Take this time to review your exam and ensure that every answer is transferred to your answer sheet. Sometimes we leave too soon and then remember the answer to a question we might have forgotten out of stress.

Facing a new challenge can be overwhelming. For some people, this process comes with a number of doubts and expectations, however, do not be disheartened.  If you put in the effort and prepare properly, passing this test will be a walk in the park, I promise.

Viel Glück bei der Prüfung!


You‘ve been reading a guest post by Génesis Villar

Génesis A. Villar is a language enthusiast, passionate about new cultures, psychology, and art. Currently, she is learning German while trying to navigate life on the west side of Germany. If you like her writing, send her a message on LinkedIn.