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How to Pass the A1 German Exam in 8 Steps

How to Pass the A1 German Exam in 8 Steps

Learning any language can be tough, but when you move to a new country, you need to be able to assimilate quickly. So, how can you pass your A1 German exam, hopefully with slightly more than two weeks to prepare? Let me share my tips with you!

Language learning follows a pretty standard system with A1 and A2 being beginners, B1 and B2 being intermediate, and so on. A1 is essentially the basics and I managed to pass an A1 German exam in just two weeks. 

This was because my spousal visa meant I needed to prove that I had a basic level of German. Being a Mexican-American woman from California, this was not something I had in my wheelhouse.

Also, I had a 90-day visa to get my qualifications and during this time I couldn’t find any A1 tests in Germany or the UK, so the only one I could find was in Salzburg in Austria.

The issue? It was in two weeks. My deadline was pretty much set. Here’s how I passed the A1 German exam in 8 steps:

Not feeling like reading? Here’s the Youtube video I made describing the same tips:

1. Get to Know the A1 German Exam Structure

Before we dive into all the different tips, it’s important to know the structure of the test so you know what to expect. There are four sections and they correspond to the four parts of language learning: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

To pass, you need to hit 60% across the four sections, so if you’re bad in one area, you can bring it up with another part of the test.

The speaking section is based on an image and you’ll have to talk about it. There’s a choice of three pictures, so there is a good chance you’ll know at least one of them. They’re all about professions, so brush up on jobs and roles before you go in as well as conversational pleasantries.

A quick word on the reading and writing sections, these are your basic comprehension style tests. So, when we say you need to be good at test taking rather than good at German, this is essentially what we mean.

You’ll be given a chunk of text to look at and then you’ll be given a series of questions to answer based on what you’ve read. Similarly, in the writing section, you’ll be given a letter or email from a friend who wants to learn German and has a few questions.

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You’ll need to reply with specified details and answers to their questions. It’s pretty straightforward, but it always helps to know what you’re dealing with.  

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2. Work Out What Your Weaknesses Are

Okay so because the passing grade is 60% across the combined score, you need to find out what your weaknesses and strengths are and allocate more revision time to your weaknesses.

If you know you get nervous during a conversation, but your reading comprehension is pretty good, then you’ll need to focus less on that and more on taking practice speaking tests.

What you don’t want to do is try and rely on one aspect that you’re really good at to bring up the rest of your score. As much as we practice, there is still the chance that a topic we’re not familiar with comes up, or we have a brain block on the day of the exam.

Go in prepared across the four different sections and it gives you the best chance of smashing that 60% pass mark.

3. Try Practice Tests

So practice tests. There are a ton online, I used for the majority of mine, especially the reading ones as it’s about picking out odd details rather than understanding the whole chunk of text.

If you can get used to the test formats and the style of the tests you’re going to be a lot more comfortable when you head into the real thing.

The deal with a lot of language exams is that they’re not super interested in how much you can understand or speak, they want to know if you can hit the criteria on the mark scheme. By taking plenty of practice tests, you can get a feel for what the examiners are looking for and what things and themes are likely to come up.

4. Analyze your Practice Results

After you’ve taken all these practice exams don’t just forget about the results. Whether you pass or fail them, have a look and see what tripped you up. Chances are it’ll come up again and it’s a really useful way to spot where your weaknesses are.

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If you’ve taken a test at the end of your session, use the questions that you got wrong as the start of your next revision session. By repeating the stuff you got wrong, you’re more likely to remember the correct answer moving forward. It’s a great way to really turn those weaknesses into strengths and bring up your overall percentage, ready for the exam itself. 

5. Review as a Group

If you can, try and get a couple of language learners together in a revision group. It doesn’t have to be in person, you can do it over video chat or even in a language learning forum. This way you can share useful tips and resources and help hype each other up before your big A1 exams. It helps that everyone is in the same boat and you can reassure each other if something keeps tripping you up. 

Honestly, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to revise or test yourself sometimes, even if you have a strict deadline, but if you’re working in a group there’s a sense of accountability that really helps to keep that momentum going right up until the exam day. Even if you’re not all absolute beginners, tests can be scary, so having that support system is an awesome way of keeping your language learning schedule on track!

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6. Don’t Cram!

Okay, this might sound crazy coming from someone who passed their A1 German exam in just two weeks, but if you have more time than I did, try not to cram right before the exam. It’ll just stress your brain out and it’ll be frazzled by the time you get in there.

Take the evening before and the morning off just to chill and focus. If you don’t know it by then you’re probably not going to magically get it an hour before.

Test mentality is a real thing and you kind of have to get yourself in the zone before you go in. That’s why doing a load of practice tests can be super beneficial.

You know what to expect and you’ve run the simulation a dozen or so times. You’ve done the hard work, just go in there and smash it!

7. Get a Prime Spot in the Exam Hall

So this might sound a little bit strange and you don’t normally want to seem too eager in test scenarios, but in a language learning class, desk selection is key. You want a desk that is as close as possible to the audio player. Failing that, get near to the speakers and away from any open windows.

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Despite it being the 2020s, many of the audio parts of the test still rely on ancient-looking tape players. So, with audio quality being questionable, you want to give yourself the best chance of catching every detail you can get! After all, you only get one shot at your listening section.

8. Take Notes During Your Listening (Horan) Section

The ancient listening exam tape only gets played one time, so make sure you’re paying attention and taking advantage of that extra piece of paper that they give you for taking notes. That’s what it’s designed for and you’re not going to be able to remember every detail from one run-through.

Normally in the listening section, you’ll be asked the order in which certain phrases were said and be asked about key themes that were spoken about on the tape.

This way you can consult your notes and buy yourself some extra time to make your decision, rather than scrambling to remember odd phrases and pieces of vocabulary. Brush up on your note-taking skills as part of your practice test process. In this section, it’s a genuine lifesaver!

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3 Final Tips for Passing Your A1 German Test

1. Find yourself an online teacher that you actually like.

I used Learn German with Anja on YouTube, it’s a really comprehensive channel and it’s totally free. 

2. Try and immerse yourself in the language when you’re not actively studying.

Whether that’s watching German language shows, listening to podcasts, or music in German – whatever works for you. Even if you don’t understand it, you’ll be getting a feel for the language which will really help, particularly in the speaking and listening sections.

3. Make a list of the recurring themes that come up in practice tests and brush up on that bit of vocabulary.

Common themes I found were appointments, professions, greetings, times, and months. Language exams get recycled and use largely the same topics, so you’ll be able to spot trends as you revise.