In a previous post I told you about Project revive my German and my new three-month goal: passing the Goethe Institute C1 German exam. The pass mark is 60%. Here’s the good news: I got 85.5%. A result!
Now I’m sharing what I did to develop my advanced reading, writing, speaking and reading skills before the exam.
I stress the importance of exam technique at the end, but this post does not go into the detailed rubric of the Goethe C1 German. Instead, it’s packed with a host of practical tips to help you develop advanced learning skills whatever your language and not just if you’re taking an exam. If you’re doing and exam – at whatever level – check out the post on “How to pass a foreign language exam“, too.
Planning your Goethe C1 pass strategy
Get an assessment of your current German level
Before you get down to serious work for the exam, you need to be ruthlessly objective about your current level of German.
I had not studied (or used) German actively for many years and so the first step for me was getting a clear sense of what level my German was at.
I had an assessment at the Goethe Institut in London. They offer these for free before the start of each teaching semester and they are part of the preparation (and recruitment!) process for their taught courses.
If you have recently completed a course or a lower exam, you may already have a good idea of your level, strengths and weaknesses.
On the other hand, if you’re in a similar position to me, try to get a face-to-face assessment. If there’s a fee you can’t afford and you’re working with a teacher, ask for their view at the outset. You could also search for an automatic online assessment, though these vary in quality.
My original plan had been to go straight for the C2 exam and I was initially disappointed when the assessor said that she thought I was on the border between B2 and C1 (even though she added “higher for speaking”).
In the end, though, an objective view helped me to reflect more accurately on my previous extensive engagement with German.
I had spoken and listened a lot during three years living in Germany (years and years ago). I had read quite a bit then and since, but less than I would have liked. I had done very little writing. I was on a wonky plateau.
The key is to be absolutely honest with yourself about where you are.
Then you can choose your level realistically.
I could have gone for C2 instead of C1. If more than one level would be a possibility for you, it depends on your outlook. Do you see more benefit in consolidating or do you think there’s more value in shooting for the stars?
> If you’re unsure of your level, strengths and weaknesses, get an assessment!
Set a solid accountability framework
If you’re anything like me, you’re not to be 100% trusted to stick to any plan, so box yourself in
Once you assessment has got you clearer on your level and which skills need most work is needed, the next step is to make the study and practice happen.
Be sure to make your goal specific (to sit the exam, read novel X, give a five-minute talk at meeting Y or whatever).
Make sure you have a clear time-frame. As I argued at the beginning of my German project, three-month time-frames: long enough to make noticeable progress, not so long as to risk a lack of focus.
Box yourself in as far as you can.
First, make yourself accountable.
I did this by getting the support of a community of learners. I joined the Add1Challenge (my main review of the format is here).
If you have the means, you may prefer to get a language coach.
If not, consider reporting back to a friend.
Second, as I argued in detail my second Project revive my German, log your progress from start to finish. You can do this with an accountability sheet (through the Add1Challenge, your own spreadsheet, or by simply emailing that friend at the beginning of the week with your intentions, and at the end with your achievements).
You could try making sound recordings of reading aloud or Skype conversations. Just for yourself or to share with your support group, teacher or friend.
Third, as far in advance as you can, book your lessons or language tandems. It makes skipping regular study much more difficult.
To up the stakes, I also booked my exam at the Goethe Institut Berlin in good time (the London Goethe Institut does not hold the C1 exam so often).
Then I booked the flight.
The stakes were duly upped. I’d put my money and time where my mouth was. The exam date: 18 December, slap bang in the middle of the pre-Christmas party season. Ummm. Not ideal – but, hey, did I want this, or not?
Fourth, set yourself a reward.
Mine was a couple of days afterwards to enjoy the lovely Christmas atmosphere in Berlin. Glühwein, bitte!
>Don’t rely on your willpower or your mood. With the support of others, make quitting as hard as possible, in terms of social pressure and your pocket.
> Don’t forget to schedule a nice reward at the end. Your system will mean you’ll have earned it!
What materials should you use to prepare for the Goethe C1 exam?
When you’re at the C level with German, you may catch yourself feeling that a textbook is somehow beneath you.
A well designed textbook can provide a systematic framework to your preparation.
Sometimes its good to be led step-by-step through a syllabus. Self-directed learning is all very well, but if you only focus on structures that you feel are difficult, you may overlook ones you feel confident in but, where you still, actually, have a thing or two to learn.
You’re not the first person to reach this level. If the authors are worth their salt, they will have focussed in on the recurring difficulties of a language. Some of these are likely to be yours, even if you don’t realise it at the beginning of your preparation.
At the same time, the textbook will include lots of material on the most sophisticated structures and will get you practising different registers and communication strategies.
It obviously helps if the book is bespoke to your exam board.
The textbook I chose Mittelpunkt neu C1 Lehr- und Arbeitsbuch from publishers Klett (two volumes, C1.1, C1.2, with 4 accompanying CDs). It deals with the Goethe exam and also other exams at a similar level: DSH; telc; TestDaF and even has a complete mock Goethe C1 paper at the back with answers.
It’s good advice when you’re in the earlier stages of a language to focus on things that you feel you personally need and that you enjoy. Not at this level, matey. Now it’s all about pushing yourself out of your topic comfort zone and stepping up to meet the expectations of others.
A textbook will force you to consolidate and broaden your vocabulary by providing you with topics to read about and discuss beyond your pet interests.
Make sure your book has audio, exercises and answers so that you can use it to the full on your own.
To reinforce your self-study, you should also use the book with your teacher. I pdfed my teachers copies of the pages I wanted to discuss in lessons.
My textbook had quite a comprehensive grammar summary at the back but at this level – as you aspire towards mastery – you need to know the byways as well as the highways or your language and you may appreciate a good comprehensive grammar book in which to check those finer points.
For German, I use Hamer’s German Grammar and Usage. Hamer’s has a separately sold workbook with answers Practising German Grammar. For other languages, try to find a similar comprehensive but accessible option, with exercises you can correct yourself.
A good dictionary whether on-line or – in my case (you guessed it) – a proper hard copy is also an invaluable tool.
You can download a full past paper from the Goethe Institute website. But there’s only one. See what’s out there from your chosen examination board.
Halfway through my preparation, I discovered an excellent exam training book, Prüfungstraining Goethe-Zertificat C1 (publisher: Cornelsen).
As the title suggests, it is entirely focussed on the Goethe C1 exam. It contains a detailed description of all four parts of the exam, with useful tips. It also includes four full “mock” papers (including two C2 containing the material for the listening test), with the answers at the back.
In the month before the exam, working with this book came to dominate my preparation.
If you’re doing Goethe C1, I strongly advise that you use this book (or one of the similar texts on the market). For other languages/exams, try to find something similar. Always check the very latest syllabus details from your board online as well.
Long term skill building to prepare for the exam: my war on four fronts
The Goethe exam tests each of the four skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) in a separate sections (as do many other exams). You get 25% for each section and you have to pass (reach 60%) in each.
Even if you’re not sitting an exam, you can’t excel at an advanced level without developing all four skills.
During the first half of my three-month project, I was engaged in general consolidation of the four skills, with little reference to the exam. I was doing things that I knew I’d still be doing for years to come, after the exam.
Here’s an insight into how I spent the time and some ideas for you:
Listening skills development
Along with the other passive skill – reading – you can develop and practise listening skills on your own, without the aid of a teacher.
In addition to making use of the audio material that came with my course book, I listened to at least an hour of good quality speech radio a day. I built this into my normal routine. German radio replaced English or Russian as the accompaniment to my morning shower and my evening meal.
I love radio, but it’s not everyone’s thing.
If you’re more into video, watching the evening news on TV, watch one of the evening shows in your target language. Or explore other speech-heavy genres on TV or on YouTube. The materials available with a widely spoken language like German are obviously practically limitless.
Do anything you can to turn passive listening to active engagement. You could retell the gist of what you’ve just heard or sit down to listen for a set amount of time with a clipboard and pen to note down structures and words for review the following day.
My result for Hören/Listening was 23.5/25 (94% – sehr gut).
Reading skills development
Your course book will contain a variety of carefully-selected texts. You should also be reading as much additional stuff as you can.
Newspapers and magazines, on paper or online, are a good source for varied vocab.
More popular publications may be more difficult (richer in early idiomatic expressions) and – in the context of an exam which emphasises higher registers – therefore less suitable (though great for your colloquial language otherwise, just like Facebook feeds). I actually found I didn’t have much time to read any of this sort of material and mainly relied on the course book.
The extra German reading I did was in my usual reading time – in bed in the morning or to help me get to sleep. I was also reading a set of Thomas Mann short stories. Factual books, especially covering a wide range of topics are also a good use of your time. I was reading Bildung by Dietrich Schwanitz, an encyclopaedic survey of European history and culture. Both choices were things that were on my shelf among many other German titles and I wanted to read anyway.
At this level, no text will be too difficult, though some will certainly be more challenging than others. I found the rich vocab, deliberately literary structure and sophisticated plot of Thomas Mann is much more challenging than a more factual book like Bildung, for example, for all Bildung‘s wide scope.
When I read, I underline words I don’t know. I deliberately don’t have dictionary by my side because it interrupts my flow. If an unknown recurs in the text, I often find that by the time it comes up again later in the text (if it does), I’ve worked out the meaning. It’s very rare that a single word is so important and unguessable that I feel I have to stop and check it in a dictionary.
The intention is always to go back later and go though the underlined words with a dictionary as a separate exercise. I almost never get round to this.
For Lesen/Reading, I ended up with 18/25 (72% – befiedigend). This was the one result I was disappointed with. I felt it undervalued my abilities and I don’t think my method of developing the skill was at fault (take issue in the comments if you disagree). I’ll come back to this result when I discuss exam technique at the end of the post.
>To make consistent study more likely to happen, tweak existing habits try to build your passive exposure into your routine, for example with audio or reading material when on your commute.
>Try and make your engagement with the passive skills of reading and listening as interactive as possible: retell what you’ve heard, take notes and review. Underline new words in your texts or try to write a summary.
Speaking skills development
As I don’t live in a German-speaking environment and I decided to use tutors as my main source of speaking practice.
For reasons of convenience, I took lessons online with Skype, booking through italki.com.
I worked Daniela, whom I know from the Polyglot Workshop in Budapest and who was learning Czech in the last Add1Challenge. I also worked with two other excellent teachers, Laura and Klaus. During the three-month project, I aimed for three, half-hour sessions a week.
A language tandem is the obvious free alternative, but will take double the time (or more if you find it difficult to find a reliable partner).
If you live somewhere where your target language is widely spoken, the teacher or tandem partner may not be so important for simple speaking practice, but see what else I’ve got to say below on making the most of a teacher at this level.
Even though I’m not in a German-speaking environment, there are things I could have done in London to Germanify my world: going to meetups, getting involved with the German community in London.
However you do it, the key with your speaking, is to make sure you’re being forced beyond your usual plateaued speech and your pet topics and that you are getting active feedback on your performance. Teachers and tandem partners can really help here. In “real life” situations, people may be too rushed or otherwise reluctant to help you).
The more mistakes you make (before the exam) in the active skills of speaking and writing, the better! Boosting your mistake rate and hence your growth here requires the help of other people.
For Sprechen/Speaking my result was 25/25 (100% – sehr gut). I’m not complaining (though there’s a lot a still want to do to take my spoken German forward).
>At this level, as at all levels, speak as much as you can with as many people as you can in as many situations a possible.
> Make the most of your teacher or tandem partner for the honest feedback and correction it can be difficult to get in “real life” speaking situations.
Writing skills development
Written language is less forgiving of mistakes than spoken.
In the first half of the project, I was translating short pieces into German, working with a little old book that I found second hand years ago called German Prose Composition for Sixth Forms by W. M. Dutton. I haven’t yet found anything new that’s similar. I assume this is due to translation being somewhat “out of fashion” as a learning technique.
I know the arguments against written translation: it’s not “natural” skill you’d use in “real life”, it takes you out of the “flow” of your target language the risk that interference from your mother tongue will be greater.
Yet to me, translation really put you through your paces. Your scope for licence in saying “more or less” what you mean is so much reduced.
Searching for exactly the right word forces you to think about precise distinctions that you may gloss over in free written composition or in conversation.
When you have a written Anglicism corrected, the differences between English and your target language are thrust in your face.
That may be frustrating, but it’s also a good learning experience.
Try some written translation if time allows and let me know whether you agree.
During the final six weeks or so, I laid Dutton aside and switched to writing the short essays set in the mock papers, following the exact format of the exam. I didn’t allow myself to use a dictionary or any other reference material.
How about getting feedback on your writing?
At the start of the project, I created an account on Lang8.com.
There you can post writing in your target language and have it corrected by another member (hopefully a native speaker). The service is free but you give back by correcting of 0ther learners’ work in your own native tongue in return. Helping other learners feels great.
I enjoyed using the site and will start doing so again. That said, as I cranked up my preparation, I wanted the reliability of my own tutors’ direct feedback on longer texts.
I mailed my written work to my tutors before a lesson and using chunks of lesson time to have them correct it live.
Beforehand my project I was sure at a general level that I needed more practice writing.
The act of writing and having my work corrected really highlighted specific weaknesses, which I could then address with the teacher or by circling back to the text- and grammar books.
Some of these weaknesses were predictable – I knew at the start that I was still finding adjectival endings difficult. Others, such as a tendency to revert to English punctuation, or slips in sentence structure were exposed by my tutors’ eyes.
Again, the tutor correction process really sears a point into your consciousness.
Mistake by mistake, the better you get.
> Writing flushes the structural cracks and the interference from your native tongue into the open like nothing else.
> Take time with a teacher to go through your written work. Embrace those mistakes and practice, practice, practice.
My result for Schreiben/Writing – 19/25 (76% – befriedigend).
I felt this was a fair result. I could have done better on the day, could have done worse.
I’ll be continuing both with translations and free German composition in the months to come.
What else could I be doing? What else do you do?
There is certainly scope for less formal writing that I haven’t taken full advantage of. Both italki and Lang8 have journal functions that I have yet to experiment with. Have you tried them? I could have used the written language to keep in touch with German-speaking friends via email or social media. I do too little of this at the moment. I could also have tried to blog in German….mmm (searches in vain for excuse…). On to the next section!
Using a teacher to prepare for the Goethe C1 German exam
Be clear about what you need from your teacher at this level and take the lead in making sure you are getting it.
You’re already long familiar with the entire structures and patterns of the language, so you won’t be looking to your teacher to present new structures but you may probably still need to review some of them.
Only ask as a last resort, though. Use your textbook and reference grammar on your own if you can, to conserve your paid face-to-face time for speaking and written correction.
I went back to the books for a refresher and practise with case endings, gender and irregular plurals to strengthen the bases of my speaking and writing. I then asked my teachers to keep an extra ear open for my performance in these areas of weakness.
Your initial assessment will have helped you get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses across the four skills and you can ask your teacher to put special emphasis on your weaker skills.
I knew I needed to do a lot a writing practice and used the lessons to correct writing I submitted in advance.
Involve your tutor as much as possible in the process of interweaving of the four skills and activation of your knowledge: read out loud to your tutor for accent and intonation. Talk freely about what you’ve written and about what you’ve been listening to and reading in outside your class time.
Teachers can also help you correct fossilised mistakes that you may not be aware of.
They can also help you enrich and refine your language use.
They can pull you up on matters of intonation and accent.
As you’re already a fluent speaker, you may find it tempting (as I did) to spend too much lesson time in general chit-chat, feeling vaguely good about your abilities, but firmly in your comfort zone.
It’s good to talk but, once you’ve warmed up, move on to squeeze every minute out of your lesson time.
In the first weeks, I made sure we were working with the textbook which provide a structured fund of topics for discussion. Each chapter of my book had a subject topic and stressed particular grammatical points and communicative goals.
Prepare in advance for your lessons. Review what you did last time. Look ahead to the material you’re going to use together (and both be clear in advance, roughly what you’re going to be doing).
German C1 exam technique training: the fifth front
The second six weeks or so of my three-month project I continued listening to the radio and reading as much as possible in my spare time but for my focussed study, I used the textbook less and moved to familiarisation with the exam in the narrow sense.
Here are four things to do to prepare for the exam format:
First, get to know the structure of the exam really well. Check the latest requirements yourself, don’t assume your teacher is up to speed on this. Most teachers probably have more beginning students than advanced and may be so familiar with your exam. Regulations also change.
How many sections or papers are there? How much time is allocated for each section and how are marks allocated?
My Goethe exam had the four parts, Reading, 70 mins, Writing, 80 mins, Listening, 40 mins and Speaking 15 mins. Each section was worth 25 points.
How are the sections subdivided and what exactly are the tasks and the internal allocation of marks?
What is the precise nature of each task?
Here I return to the Goethe Reading 2. I never felt fully confident with my technique for this section, neither (to me) were the written instructions clear. There’s no point complaining. An exam has to take a fixed approach. I was aware of it in advance but I didn’t bottom it out.
Second, given the structure and tasks, get a sense of “what the examiners are looking for”. This may well not be obvious from an examination of the syllabus or past papers. The board may publish more detailed guidance (Goethe also publishes marking guidelines).
My exam book may also point out what was expected and gave useful tips, such as that short “telegraphic” answers were acceptable in the first listening question.
In the Goethe written essay and mini lecture the exam book stressed the importance of a clear structure (beginning, middle and end) and of flagging this explicitly as you go through.
Third, practise past papers.
I worked through the one official Goethe C1 past paper available for download from the Institut. I then, during the last three and a half weeks before the exam, I did all four of the mock papers in my training book.
If you think stamina might be an issue for you, consider doing the hearing/writing and listening parts of a mock exam over one morning (the speaking test you’ll obviously need a teacher for).
I did not feel the need to sit a whole day’s exam or even a whole section at once but each time I took a question, I did it under “exam conditions” – no dictionary or reference works, strict timing. I was able to correct myself with the answers in my book, except for the written mini essay, which I had a teacher review.
Working through the past papers also made me fully aware of precisely the sorts of challenges I was facing.
Using the stopwatch made me clear on two things: first, how time pressure makes certain tasks much harder.
In the Goethe listening test in particular, you don’t have long to record your answers.
Second, how to allocate time within tasks and where the pressure points were likely to be.
You have 65 minutes for the Goethe C1 mini essay. I found it quite enough, but I needed to be clear on how much time to devote to pre-planning and post-checking.
Practice also made me aware of the expressions I’d be likely to need for the active parts of the exam, the written essay and the mini lecture and debate.
The Goethe mini essay, for example, is structured around data in graphic form (for example numbers of participants in different sports in Germany, differentiated by age or gender; a breakdown of the most popular choices of career). It’s good to practise expressions to do with comparison, quantities and tendencies and to be sure you know the genders of graph/table/percentage and so on. Aspects of the content and structure of the textbook suddenly made more sense.
If mock papers are hard to come by, as I’ve found with the Russian TRKI exams, simulate as closely as possible.
Fourth, informed by your knowledge of the time and mark allocation, any commentary on the exam you can find (I had the tips form the training book) and your growing experience of past papers, consider tactics.
For example. Goethe writing 2 involves filling in blanks in a letter. It is only worth 5 points and fifteen minutes are allocated. In contrast, question 1 is freehand 200 word mini-essay, which involves commenting on some data presented in a table. It is worth 20 points and 65 minutes are allocated.
You get both questions at once.
As it’s likely that you’ll be able to do question 2 in under 10 minutes, there’s a lot of sense in getting this question out of the way first, so that you can relax into the main gig.
The point is, formulate your own ideas on what you’re happiest doing. Try to be as familiar as you can and be clear on your approach before the exam.
That way there’s much less room for surprise. You can go into the exam on top of the format and let the language flow.
A result….and on to C2!
So that’s it. It worked quite well. At 85% my overall result was only “gut” not “sehr gut” (for which you need 90%+) but it’s mission accomplished. I was over the ninety in listening and speaking I did appreciate that 100% in the spoken section.
Next for me: the Goethe C2 exam or Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom, sometime in the next year.
After a few weeks off at the beginning of the year, I’m already studying German again and looking forward to blogging on the adventure.
Are you working on your advanced language skills at the moment? Do you agree with my approach? Would you do anything differently? I’d love to hear your story and your views.
Related posts you might also like
German listening practice on steroids (a neglected technique)
Project revive my German: three lessons for your language learning
Logging your language learning (and an update on Project Revive my German)
My Russian third certificate results (one of a series of posts on Russian C1 – similar issues to German C1 challenges)
Congratulations Gareth, 85/100 is a great result!
Hope to see you in a few weeks time!
I found this very interesting. I don’t speak German but am instead am a graduate of Russian. I am taking the C1 (3-й уровень) soon and wondered whether you had any tips. I live in the UK and would say listening is my weakest area. Well done on the exam result!
Glad you found it useful Matt. As it happens, I’m planning to do the TRKI 3rd Certificate (C1) Russian myself in London in June. I’m planning on blogging on that soon. We can email in the meantime (see contact section above) and talk tactics 🙂
Absolutely great post! Very helpful! I am thinking about going up for the C2 exam in 2.5 months, but my current level is only B1. It’s more of a ‘ shooting for the stars’ kind of thing that will help me learn more German than I would if ‘ only’ aimed for B2. The C2 exam has the same modules as C1, right? Would you recommend using the same tactic as you did for C1? I have about 3 hours every day. Thanks so much!
I’m glad you found the post useful, Esther. I’m aiming for C2 next as well, though, as I said in first blog post on my German project, I prefer to savour the journey. As I understand it, the structure of the exam is broadly the same at the C1 although there are some differences in the detail of the exercises (in the writing test, for example) and there is the option of studying a set text. Be sure to check the latest requirements carefully! I’m using a C2 textbook called Erkundugen by Anna Buscha et al (Schubert Verlag) (it comes with a CD and answers to the exercises, great for self study). I really like it. The level is just right for me. There is also a separate (freestanding) book of grammar exercises by the same authors called C Grammatik. If I only had two months, but three hours a day, I’d focus just on mastering these two books, working with a teacher and in self study. I’d also focus relentlessly on exam training (e.g. Mit Erfolg zum Goethe-Zertifikat C2: GDS (Klett Verlag)) and be listening whenever I could to German radio/watching video/reading newspapers/magazines. Can you book in three half-hour sessions a week with a tutor on italki (maybe early before work/other duties kick in?). Feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss further. I’d be interested to hear how you go on. Going from B1 to C2 is a tall order and best of luck!
Thanks a lot for the information.
Can you please give the ISBN number of the text books for C1. It’s really confusing what to buy online…
Vimal Kumar says
Which is the good material that can be downloaded to practice c1 writing skills. Please advise urgently. vkindia at gmail
Hi Vimal, have a look at the materials on the Goethe website, https://www.goethe.de/en/spr/kup/prf/prf/gc1/ueb.html I used a book called Prüfungstraining Goethe-Zertifikat C1 from the Cornelsen-Verlag ISBN978-3-06-020531-8 which is a set of four model papers (not sure whether it is available in electronic form). There is also a lot of practice material and one full “mock paper” in Mittelpunkt C1 (Klett Verlag) whcih I also used (again, not sure whether avaiable for download). Good luck with your studues!
Congratulations Gareth!!!! Outstanding result and amazing tipps!!!! These help me a lot! I was wondering can I make you my writing pal in order to practice my writing and grammar skill in German as I will be taking my Telc C1 Hochschule this summer?
Thanks a lot, Nurul and I’m glad you found the tips helpful. It’s great to have the positive feedback. I’m flattered to be asked to be your writing pal but I just can’t take that on as I’m very focussed on my Russian at the moment. Have you tried looking for a language partner on italki (see link under the Recommended Resources tab)? Lang-8.com is also focussed on writing practice (you correct people’s work in your native/advanced language(s) and they do it for you in theirs). Good luck with your exam in the summer. Let me know if you hit against problems you’d like to to cover on the site and how you do 🙂
Okkay Gareth!! I will have a look at those links!! Thanks again and all the best with your Russian =)
Zsofi Tagelsir says
I really enjoyed reading your post. Your learning methods are v good and you are clearly super motivated. Not only in German but all the other languages.
I was actually googling C2 Goethe when I came across your blog and was wondering if you eventually did do the C2 exam?
I did my C1 in November 2016 and now preparing for C2 in August 2017…am not very keen but must to do it for my university…
My questions (and thank you in advance if you reply, you are v kind):
– how much more difficult, if at all, did you find the C2 exam? esp. the writing/reading part?
– do you think one can actively prepare for the C2 vocabulary or will it be a bit of a hit and miss (I have only been learning German for 15 months now and I am terrified of C2)
– how long did you take to prep for C2 after C1?
Many thanks for your comment and I wish you every success in learning new and developing already known languages.
Hi Zsofi, many thanks for your comment. Glad you found the post useful. Congratulations on your C1 success. I haven’t done C2 yet. I am planning to do so, but it won’t be for a few years (I expect) as I am focussed on other languages at the moment. I have 30 mins a week German conversation practice with a tutor on skype (i.e. I’m in “maintenance mode”). The books I have for C2 are Erkundigen (Buscha/Raven/Toscher) (there’s a book called “C-Grammatik” which goes with that). For past papers, look at the samples on the Goethe website and “Mit Erfolg zum Goethe-Zertificvkat C2: GDS” (Klett) or equivalent from other publishers. I haven’t focussed in detail on the difference between C1 and C2 yet. Given that the C1 is already native-level reading and listening material, I’d guess that the difference at C2 will mainly increased time pressure and, of course, even stricter marking of the written paper. I would think that the interval between your C1 and C2 would be doable if you are working hard, though if you’ve only had 15 months from a standing start (gulp!), it will be difficult to have the depth of vocab and experience I’d personally want to have. My dream would be to go and live in Germany for several months and do C2 at the end of that….but yes, I am very motivated and I see getting good at German as an end in itself beyond just the C2 exam. Key things for advancing at this level: (1) get out of your comfort zone (make sure you’re not just reading, talking, writing about topics that interest YOU – can you describe how to prepare a horse for riding, how cloth is woven, roughly how a computer or TV works etc etc in German as you’d be able to do in your native language? – Try random Wikipedia articles or read survey general knowlede books for e.g. but yes, it’s hit-and-miss) (2) lots of exposure and practice in multiple contexts, living and breathing the language…reading newspapers and magazines regularly. Good luck! Let me know if you have any follow-up questions and how you do 🙂
Hey Gareth, wow, thank you for your extensive answer. Very kind of you.
Yes, I know I will not have an in depth knowledge of vocab nor will I be able to talk/write about every topic in a way that I would expect myself to by August (I speak 6 foreign languages fluently)…but hey ho…
I know what you mean by wanting to live in Germany! I live in Zürich and even though it is a “German” speaking Canton, diglossia makes my life very difficult and frustrating…I do not count Swiss Germans into the “Native German” category 😀
I was rather interested in your C2 experience but it seems I will be the one telling you about mine!
I use the following books (outstanding for developing writing accuracy (and speaking but nobody actually speaks like that):
Földeak, Hans – Sag’s besser Teil 1, Teil 2
Clamer/Heilmann/Röller- Übungsgrammatik für die Mittelstufe (it says C1 but many exercises are higher).
I don’t use a course book because I prefer authentic material but have worked through “Mit Erfolg zum Goethe Zert. C1” and found it most useful, so will do the same during the last 4 weeks of prep. I read for leisure 1-2hrs a day and also listen to the radio for 1hr and read the newspaper, magazines (mainly scientific) and learn 2-5 new words a day (I force myself) plus there is the vocab revision blabla…as mentioned before- similar strategies to yours 😉
Viel Spaß beim Lernen!
Sounds like you have things well in hand, Zsofi! Good luck 🙂
Nancy Sopp says
Thanks so much for all the tips!! I have followed one (ordered the book you recommended) and will follow others (get tutoring), since I want to take the C1 class and exam this summer. How do you suggest selecting “random Wikipedia articles”?
I think you could pull apart Wikipedia articles on topics you want to be able to talk about (or feel you should be able to talk about), Nancy. Or just things that come up. For example, I had a suit made last summer and I had to talk to the tailor about pocket flaps, lapels, buttonholes, turnups, different types of cloth and lining etc, etc…all things anyone would be able to discuss at least at a general level in their mother tongue but which I don’t think I could discuss easily in any of my foreign languages. It turned out there was a Wikipedia article on “Anzug” with useful links deeper. There are hundreds of topics like this one could tackle. You could also, of course, simply google and find other articles on them on the net. That said, don’t lose focus. For my preparation for the C1 the main thrust was what I talk about in the article. Good luck with the exam in the summer!
Gaareth! I enjoyed your article! I find it useful. I am preparing myself to do the exam C1 on August. I feel pretty nervous about my writing skills, because I didn’t obtain the best results on the B2 exam What I will try to do to improve this, will be writing comments or summaries about the news I read daily I will start working with “Mit Erfolg zum Goethe Zert. C1” and “with Prüfungstraining Goethe-Zertifikat C1”. I will keep in mind and follow your tips
Glad you found the article useful, Martha. You’re quite right that lots of practice is the way forward. Be sure to get feedback from a good teacher and best of luck with the C1 exam. If you get time, mail me to let me know how you found it 🙂
Hello Gareth, I found it very nice to read your post, you gave some great tips and good book recommendations which I will try to buy soon. I’m learning german for a month or so, most of what I’ve learned was from listening when I spent some time in Germany, I think I’m on level B2 by now and I decided to kick away my Innerer Schweinehund and start learning it efficiently, I’m on the phase of gathering vocabulary and for me that’s more boring (euphemism for difficult 🙂 than grammar. Thanks for taking time to try and help us enthusiasts with some tips… and I have to tell you that you’re very cute..lol (sorry, I don’t mean to offend, it’s just a compliment 🙂
Thanks for reading, Alan (and for the compliment 😉 ). Glad you found the post helpful and good luck with your German. I’ll be posting more about learning German before too long. Fröhliche Weinachten!
Peter Mollenburg says
I have often searched for articles like yours and I have to say that yours is nicely written. It’s informative and therefore useful and applicable while also being enjoyable to read.
I’m looking to sit the French DALF C1 in November 2018, and your article remains very relevant despite your German journey and my French one. I hope your language learning is going well. All the best for 2018, thanks for sharing, from a fellow language learner in Australia.
Glad you found it helpful, Peter. Thanks for reading. Check out my articles on C1 Russian as well if you get a chance – some of that possibly relevant too. I’ve been wanting to up my French game and have a go at the DALF C1 for a couple of years but other projects keep leading to me postponing it (mainly not passing the writing section of C1 Russian in 2016 and having to have another shot at it last year). I’ve got two Dalf books: Alter Ego C1 > C2 and Réussir le Dalf C1/C2. Haven’t used Réussir yet but have found Alter Ego good. What materials are you using? Good luck and let me know how it goes or about any other particular topics you’d like me to cover on the site! 🙂
Peter Mollenburg says
I will check those Russian articles out, thanks Gareth. You seem to accomplish things rather well with regards to passing language exams, while attaining your goals efficiently as well.
Years ago I attempted to learn 3 languages at once, and although not unsuccessful per sé, time was limited and therefore so was progress. Time is even more limited nowadays with family and other commitments…
…So I opted to focus on one language in order to reach an advanced level. I’m now in my 5th year of French (self study) and still haven’t reached C1/C2, despite having now completed around 5000 hours of learning. I’m a perfectionist and have spent a LOT of time perfecting my French accent and so that’s where a lot of my time has gone.
When I read your articles it seems with much less study than myself you’re able to progress much more efficiently/quickly. Although at this stage I don’t want to completely overhaul my study methods, I can certainly take a page or two out of your book.
I passed the DELF B2 with 81% in May 2017 and am now working towards the C1 as you know, and if I pass C1 i’ll target the C2. However, I have doubts at times. I get the impression from others that you need to have an incredibly, well beyond competent command of the language and can handle yourself in almost any situation with eloquence to pass such a level, which has me doubting whether I can reach such a lofty level. Then other times I read about the hours it has taken some individuals (like yourself) and I feel that, time and effort is not an issue for me, as I’m super-determined, and i’ve already put in thousands of hours, so it’s indeed achievable. In other words, my confidence has ups and downs, but one thing’s certain, I’ll keep working at it and whatever the situation come November, I will sit the exam and then I’ll really know where I stand.
I have soooo many course books it’s incredible (in years of procrastination I collected far too many course books). I’m currently finishing off Assimil’s Using French while reviewing Assimil’s New French with Ease and earlier lessons of Using French. I’m also working on French in Action (a little easy, but i’ve always wanted to finish this course). I’ve been using the French learning magazine ‘Bien-dire’ as well, which contains graded articles as per the CEFR and is perfect for specialised vocabularly at the higher levels (C1/C2), which is sometimes difficult to focus on when just reading regular books – C1/C2 rarer vocabulary words are few and far between in regular books, while articles in Bien-dire are full of such words in a condensed location (articles have audio too).
I also watch TV (news, series, movies), listen to podcasts – ‘RFI Journal en français facile’ is great as you can read the transcripts as well, I read some regular books, I’ve used Yabla (video learning online) on and off and well lots of course books. For the B2 exam I had tutor sessions with a former examiner in the weeks leading up to the exam. That was very useful.
In terms of specific exam preparation books or materials, like you, I have ‘Réussir le DALF C1/ C2’ and I also have ‘Production écrite niveaux C1/C2’. I’ve not started using them yet. I am also aiming to use the series of books by CLE – ‘Grammaire Progressive du Français’, touted by many to be highly a effective series of books for focused grammar study.
Anyway that’s me and my French situation… I’ll get on to reading some of your other articles soon including your journey towards Russian C1. Thanks again Gareth,
This is a great post. I’m toying with the idea of taking a Goethe exam and I’m having a hard time thinking about my level. Your thoughts on working through all 4 components of the exam are very useful. I lost my way with German for awhile to having younger kids and made a resolution for New Year’s a couple years ago to only read for pleasure in German (ie. novels). So, I’ve done a lot of reading and not so much of anything else but I’ve made a lot of progress. I lived in Switzerland, too, when I learned so the diglossia problem is also something I struggle with. Thanks for the encouraging post!
Thanks, Janine. You can have your level assessed at a Goethe Institute if there’s one near you (and no doubt other schools and teachers will do this for you too). Reading’s really important, I think. I’ve just done a vlog on this over on the Howtogetfluent Youtube channel and there’s an article on the site covering simmilar ground. Maybe you need to aim for an exam in which you can comfortably pass the reading, to enable you to focus on the other skills during preparation (but don’t neglect pratising the specific reading format of the exam, of coruse). Good luck!
Gareth, I did the online assessment with Goethe Institut and they said I was in the middle of C1 (which surprised me – I thought I would be more in the middle of B2). Surprisingly, I got to speak a lot at my job this summer. Surprising because I am a lifeguard at a public pool in the US but we happened to have a number of German visitors. I will have to keep working and reevaluate once I feel closer to being able to pass.
The assessment suggests you’ll be ready pretty soon, then Janine. If you’re already at this level, I’d say the key thing is to practice exam technique and to work on mock papers under timed conditions. In addition to the material on the Goethe website, you can get training books with mock papers, such as Cornelsen Verlag’s Prüfungstraing book (the one I used). That said, of course, what’s the rush? If the exam is an effective motivational tool, the longer before you do it, the better you’ll get.
Thanks for the suggestion. I will get the book. I rarely write in German, although at one time I only wrore in German so that should help ( I studied in German at a Swiss university for a few years).
thank you very much, i really enjoyed your post and found your tips really helpul. i made listening to the Radio a routine for myself, i listen and take notes, it really helps me and improves me not only in listening but also helps me to speak more naturally and fluently. i also recommend sentence mining.
i got my B2 and TDaF two years ago but unfortunately just keep postponing C1 because of stress. i always think that i am not prepared enough for it. now i’ve got 60 days to the next C1 termin and i hope i make it this time.
Good luck with the C1, Shahin! Let me know how it goes 🙂
Great post really! Did you learn for the test during 3 months only? I am on this threshold b2/c1 and I am planning to prepare during a year. I am not that confident and the C1 test I took on English 7 years ago was like a nightmare. Just to think about Listening I freeze. I want to be very ‘safe’ not to have a very tight result again. Any tips to deal with Anxiety?
Hi Mary, thanks for reading. I worked in a focussed way for only the last three months. However, you need to remember I was already a fluent German speaker. I lived in Germany for three years (twenty years ago). It wasn’t a question for me of getting up from B2 to C1. It was more really about getting back up to speed and improving my writing (the weakest of the four skills for me). So, for somebody who’s just done B2, I think a year’s preparation is a good run-in time. For listening, dictation exercises are good for forcing you to focus (if you have a transcript for correction). Also, make sure you’re mainly listening and watching German during the coming year. Exam nerves: yes, I have a whole series on language exams in general on the site, including an article called “Ten brilliant ways to beat exam nerves” https://howtogetfluent.com/ten-brilliant-ways-to-beat-exam-nerves/ I hope that helps. If there are any gaps or something that you’re still unsure about, let me know!
First of all, congratulations for the great result! I am an eighteen-year-old Bulgarian student and passed the C1 exam too with 91%(sehr gut). My question is: Is it worth it to take the C2 exam in German and if i decide to, how can I prepare, apart from the Klett and Hueber textbooks?
Well done on your fantastic result with the C1, Denny. I think for C2 you have to read and write a lot and get a native teacher to give you feedback and just keep building up layer after layer of linguistic and cultural knowledge. Then you have to practice the format and timing of the exam as usual, of course. It’s also worth looking at books about German aimed at native speakers. How is it going?
vahag kachaturian says
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