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University entrance qualification: Recognition of your secondary school-leaving certificate

If you want to study at a German university, you will need a “Hochschulzugangsberechtigung” – or “university entrance qualification”. This is a school-leaving certificate which qualifies you for university study. If your secondary-school certificate is deemed insufficient for study in Germany, you will have to attend a foundation course (“Studienkolleg”) before you are allowed to enrol.

by the Editors

Group of international students © Wiemer/TestDaF-Institut
Group of international students . © Wiemer/TestDaF-Institut

The first thing to do is to find out whether your university entrance qualification is recognised in Germany. The DAAD entrance qualification database can help you with this. Simply enter the country where you attained your secondary school-leaving certificate.

You will then learn whether your certificate is

  • recognised as qualification for general university admission
  • recognised only for subject-restricted university admission (i.e. for study in a limited subject area)
  • recognised only in combination with one or two years of successful university study in your home country
  • not recognised as university entrance qualification

If you come from an EU country or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, and your school-leaving certificate is recognised in that country, it is often recognised in Germany, as well. This also applies if you received an “Abitur” from one of more than 140 German Schools abroad.

A formal university entrance qualification is sometimes not required from talented candidates applying for admission to artistic subjects. Depending on the university, you may have to submit samples of your work or pass an aptitude test instead.

Students at university © DAAD
Students at university . © DAAD

Inquire at your university

The DAAD entrance qualification database only provides a general overview. You can obtain more specific data about other countries and certificates at Anabin. This database includes information on how foreign secondary school-leaving certificates are evaluated. On the Anabin website, you can specify your country and certificate when searching the database. It provides all relevant information, e.g. whether your certificate will be recognised and whether you will need to fulfil further requirements. The website, however, is only available in German.

In the end, the university itself is responsible for making the final decision on admissions. Therefore, we recommend inquiring in advance at the International Office at the university of your choice as to whether you meet all the necessary prerequisites.

European Framework of Reference for Languages

Levels of language proficiency in Germany are based on those outlined in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. There are three main level groups: Basic User (A), Independent User (B) and Proficient User (C). These are divided into six subgroups which range from absolute beginners (A1) to almost native speakers (C2).

If your school-leaving certificate doesn’t suffice

If your secondary school-leaving certificate is not recognised in Germany, you can gain entrance qualification to German university by completing a foundation course (“Studienkolleg”). You first have to pass an entrance examination to participate in a foundation course. Good German language skills are a prerequisite (B1 level of the European Framework of Reference for Languages).

At the conclusion of the foundation course, you will be tested in several subjects which are relevant to the subject of study you intend to pursue. This test is called the “university entrance assessment examination” (“Feststellungsprüfung”). One part of the examination is a language test.

Foundation courses usually take two semesters to complete and provide 28 to 32 hours of instruction per week. If your grades are very good, you are allowed to take the “Feststellungsprüfung” after only one semester.

Students at the computer © Horschig/DAAD
Students at the computer . © Horschig/DAAD

Most universities do not charge a tuition fee for foundation courses. However, as a course participant, you are required to pay the semester contribution, which all enrolled students have to pay.

Aptitude test

If you want to find out if you are generally in a position to cope with the demands of a German university, the TestAS (Test für Ausländische Studierende) is a useful guide. This test is a mixture of language test, specialist questions concerning your subject and testing your cognitive capability. The test result can help decide on a certain subject. In any case, you will be able to assess how successful your studies will be.

With good results, you can improve your chances of being admitted for studies at a German university. Just find out whether your university requires the TestAS and what advantages it has for you. You can take the TestAS several times a year at the TestAS testing centres around the world, possibly also in your country. The exam fee for the TestAS is 80 Euros. For more information on the testing centres and model questions please visit the TestAS website.