How to Pass German Language Exam C1 in 10 Years (4) – Anatomy of the ÖSD C1 Exam

I passed the ÖSD Deutsch als Fremdsprache Niveau C1 in June this year with a score of 90, which gave me the rating of “Sehr Gut Bestanden”–the highest rating one could get in the exam. This is an excellent result for anybody who wants to learn the language and to settle down in a German speaking country.

This is the 4th post of my blog series on German learning, dedicated to analyzing the ÖSD C1 exam. You can find the previous posts here:

(No takeaway massages in this post. If you are going to take the exam, you have to know all the parts.)


ÖSD is the official language exam in Austria for C1 and C2 levels. For integration in Austria, which requires up to B2 level, you need to take ÖIF now (Please check this article on the language politics in Austria). The abbreviation ÖSD is a wordplay, standing for both “Österreich, Schweiz, Deutschland” and “Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch”.

There are a number of German exams in the market, Goethe, telc, TestDaF, ÖSD, ÖIF…you name it. Each one has it’s own use cases, like study, integration, or general proficiency. ÖSD exams are focused on using the language in real-world situations. In this regard it is similar to the most popular Goethe exams. However, compared to Goethe C1, the ÖSD counterpart has more tasks, takes more time to finish, and has some significantly more challenging tasks in the writing and speaking parts.

You can find the official material and Modellprüfung on the ÖSD website. In this post, I am going to analyze all the tasks with my personal experience.

Reading

4 tasks, 90 minutes, maximum 20 points, minimum 10 to pass.

  • Aufgabe 1 is a standard reading comprehension: an article about a certain social subject and 5 single-choice questions in the end. The goal is to test your understanding of details. What’s interesting is that one of the options in the writing part is to write a commentary to this article. If you like the subject you can already start to think about how you would write a commentary about it. More on this in the writing part.
  • In Aufgabe 2 there are 5 short texts and 10 titles. The task is to identify the key message of each text in order to assign the right title to it.
  • Things start to get more interesting in Aufgabe 3, in which you “compose” a coherent article with the given materials. You get an article where 5 short paragraphs are missing. You also get 7 candidate paragraphs to fill in the missing positions. It’s a bit like a half finished jigsaw puzzle. Two of the candidates are just there to confuse you. You need to identify the signals in texts so that your chosen candidate connects the paragraphs before and after coherently.
  • Aufgabe 4 is a typical text completion exercise with 15 blanks. It’s always exactly one word missing in each blank. The missing word could be a verb, noun, preposition, pronoun, anything. It’s a test of vocabulary and idioms. If you can’t recall a word or an idiom, or if you don’t know the right preposition after a verb in the context, there is little chance you can guess the right key. The maximum score of this task is 5 but an experienced examiner told me that it’s almost impossible to get all the blanks right.

I scored 19 out of 20 in the reading part. I am pretty sure the 1 point I lost is in the notorious Aufgabe 4.

Listening

2 tasks, ~40 minutes, maximum 20 points, minimum 10 to pass.

  • Aufgabe 1 is a standard listening comprehension with 10 single-choice questions. You hear a radio program twice, in which multiple people talk about their research or opinions. You may encounter various accents, talking speeds, styles, and background noises.
  • In Aufgabe 2 you hear a presentation twice to fill in 10 missing blanks. The grading is not focused on grammar in this task, meaning that some errors on the form of a word, like singular/plural, tense, and word ending, are tolerated. As long as you get the word right you get the point.

I scored 16 out of 20 in the listening comprehension. Although listening is normally my stronghold, I am not surprised that I lost 4 points here. The listening material for Aufgabe 1 in my exam was very difficult, which has got some fellow exam takers complaining afterwards. It has even surprised our examiner, who confirmed after the exam it was new to her and it was a difficult one.

Writing

2 tasks, 90 minutes, maximum 30 points, minimum 7 points on each task and a total of 15 points to pass.

  • Aufgabe 1 is an email complaint. You receive an email about a dispute that is usually a result of your own error, like delay of payments, missing deadlines and so on. Your task is to reply the email to explain the situation, suggest a solution, and eventually minimize the loss. The points to be addressed in the reply are already given in colloquial form as notes to the original email. Formality and tone are important in your reply because the goal is to convince the other party and solve the problem. For this task there is no minimal number of words. 100-150 words are enough. There is also no time limit other than the total 90 minutes for both writing tasks. But per my experience you should spend a maximal of 20 minutes for this task in order to leave more time for the Aufgabe 2.
  • Aufgabe 2 is an essay. You can choose from three topics of different styles for this task and for each one there are specific points to be covered. You should write at least 250 words. However, for a good score you should target 350-400 words, which means about 500 words in total in 90 minutes. 
    • The first topic is a report (Referat) on statistics. You should write about the following points: summary of the statistics, interpretation of the information, situation in homeland, and personal opinion. This variant seems to be the easiest and most straight forward to write about. At least that’s what I thought at the beginning. Just use some template sentences and it’s done. But as my preparation progresses I growingly found writing summary of statistics rather boring. And if the topic is not interesting, it’s still difficult to cover the other three points.
    • The second topic is an opinion piece (Stellungname) on a short text. You have to address 4 points: summary of the text, argument about the pros and cons, personal opinion, and situation in homeland. I have found this one the most annoying since the beginning of preparation. The text is short and the summary has to be shorter. It’s often difficult to distinguish the argument and personal opinion. If I have clarified the pros and cons of a certain policy, my opinion should be clear. I often struggle on point three because I have already expressed my opinion in point 2.
    • The third topic is to write a commentary (Commentar) on the reading comprehension article you’ve read at the beginning of the exam. The logic is that although it’s a long text, you’ve read it already. The points to be covered are summary of the article, personal opinion to the information, the situation in homeland, and what should one do to deal with it. To summarize a long article in such a short time in the exam is very challenging. At the beginning of my preparation I thought I would never choose this one in the actual exam. But after some practices it turned out that the topic is more important than the form of writing-the more interesting the topic, the faster I can write, and fewer mistakes I make. This is the option I eventually chose in my exam.

I got 25 out of 30 points in writing, in which 13 on the email and 12 on the essay. This is an acceptable performance given how much efforts I have put in this part during preparation.

The three parts above-reading, listening, and writing-make up the schriftliche Prüfung, which is done in one session. This means you will have to sit there for almost 4 hours, with some short pauses in between. That in itself is a challenge to stamina and concentration. Do pack some snacks before you go.

Speaking

3 tasks, ~40 minutes including preparation, maximum 30 point, minimum 18 points to pass. Tasks are not graded separately.

The mündliche Prüfung is carried out in a separate individual session, which normally takes place in the week following the schriftliche Prüfung. Different to Goethe C1, you are the only exam taker in the session with two examiners. You get 20 minutes to read the material and prepare your talking points for all 3 tasks. Then you need to talk for about 20 minutes. The 3 tasks are set in different scenarios and require different talking styles.

  • Aufgabe 1 is an apology over telephone. Usually it’s about a missing appointment. After apologizing and clarifying the situation, you should try to convince the other party, played by an examiner, to agree with an alternative solution. The conversation is formal. During the call you and the examiner look in different directions.
  • In Aufgabe 2 you need to work with a colleague to choose one of two given pictures for a newspaper or magazine article. In your preparation time you should have already chosen one of the pictures and the examiner will play your colleague who prefers the other one. Since you are playing colleagues you address each other per du. The conversation goes at a relatively fast pace with arguments back and forth. For this you should not only prepare the arguments for your choice, but also try to think from the perspective of the other party and prepare your counter arguments.
  • The Aufgabe 3 is a presentation. You get three pieces of information on a sheet of paper: a set of statistics, a short text, and a long text. All the information is on the same subject but from different sources with sometimes conflicting messages. You have to cover four points in the presentation: summary of the given information, personal opinion, situation in homeland, and what you would do personally in dealing with the subject. You should talk for about 8 minutes and leave some time for questions and discussion. It’s a formal presentation that starts with greetings and ends with thanks. This task is in my opinion the most difficult of the whole ÖSD C1 exam, although I heard that more people fail the writing Aufgabe 2 than this one. Time is extremely tight and you have only one go. The goal is to cover all points while making as few mistakes as you can and speaking as logically as possible. You may stumble occasionally but you need to reorganize your words quickly. This one really tests your language fluency. Mistakes are tolerated to a certain extent, but you can’t make too many. On the other hand, if you are thinking about grammar and word order all the time you won’t be able to focus on the content of your presentation, which will in turn lead to more stumbles. ÖSD has published two videos examples of the mündliche Prüfung: example 1, example 2

I scored 30 out 30 in the speaking part. Not a single point is lost. I was (ironically) speechless when I saw the score. I have certainly made a few mistakes during the exam, but who doesn’t? It’s German.

Next post: ÖSD C1 preparation

That’s a summary of the ÖSD C1 exam with my personal experience. I am more than happy with the 90 points I got out of this difficult exam, but the result didn’t come automatically from the C1 course. My german teacher has guided me through some very specific trainings to both prepare me for the exam and further improve my language skills. The preparation of ÖSD C1 will be the topic of my next post.

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