Or are they accepting only black ink on this one? Am I heading to the right room in the right building? This is how my C2 exam at the Goethe Institut in Berlin began. I arrived ridiculously early, which is an appropriate strategy when you rely on the notoriously late and inexplicably cancellation-prone S-Bahn for transportation. I sat around in a cafeteria-like waiting room for about 45 minutes.
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Or are they accepting only black ink on this one? Am I heading to the right room in the right building? This is how my C2 exam at the Goethe Institut in Berlin began. I arrived ridiculously early, which is an appropriate strategy when you rely on the notoriously late and inexplicably cancellation-prone S-Bahn for transportation. I sat around in a cafeteria-like waiting room for about 45 minutes. There were pastries and a large coffee dispenser, but I got the impression these were for employees, not test takers.
From then on, it was your typical language test. There was a reading section. There was a writing section. In the breaks between sections, I chatted with some of my fellow test takers.
As is often the case in my German language learning experience here in Berlin, I was the only native English speaker among many Greeks, Russians, Italians, and various Latin Americans. Everyone seemed to have used the same test prep book from Hueber Verlag to prepare.
Some people had even brought their copies along with them. One young woman from Italy said it was her second time taking the test. She had passed the first time, but she wanted to gain more percentage points.
Scores for each section are printed on the certificates of those who pass. I was given a time to return on the following day for my speaking portion. Again, I showed up very early. To make things worse, the Goethe Institut had moved my test time two hours back without informing me. Even though this was a relatively commercial section of the Mitte district, it was too early in the morning for shops like Urban Outfitters or Uniqlo or the artisan absinthe boutique to be open.
My new exam time came and went. The examiners were running more than twenty minutes behind. Spontaneous oral exams have always been harder for me than reading or writing. Finally I was taken into yet another waiting room where I was given the topics for the presentation and debate, and I had several minutes to prepare notes.
I know my voice shook. I know I made several blunders. I always do. They seemed impressed by my reasoning: without revealing my prompt, I will say that part of my presentation hinged on the topic of school choice and charters in the US, which I as a teacher know a lot about and have strong opinions on.
I had to take a few shots in the dark on translating certain terms, but to my delight, my guesses were correct. As expected, listening had been my weakest section, but not by a wide margin. I immediately sympathized with the Italian girl who wanted higher percentages despite already passing. The perfectionist in me nevertheless winced a little. Not enough to wince out another euros and two days to take the test again, but still a wince. I know I make mistakes. There are some dialects I have trouble understanding.
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GDS - Grosses Deutsches Sprachdiplom
Here's my story of learning German starting in , up until taking the exam in June of If you want to read about how I passed the Italian C2 exam without going to Italy, the page for that story is here. Here's my story about starting to learn French at You can read my comparison of the two tests here. I explain why I found the Italian test more rigorous. However, I was a World War II history buff as a young boy, and used to watch many movies about the war. In addition, I lived on a military base as a child, so I was exposed to the military at a young age.
47 year journey to the German C2 exam