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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tips for the TestDaF: Schriftlicher Ausdruck

4 Blank Pages
5 Minutes for Brainstorming
60 Minutes for Writing

The third portion of the TestDaF is the dreaded writing section (Schriftlicher Ausdruck). For this portion, you are given 60 minutes to write an essay about the given topic. Regardless of what the topic is, the test always requires you to touch on certain points such as describing a graph, naming your opinion, and writing about the situation in your home country. So, although you cannot predict what topic you will receive, there are some tricks to preparing.

Time: 5 minutes
Length: 2-4 sentences

When the writing portion begins, you will first receive short paragraph describing the topic. After reading this, you are given 5 minutes to begin brainstorming. Your essay has to have an introduction, so this is a good place to begin. 

The easiest method for writing an introduction is to simply rephrase the topic paragraph in your own words. 

Let's use the example: Englischunterricht in der Schule. The topic paragraph you are given talks about how children begin English classes at age 6 in Germany. Instead of repeating that (you would lose points that way), you need to reiterate their point while also bringing something new to the table. So, you could instead say that English is a major advantage when looking for a job, so it is helpful that children in Germany are beginning English classes at such a young age.

Helpful Phrases (here are some phrases you can use to kick off your introduction):

Schon lange lässt sich beobachten, dass...
Seit einiger Zeit wird über... diskutiert.

Your introduction only needs to be 2-4 sentences, so do not spend too much time on this. At the end of this paragraph, you should provide a transitional statement. Since the next section is describing the graph, here is an example sentence that will work for any topic.

Transition (Überleitung):

Die Grafik "..." verdeutlicht dieses Problem/diese Entwicklung.

Grafik Beschreibung
Time: 15 minutes
Length: 3/4 page

After your 5 minute brainstorming session is over, you can turn the page and see the graph(s). You need to describe the graph(s) objectively. It is easy to start off this section with an opening statement that will work for any topic, such as:

Vor der Erörterung dieses Themas, möchte ich einige Fakten aufzeigen.

After you have that out of the way, look at what type of graph it is. There are four possibilities, so memorize their names now:
  • Säulendiagramm
  • Kreisdiagramm
  • Balkendiagramm
  • Liniendiagramm
Sometimes there is just one graph, sometimes there is two. When I took the exam, I had both a Balkendiagramm and a Kreisdiagramm. It is also possible that there will be a table (Tabelle).

Start off by describing the basic information you are being given:

Die Grafik zeigt...
Es wird angegeben, wie viele...
Die Informationen stammen von... aus dem Jahr...

Then move on to name the interesting points. You do not have the time to mention everything, so just pick out the figures that are particularly low or high. Once you have done this, it is time for another transition statement. Here is another example that can work for any topic:

Transition (Überleitung):

Aus diesen Informationen werden unterschiedliche Schlussfolgerungen gezogen.

Time: 25 minutes
Length: 1 page

This is the most important section of your essay that you will spend the most amount of time on. You need to kick off this next paragraph with the advantages and disadvantages of the given topic. If we continue with my example of English in German schools, you can discuss how English is a global language, and it will help the students in the future. However, maybe there are more important subjects for young children to be focusing on other than English.

Die einen sind der Meinung... Die anderen hingegen...
Einerseits... Andererseits...

Now it is time to get personal. So, start off by writing a about how this topic relates to your home country. I am from the U.S. So, if it is about English classes in Germany, I would write something about how students in the U.S. do not begin learning a second language until age 14. About 2-3 sentences about your home country is more than enough.

Bei uns...

Close this section off with a few sentences stating your own opinion on the subject. It does not matter what your opinion is, you just have to formulate your argument well.

Meiner Meinung nach ist es besser...

Time: 10 minutes
Lenth: 3-4 sentences

It is important to wrap it all up with a nice conclusion. Remember that the TestDaF is testing if you are ready to go to a German university, so it is important that your essay is not only well-written, but well-constructed. 

Zusammenfassend kann man sagen...

If you follow my time suggestions, you will have an extra 10 minutes at the end to read everything over. It is very important to leave yourself this extra time. Stupid grammar mistakes happen, and catching these is important if you want to get a 4 or 5.

Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions!

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