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DSH, or "Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang" in German, can be translated into English as "German Language Exam for Transitioning into Higher Education/University Entrance." 

It is one of the standardized German language proficiency exams that international students can take to demonstrate their proficiency in German, particularly when seeking university education in countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, where German is both the main language and the language of instruction.

Case of Use

International students must prove their level of German language proficiency in order to apply to a higher education institution where German is the language of instruction. The DSH exam serves as one of the recognized tests for this purpose. 

It is designed to assess whether international students possess the linguistic skills necessary to pursue studies in the German language. The exam evaluates their ability to comprehend lectures and course content, extract important information, and respond to written or oral questions on scientific and academic subjects without difficulty. Successful completion of the DSH exam indicates that students are well-prepared to engage in academic coursework conducted in German.

DSH vs. TestDaF

While both TestDaF and DSH can be used for university applications, there are some distinctions between these two proficiency exams. TestDaF follows a standardized exam format as it is typically developed and administered by a central organization. 

On the other hand, DSH is administered individually by universities where German is the language of instruction, leading to potential variations in the exam format from one institution to another. 

Given this variability, it is crucial to prepare for the DSH exam with the guidance of educators who are experts in their respective fields and are familiar with the unique strategies employed by each university.

Exam Structure

The DSH exam consists of two parts: a written exam and an oral exam. The written exam is conducted before the oral exam. The exam typically includes sections such as listening comprehension (Hörverstehen - Listening Comprehension), understanding and processing a reading passage (Leseverstehen - Reading Comprehension), task-oriented text production (Vorgabenorientierte Textproduktion - Composition Writing), and understanding and processing scientific and academic language structures (Verstehen). and Bearbeiten wissenschaftssprachlicher Strukturen).

In the section of listening comprehension or processing an auditory text, participants are required to demonstrate their ability to understand and follow lectures and presentations in a scientific field. The text to be listened to during the exam is usually a passage of 50 to 100 lines. 

Before the text is read aloud, participants are provided with a brief introduction to the context of the topic. The passage is read aloud once or at most twice, and participants are advised to take notes during this time. After the text is read aloud, participants are asked to either answer some questions or interpret or summarize the text read to them.


The DSH exam is usually graded according to the DSH-1, DSH-2 and DSH-3 scale. While the DSH-1 shows that the participant has a certain level of proficiency, it is not sufficient for university admission. Individuals at the DSH-1 level are recommended to attend a German language course and then retake the exam. 

DSH-1 may be acceptable for programs with mixed German-English instruction, provided other conditions are met. DSH-2 signifies an intermediate level of qualification and is the minimum requirement for admission to most study programs at universities where German is the language of instruction. 

DSH-3 is the highest level, indicating proficiency close to a native language level. However, certain specialized programs like medicine, dentistry, and law may demand a DSH-3 proficiency level.  In CEFR; DSH-1 corresponds to the B2 level, DSH-2 corresponds to the C1 level, and DSH-3 corresponds to the C2 level.

It's important to emphasize that passing the DSH exam requires success in both the written and oral exams. The overall exam result is not averaged for DSH; to achieve the target DSH-2 level, both parts of the exam must be passed with at least a DSH-2. Candidates who attain DSH-3 in the written part but complete the oral part with DSH-1 will be classified as DSH-1 in the overall result.


Similar to the TestDaF certificate, the DSH exam certificate does not have an expiration date, and once you pass the test, the certificate remains valid indefinitely. However, some universities may require you to retake the exam if there is a significant time gap between the test date and the current date, based on their own application and regulations.

Exam Prep

Preparing for the DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang) exam can be challenging, especially for those with little to no knowledge of the German language or for those with proficiency below the B2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). 

Effective exam preparation involves utilizing high-quality and official study materials, enrolling in German courses, taking practice exams, and familiarizing oneself with the unique exam format. 

In addition, since the DSH format may vary between universities and institutions, it's essential to tailor your preparation to the specific university you plan to apply to and to get support from educators who know the DSH strategies of the relevant university.