The exams under the Goethe Zertifikat system are designed to test your overall understanding of the German language.

Right from level A1, it isn’t just about how perfect your Grammar is, or how vast your vocabulary is. The exams are far less bookish than that.

A Goethe Zertifikat exam is typically around 65 minutes long, in which 4 aspects of your skills will be tested:


Listening Skills


Reading (Comprehension) Skills


Written Skills


Spoken Skills

In each level from A1 to C1, these skills are tested through different questions/tasks.

Take the speaking skills section for example. In A1, you have to simply introduce yourself – giving the most basic details like where you come from, your hobbies, etc.

But in B2.2, you have the task of giving a short presentation – a monologue based on a short text and a few given talking points.

The three sub-types of Reading and Listening

In the listening and reading category, there are three sub-skills that are generally tested through different exercises:

  • General understanding: How well can you generally understand data in context, without knowing the meaning of many specific terms
  • Selective understanding: How well can you extract specifically asked pieces information from a given text or audio
  • Detailed understanding: How precisely can you capture certain details from the given text or audio

So now you now know why some of the exercises in the listening and reading sections might look tougher or take more time than others. 

It does not necessarily mean that you’re not good at those exercises. It’s just that the more specific or detailed information you need, the more closely you need to listen or read. 

And it’s perfectly alright not to get them right in the first few seconds.

Goethe Zertifikat: The Marking System

This part does contain some calculations, and you need to understand them just this once.

Each of the 4 sections carries 15 marks.

Note that: 1 mark = 1.66 points

So, the total marks for each section are (15 points*1.66) = 24.9 points.


Goethe Zertifikat Points System

Goethe Zertifikat: The Passing Criteria

Based on your answers, you’ll be given points for every section.

Next, the points are converted to marks, and these marks show up on your certificate and decide your grade.

Out of these 100 marks, you need 60 marks (not points) to pass the exam.

For Goethe Zertifikat A1: Start Deutsch 1, which is the first level, that’s the simple criteria. That you score 60 marks, and that you complete all the 4 sections.

The passing score for levels A2 to C1 is slightly more specific.

Goethe Zertifikat: The Grading System

Total Points Grade Meaning
90 – 100 sehr gut very good
80 – 89 gut good
70 – 79 befriedigend satisfactory
60 – 69 ausreichend average
0 – 59 nicht bestanden failed

What if I fail the Goethe Zertifikat Exam?

You could fail in a Goethe Zertifikat exam in 4 scenarios:

  • Not all the sections of the exam were completed
  • The total score is below 60%
  • Your total of Listening+Reading+Written section is lower than 45 OR
  • Your scored less than 15 in the Spoken section

In case of #3 and #4, it may be possible for you to just re-take the part you failed in. You can get updated about the possibility/ dates at your nearest Goethe Institut.

If you have failed the exam, you can always retake the test. As of today, there is no limit on the frequency or number of exam attempts. 


Will my Goethe certifications expire?

The validity of certificates issued for the Goethe Zertifikat do not expire.

(They’re my most prized possessions in my certificates folder!)

From an employment perspective, it is said that some employers may consider the age of your certificate, and require candidates with certifications that are not more than 2 years old.

However, in my experience, the candidate’s displayed skill in the interview process trumps how old the certificate is.


The information about the grading system and exam structure has hopefully given you a lot of clarity.

All these tiny details make room for you to feel more confident as an exam candidate.

And don’t you worry about failing. Like I tell my students: Passing the Goethe Zertifikat exams is not meant to be difficult at all.

With a good tutor, sufficient practice and top-scoring strategies, you’ll be able to achieve your best score in every level of the system.