As the Senior Program Coordinator for our Au Pair Abroad programs, I get lots of logistical questions about visa components. For those who plan to become au pairs in Germany, one question in particular comes up again and again: What is the A1 Language Level test?? Well I say don't worry au pairs! I am here to clarify.
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I am not a fluent German speaker by any means… I know how to say one phrase in German (and that’s only because my beloved German friend managed to drill me on it for several weeks straight). I can now proudly say Schönes Wochenende almost perfectly, but unless it’s a Friday in Germany I’m not sure knowing how to say “have a good weekend” will get me very far.
I may not be at what the Germans call “A1 level" just yet, meaning very basic written and conversational knowledge for German language, but I am well on my way to achieving it with the knowledge I already have (as little as it is!)
To receive a work permit and be an au pair in Germany specifically, you must be able to prove that you have at least this A1 level of German language proficiency. You can do this by taking the A1 test before you leave the United States OR by taking an optional 4-week A1 language course during your first month in Germany prior to your au pair placement.
Let’s start with the basics - what is A1 level you ask? Read on to find out!
What is A1 Level?
A1 level is the first of six levels of language proficiency in a European language, as framed by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). A1 is the most basic level of language proficiency indicating the learner:
- Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.
- Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has.
- Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
It is very basic, so as long as you have the drive to learn a few phrases (like my Schönes Wochenende!) you will be fine when test-time arrives.
What is the A1 Level Test Like?
There are two portions of the A1 exam (as explained on the Goethe Institute’s website):
- Written examination held in groups (65 minutes)
- You will listen to short everyday conversations, personal phone messages or public announcements over a loudspeaker and do realistic exercises on them.
- You will read texts such as brief notes, classified advertisements, signposts or posters and do exercises on them.
- You will fill in typical simple forms and write a short personal text about an everyday situation.
- Oral examination held in a group (15 minutes)
- You introduce yourself to the group. A relaxed question-and-answer session will follow and you will ask someone in the group for some everyday items.
How Do I Study for the Test?
To reach the A1 level without any prior German knowledge, we suggest you plan for at least 60 hours of studying. That may sounds like a lot, but it’s actually only about 1-2 months of self-studying for an entirely new language.
A good, affordable place to start is right off the Goethe Institute’s website. They offer free practice materials to get you set for the level you are testing for. There are also lots of apps out there that can help you, including our favorite: Duolingo.
When Do I Take the Test?
Once you feel that you meet the language requirements, you can enroll for an exam at any time. You can find all of the testing centers directly on the Goethe Institute’s website.
Stay calm during the test and know that the testers are not trying to trick you. The test is very straight-forward and easy to pass as long as you put in a little time to study and learn a few of the basics, so don’t stress! It’s made to help build your foundation of German so that you can jump right into your new environment with confidence and composure.
Why Should I Take the A1 Test in the U.S.?
The benefit to taking your A1 test here in the U.S. first is that you can immediately start working as an au pair in Germany and get paid the stipend money you are owed. If you take classes in Germany, you must wait to collect your stipend until after pass your A1 test, usually after your first month.
We want to be sure you feel prepared and optimistic that you will pass. We know you will do well, but if you’d like to connect with a former InterExchange au pair who has taken the test for a firsthand perspective, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d simply like more resources or just some words of encouragement, feel free to send us an email or give us a call at 1.800.597.3675. We’re always here to help!
Jiyeon worked with InterExchange between 2010 and 2016 helping U.S. citizens planning to travel abroad. She loves living vicariously through InterExchange's young travelers, who remind her of her own experiences traveling to amazing places and making lifelong friendships. Jiyeon currently lives in New York City, holds a masters degree from Columbia University, and finds joy in all things sweet.