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Germany's entrance exam proves troublesome

By Zhao Xinying | China Daily | Updated: 2015-09-30 08:26

Chinese applicants who want to study in Germany must prepare intensively to pass an examination hosted by the German embassy - a test that has blocked many students, overseas study experts said.

Many Chinese applicants hold the mistaken belief that approval to study in Germany rested on their scores in the TestDaF, the German-language proficiency test.

In fact, the TestDaF is only an initial threshold; what really decides whether a student can go is an examination by the Akademische Prufstelle, a department of the German embassy in China, said Zheng Xiao, a senior manager of the Europe Department of Vision Overseas, a consultancy under New Oriental Education & Technology Group in China.

The examination, known as the APS, consists of two parts: a 10-minute written exam that tests applicants' basic academic ability, and an interview that lasts 20 to 30 minutes to assess applicants' ability to express themselves.

Students who apply for undergraduate or graduate programs in Germany must pass the examination before they can go.

According to Zheng, who got his bachelor's and master's degrees in sociology in Germany a decade ago, the APS was first introduced in China in 2008. It now applies to only a few countries, including China, Mongolia and Vietnam, where education concepts and approaches are vastly different from those in Germany.

In recent years, Germany, with free tuition and a good reputation in subjects like electronics, machinery, architecture, economics, philosophy and literature, has become one of the most popular destinations for Chinese students to study overseas.

The number of Chinese students who registered to take the APS examination reached 32,900 as of August, a 60 percent rise over last year.

However, the APS examination has remained a headache for Chinese applicants. Only 30 percent pass the examination each year, said Carol Si, head of the Europe Department of Vision Overseas. What's worse, students who fail the examination three times lose the opportunity to study in Germany permanently.

To help Chinese students, some tutorial classes have been set up to sharpen skills for the APS, Si said.

Han Tengyi, marketing director at the Chinese branch of the Germany-based F+U Academy of Languages, which helps applicants pass the APS, said one factor leading to failure is unfamiliarity with the German way of thinking.

"German people are more straightforward in thinking and expressing than Chinese, who prefer a reserved or even subtle approach," she said. "Such differences may cause misunderstandings between the German interviewers and the Chinese applicants."

Zheng said Chinese applicants' lack of experience in giving presentations and public speeches is another factor.

"These abilities, very important in German education but seldom emphasized in Chinese schools, will be assessed in the interviews," Zheng said. "Chinese students are often at a disadvantage in this session due to their insufficient training in doing these things."

Corinna Kluck, head of APS tutorial program at F+U, said Chinese students should bear one more thing in mind if they want to succeed in the APS examination: Germany adopts a very practical perspective about education and encourages people to put what they learn at school into practice.

"Under such circumstances, a suggestion for Chinese applicants is that while preparing for the examination, they should think more about how to combine knowledge and practice together in their future study," she said.

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