How would you like to sound during your German oral exam?
You probably want speech that’s as smooth as peanut butter and a demeanor that’s cool as a cucumber.
But most of us can barely seem that suave in our day-to-day lives.
The stress and pressure of an oral exam makes it even harder.
Here’s the thing, though.
You don’t need to walk into your exam nervous, jittery and uncertain.
You can be totally prepared with our bank of 59 ready-to-use German oral exam phrases.
Study these, and you can calmly handle any topic your examiner throws at you.
You’ll walk out of that test feeling like James Bond.
How to Prepare for a German Oral Exam
Familiarize Yourself with the Format of the Exam
This is the first step to ensuring that you’ll be calm and confident on test day. You’ll know what to expect, how to present yourself and, most importantly, your preparation will be focused and relevant.
If you’re taking an oral exam in an academic setting, your teacher or professor will likely explain the scope of the test, even if it’s just the basics. When you’re studying, be sure to adhere to that structure—time yourself, discuss certain topics in the order your professor specified, leave your notes somewhere hard to reach—anything to imitate what you’ll actually be experiencing on test day.
With official German language tests, you may need to do a little bit of research to know the test structure. However, it’ll be easy to find.
For example, there’s tons of information about the popular Goethe Zertifikat exam online. You’ll see that the A1 (beginner) level exam has a basic question-and-answer format, and you’ll need to speak for about 15 minutes. However, the C2 (advanced) level exam requires you to deliver a presentation and respond to counterarguments, also within 15 minutes.
Memorize Words Smarter with Word Maps
Once you know the format of the test, you’ll know what vocabulary topics would be best for you to study. Word maps are an incredible tool to avoid those long, uncomfortable pauses while speaking.
That’s because word maps make it easy to memorize a lot of related words at once. That way, you can be fully prepared for any topic you need to discuss in your German oral exam and handle anything that’s thrown at you during the test.
They’ll also help you get more use out of the phrases you’ll be preparing to use in your oral exam. If you have a wide range of nouns, verbs and adjectives to work with, you can easily swap them in and out of your German phrases, adapting them to specific situations.
The beauty of this technique is that you can be creative within a framework. Check out my examples below, where you’ll see that I’ve organized words both by theme (work) and part of speech.
- verdienen (to earn)
- ausgeben (to spend)
- sparen (to save)
- ausgleichen (to balance)
- die Motivation (motivation)
- das Engagement (dedication)
- das Berufsleben (work life)
- die Berufswelt (vocational world)
- das Gehalt (salary)
- wenig (little)
- viel (a lot)
- nur (only)
- erst (first)
- noch (still)
With the above word list, I can churn out the following sentence, for example:
Ich verdiene viel, weil mein Gehalt hoch ist. Aber ich gebe auch viel aus. Manchmal denke ich, dass ich wenig verdiene. Aber das Problem ist, dass ich nicht viel spare. (I earn a lot, because my salary is high. But I also spend a lot. Sometimes I think that I earn less. But the problem is that I don’t save a lot.)
Practice in the Mirror
Success in a German oral exam isn’t just about the words and phrases you use. It’s also about your body language, eye contact and overall demeanor. These are key aspects of your speaking skills.
That’s why it’s important to practice speaking German in front of a mirror. Here’s what to look for:
- A confident posture, sitting up straight but calm and relaxed.
- Hands folded on your lap, not in your pockets.
- Eye contact with the examiner. Eye contact is a big deal in general in German culture, and more so in German oral exams. Not looking at the examiner and speaking while looking down is considered a mark of low self-confidence.
Watch Authentic German Videos
To develop a natural-sounding accent, it’s important to hear how native speakers talk in real life.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
To keep things fresh, FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommends further lessons and videos based on what you've already studied.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or practice anytime, anywhere on the mobile app for iOS and Android.
59 Ready-to-use Phrases to Ace Your German Oral Exam
I personally consider Steve Jobs to be one of the greatest oral speakers. His key tip was: rehearse, rehearse and rehearse—with the phrases you want to use in your presentation.
This made me think to myself, “hey, why don’t I create a phrase bank to prepare for German oral exams?”
Here are some of my phrase banks for German oral exams, grouped by category. We’ve based these categories largely on the Goethe Zertifikat oral exam rubrics, but you can mix, match and adapt them to any exam you’re planning to take. They’ll give you the ready-to-use phrases you need to ace your test!
Introduction Phrases and Questions
Talking About Yourself
Ich heiße…/Ich bin… (My name is…/I am…)
Ich komme aus… (I come from…)
Ich wohne in… (I live in…)
Ich bin _____ Jahre alt. (I am _____ years old.)
Meine Hobbys sind… (My hobbies are…)
Asking About Someone Else
Was machst du/machen Sie bei der Arbeit? (What do you do at work?)
Was machen Sie/machst du beruflich? (What do you do professionally?)
Was machst du/machen Sie in der Freizeit? (What do you do in your free time?)
Wann haben Sie/hast du frei? (When do you have free time?)
Phrases and Questions for Shopping
For many beginner and lower-intermediate German oral exams, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can get by in daily German life. You may be asked to role-play a conversation in a store or some other German public place. These questions and phrases will help.
For the most part you should avoid using the du form in this context, as you would want to speak respectfully and formally with strangers.
Wieviel kostet _____?/Was kostet _____? (How much does _____ cost?)
Wo kaufen/bekommen Sie…? (Where do you buy/get…?)
Wie sind Ihre/deine Arbeitszeiten? (What are your working hours?)
Wann schließt _____? (When does _____ close?)
Wann öffnet die Bäckerei/der Supermarkt/die Apotheke _____? (When does the bakery/supermarket/pharmacy open?)
Ich hätte gern/Ich möchte… (I would like…)
Phrases and Questions to Ask for Help
Ich hatte eine Frage. (I had a question/inquiry.)
Könnten Sie/ könntest du bitte mir helfen? (Could you please help me?)
Könnten Sie/ könntest du bitte mir eine/einen _____ geben? (Could you please give me a _____?)
Könnten Sie mir sagen… (Could you tell me…)
Ich möchte wissen, ob… (I would like to know whether…)
Vielen Dank für die Informationen/Hilfe. (Thanks a lot for the information/help.)
Expressing and Asking for Opinions
Was denkst du/denken Sie? (What do you think?)
Meiner Meinung nach… (In my opinion…)
Ich finde, dass… (I find that…)
Ich denke, dass… (I think that…)
Hast du/Haben Sie etwas dazu zu sagen? (Do you have something to say about that?)
Wie meinst du/meinen Sie? (What do you feel?)
Giving a Mini-presentation
At the intermediate stages and up, you’ll need to prove that you can discuss a topic coherently, support your opinions and address counterarguments. The Goethe Zertifikat B1 exam, for example, requires a brief presentation about an everyday topic.
Guten Tag, meine Damen und Herren. (Hello, ladies and gentlemen.)
Mein heutiges Thema ist… (Today my topic is…)
Ich spreche über dieses Thema, weil… (I am speaking about this topic because…)
Ich möchte über die folgenden Punkte sprechen… (I would like to speak about the following points…)
Erstens/zweitens/drittens werde ich über _____ sprechen. (First/second/third I will be talking about _____.)
Ich möchte kurz zusammenfassen. (I would like to shortly conclude.)
Abschließend möchte ich sagen, dass… (In conclusion I would like to say that…)
Vielen Dank für die Aufmerksamkeit. (Thank you for the attention.)
Haben Sie Fragen? (Do you have any questions?)
Important Grammatical Structures for a Smooth German Oral Exam
Partizip 2 (Present Perfect Tense)
This tense is particularly useful for question-framing. Of course to use this tense, just be sure you’re familiar with your German participles.
Haben Sie schon etwas gegessen? (Have you eaten something already?)
Wie sind Sie/bist du nach London gefahren? (How did you travel to London?)
Wann hast du Deutsch gelernt? (When did you learn German?)
Modalverben (Modal Verbs)
German modal verbs are quite handy to use in question-framing or expressing wants, abilities, permissions, etc.:
Könn(t)en Sie Bitte…. (Could/Can you please…)
Ich wollte eigentlich… (I actually wanted to…)
Darf ich…? (May I…?)
Trennbare Verben (Separable Verbs)
Many German oral exams will ask you to make plans or negotiate with another German speaker, to demonstrate flexible conversation skills. Separable verbs are very useful here.
Kommst du am Freitag um 7 Uhr mit? (Are you coming along on Friday at 7 o’clock?)
Was bringst du zur Party mit? (What are you bringing along to the party?)
Um wie viel Uhr muss ich dich abholen? (At what time must I pick you up?)
Was ziehst du heute an? (What are you wearing today?)
Das sieht gut aus. (That looks good.)
These work well in expressing opinions, thoughts, conditions and situations.
Remember to place the verb in the second clause at the end.
Das ist so, weil… (That is so, because…)
Ich denke so, weil… (I think so, because…)
Ich habe keine Zeit, weil… (I have no time because…)
Ich brauche es, weil… (I need it because….)
Ich habe es so gemacht, weil… (I did it that way because…)
This connector is used to reinforce facts and express direct speech as indirect. Very handy when you want to express your personal opinion. This again displaces the verb in the second clause to the end.
Ich finde, dass… (I find that…)
Mir ist es klar, dass… (It is clear that…)
Ich meine, dass…. (I mean to say that…)
Das zeigt uns, dass… (It shows us that…)
This could either be placed in the first clause or the second.
Obwohl ich es gesagt habe, glaube ich… (Although I have said so, I think…)
Sie bliebt im Bett, obwohl sie nicht krank ist. (She stayed in Bett, although she isn’t sick.)
With these German oral exam phrases, you can walk into your test feeling cool and confident!
Gayatri Tribhuvan is a passionate linguist from Bangalore, India and teaches German, French and other languages. She enthusiastically contributes her knowledge in the linguistics field. Get to know more about her language school that she runs in Bangalore, India here.
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