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My experience when I tested my German level at Goethe Institute

(TL;DR version at the end)

Hello Duolingo German learners,

I have been learning German with Duolingo for nearly 15 months now and have almost finished the tree. It took a while because I repeated many of the old exercises to strengthen them. As I still have only 6 more skills to go (completed 115/121), I decided to take a class at the Goethe Institute to further improve my German. This post is to help people understand the language level that they can expect to be after finishing the Duolingo tree and also the testing method Goethe Institute used.

During the placement test, my level was tested with questions where I have to fill in the right word in a sentence and also write short answers for a few questions. Based on the results, the instructor said I can take B1 classes. But then, she started a conversation with me in German. I think she was speaking slower than her natural pace, but still I was able to understand most of it. The problem was in replying, since I could only respond with short answers (eg: I come from X country. I am learning German for 1 year. etc..) and had to think for a while to make slightly more complicated sentences. I had to first translate and structure them in my head and then speak it. She sensed the effort it took me and suggested that I take A2.2 so that I can improve my speaking skills. I think that with more practice it is possible to get these skills from online learning tools, but it is difficult.

For those wondering the level Duolingo will take them to, I fully agree with those who answered this before me. You can get to high A2/low B1 in reading and writing. If you practice really hard, you can get to mid-B1. But that's it. If you want to go further, I suggest trying out other sources. I did try Lingvist and Rosetta Stone for a while, but I spent only around 5% of the time I spent in Duolingo in those two combined. Try to improve your speaking, because Duolingo can at the most get you to low-A2 in this. This is where Rosetta Stone excels I think, because it teaches you in a conversation setting, which somehow makes it easier to speak in the real world. Speaking inside your head is not enough (I do this), but speak out loud. This definitely helps.

So for me, next up is the A2.2 classes at Goethe Institute from next week. I hope that at the end of it, I would speak in German without significant hindrance. Meanwhile, I expect to finish the tree, get some crowns and then see if Duolingo still offers some value. Maybe the Stories will. And like I said, Rosetta Stone is quite good (but you have to pay) and Lingvist has some advanced vocabulary. I will probably give them a try along with Clozemaster.

That's it from me for now. Cheers and happy learning!

TL;DR version: I almost completed the German tree and the Goethe Institute placement test said I am eligible for B1 classes. But speaking needs improvement and so I have to take A2.2. Duolingo can get you to mid-B1 level in Reading and writing if you put in a lot of effort. Maybe low A2 in speaking. Try other sources like Lingvist, Rosetta Stone for vocabulary and to practice speaking.

May 15, 2018



Are you going to be taking your Goethe Institut class in Germany, one of the USA locations, or somewhere else?

I've taken classes at the Goethe Institut in Washington DC, USA and also at the Goethe Institut in Munich Germany. I enjoyed the classes very much. I started classes there at the beginning of A1 and have completed all of the A1 and the A2 classes there. Next up for me will be B1.1.


No, I am taking it in the Netherlands! I hope to enjoy them as well.

And out of curiosity, did you think the classes in Munich were more beneficial? I can imagine a higher level of 'immersion' since you are in a German speaking part of the world.


Yes, I learned a lot more quickly when I was taking the classes in Germany. I also found that my pronunciation of words improved there too, with corrections from the teacher.

It was able to use German when I was out doing things like shopping or getting food, but it was difficult at times when they stayed in German even when I was struggling to find the right words.

I will probably wait until I'm ready for B2 before I even think about going back to Germany, since it was so expensive for me and I need to improve my vocabulary first.


Good to hear that. I hope that you can visit again soon!


This was basically the same with me, though I ended up in a B1 class when I started real lessons - probably only because I took German classes aged 11-15 (with miiiinimal effort seriously lol).

After completing the Spanish tree over a long period (over a year) I started lessons at like A1.3 (never studied in school). My comprehension is fairly good but my understanding of grammar (particularly verb tenses) was weak.


Nice to know that! Yes, confidence is also a problem with my speaking, since I haven't really tested it yet. But I think B1 classes is quite possible with some more effort. Didn't know they split each level into 3 parts in Spanish! That's a lot and since you say you finished the tree, it seems Duolingo's level varies with each course.


Hi Karthik,

nice story.

I almost completed the German tree and the Goethe Institute placement test said I am eligible for B1 classes.
Duolingo can get you to mid-B1 level in Reading and writing if you put in a lot of effort.

Are you sure about WRITING and such higher level?

Crowns (L4 + L5) levels might finaly change (improve) the translation direction for your EN-DE forward tree.

With the old Duo strength system, the higher ratio definitely was on translations into English (native speaker) and L1 German readings (DE sentences on the left side) and therefore you could not practice WRITING in your L2 target language.

Try the reverse tree German-English (English from German).
Different content, different vocabulary, different grammar sentences, etc. (PT-DE is much more difficult than EN-PT to me!).

This makes very much sense for crown levels L0, L1-L2 (have not reached L3 yet).

First step into the speaking direction (active usage) could be text chatting (IRC, HelloTalk, HelloLingo).
I did that a long time with English (my 2nd language) when I was younger.

But speaking needs improvement and so I have to take A2.2.

Lack of speaking (or text chatting) skills would even be the case for the reverse EN-DE tree, if you mainly used DuoLingo and:

  • you are not forced to SPEAK on telephone/video calls: 1-on-1 sessions.
  • you do not practice (text) chatting on IRC (before)
  • talking in a classroom with a group of people
  • to have LOCAL (real life) conversation by visiting a "language exchange table" or speaking to natives

Wirklich verwundern tut mich das Ergebnis beim Sprechen also nicht.

Aber es ist doch trotzdem toll, dass überhaupt so viel von DuoLingo (oder Lingvist) für den Einstufungstest nach nur 15 Monaten hängengeblieben ist? :-)

Based on the results, the instructor said I can take B1 classes.

Does this mean next B1.1 classes for reading/writing?

At Berlitz, when I took my fulltime "Business English" course in 2005 we had to write longer texts (our final test was a business letter) and we were reading together longer articles and discussing them.
Those varying teachers were a lot of fun!

Even I have completed my EN-PT tree, I would fail doing both at this early stage!



By writing, I mainly meant translating sentences from English to German. I can maybe also write small paragraphs on my own with simple sentences, but can't write ones with multiple clauses. But still, I think that is due to a lack of vocabulary and not a lack of writing skill. I see your point though, Duolingo does not specialise in teaching writing as a separate skill, but rather translating without any spelling mistakes. But based on what you have said, I guess you also mean writing as translating, right?

Like I said, my focus is now on improving my speaking skill. Moreover, I know there are multiple sources online and offline for learning new words, but speaking practice is hard to replicate outside regular classes.

Honestly, I kind of expected to be placed in the level that I was. I think it was mainly based on the past threads in the discussion forum about the level that Duolingo takes one to. What surprised me was that the test was mostly about writing answers in a sheet and that too without a time limit. It seemed quite liberal to me. I would have definitely struggled if they had asked me to write a letter/email or listen to a newscast (only once or twice) and answer questions based on that.

There is no separate classes for each skill. I just take A2.2 classes for German as a whole. Once that is done, yes I will move on to B1.


Thank you for posting this. It was very informative. Congratulations on your test placement. That is an impressive accomplishment.

I agree with your assessment on Rosetta Stone. I am using it to supplement my learning and finding it very helpful on the higher levels. During the listening exercises, I purposely close my eyes to force myself not to read along. This technique is significantly improving my listening skills. I also think it helps listening to actual native speakers, instead of a synthesized voice.


Thank you very much.

Yes indeed, I think Rosetta Stone is one of the best sources to learn speaking if one cannot attend offline classes. I remember I finished 2 levels out of the 5, but since I started it when I was more than halfway through the Duolingo tree, it got a bit boring and I skipped many exercises. I will have to do it again, as you said its really useful. Can't agree more with the native speakers part.


Congratulations! I hope you find the classes helpful.

Besides Lingvist and Rosetta Stone, Mango is a free (with access from many public libraries worldwide) resource that focuses on conversations as well. In addition, it delves into culture, something that Duolingo does not do.


Just checked out Mango. Seems interesting. Thank you for introducing this to me!

[deactivated user]

    Mango offers many more languages like Tamil.


    Awesome! Good luck with Tamil!


    Thank you for your insight. I am planning to take a class this summer so that I will get more practice speaking. The nice thing is that in my Duolingo bubble I feel confident, but when I venture out to the real word, I realize that I'm only scratching the surface.


    Exactly! Everything is nice in Duolingo, but using the language in the real world is a huge step up.

    But I have to say the Duolingo lessons do their job pretty well, which is to give a good understanding of the basics and a vocabulary upon which you can build further using other learning tools.


    Thank you for sharing your experience! I think you are right. I strongly suggest repeating every German sentence you see or translate from English. You are still only going to be speaking short sentences, but it helps. Also, I think there is some variation in the German level you can achieve on Duolingo depending on your native language. English speakers, for example, learn to speak German much more easily than speakers of French, Spanish and Italian. Dutch, Afrikaans, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian speakers have the same advantage. The languages have an affinity, that usually helps Germans speak good English, but can work in the other direction, if English speakers are ready to really work on grammar.


    The native language or the languages that you are already fluent in definitely plays a major role. But that is mostly just the vocabulary. There are some exceptions like Dutch-German, Spanish-Portuguese and few others. That being said, I can imagine English being easy for a whole lot of people, just because of the simpler grammar, while German grammar is.. well, let's say difficult


    Thank you for sharing your experience. I think this is something may not fully be able understand from your perspective, but German and English, and other Germanic languages are very similar in both vocabulary and grammar. German grammar, as you correctly point out is harder than the grammar of the other languages though. With that said, learning a language is mostly, and above all, learning vocabulary. If you have an expansive and flexible vocabulary, you will be able to understand what others are saying, you will be able to make yourself understood, to take in audio and broadcast material in your target language, and to read, whether or not your grammar is perfect. If you have the best understanding of all grammar concepts, but limited vocabulary, you will understand little of the language and struggle to make yourself understood. Grammar is a theoretical exercise, a game, until you use it in real-life language, and to do that, you need a very large vocabulary. The vocabulary it is possible to learn on Duolingo, without the use of any other resources, is very good in content and topic, as well as in absolute volume, but it might not be large enough to get you into advanced or intermediate language course. The difference, for a native English speaker, is that he or she already understands thousands of German words on an intuitive level. (The same is true for Germans in English). Starting at the beginning, "Junge" and "Mädchen" on the surface do not look much like "boy" and "girl". But an English speaker immediately recognizes the words "young", "youngster", "maid" and "maiden" and will not forget what they mean. Going a little farther along, "unwillkürlich" does not look or sound like "involuntarily", "spontaneously", "automatically" or "instinctively". But, English speakers do know what this means, as soon as they hear it, unwillkürlich - instinctively, spontaneously and automatically. We instantly hear un-, the same prefix in English, un- (not), along with will - the same word in English will -(wish, desire, want) and -lich, a suffix that sounds the same in English -ish, (meanling like, belonging to, having the characteristics of, etc.,) Kür meanwhile is under the surface, but we do hear the word choose in it, and the meaning of the word would stand without it in any case. "Zerschmettern" is another more advanced example. While "zer-" is unfamiliar to English-speakers, they pick it up quickly. "Smash" and "shatter" do sound like "zerschmettern", but even if they didn't we would still immediately hear "smithereens" and "smattering" and never forget the word. The deep similarities between English and German should not be underestimated. They truly are sister languages. I have been teaching German to English-speakers (and other Americans) for 16 years, and while I am just wetting my feet in the Duolingo world now, I can see that a serious commitment to working through the tree and all the levels and crown levels here will better prepare an average student for intermediate level college courses than most high school German programs in the United States do. An adept student though, a gifted language learner, might do better after Duolingo by watching a German TV series, or listening to an ebook series for young adults. Then, of course, work with a good language teacher or experienced conversant, or someone you like and are highly motivated to speak to every day. Everyone has their own strengths and challenge areas, but following this program, an English-speaker could move on to advanced college classes in the USA or study abroad. It might be worth a try for a non-native English-speaker too though!

    [deactivated user]

      Thank you for the remark, I always say that duolingo will help to a great extent and it really does


      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! Carry on studying! :-)


      thank you for sharing your experience actually what you have said is true to learn any language you need other ressources to sharp it speaking skills but Duolingo is free and funny :)



      I was going to ask you what is your native language, I am assuming it is dutch, which is very similar to German. That is the reason you got to almost B1. We do not have the complete grammar for A2 in Duolingo. With some added sources we can reach B1 for school purposes, but in my experience not the real B1 level. Some people who have completed the German tree and took the official A2 test did not get good grades, and people who passed A1 needed additional resources. Congratulations again and thanks for sharing your experience..


      Thank you!

      Actually, I don't speak any Dutch. My mother tongue does not even share the same Latin script. I came to the Netherlands three years back and after a few half-hearted attempts to learn Dutch, I gave up due to lack of time/motivation.

      I have to clarify that I was almost eligible for B1 classes, which means that my level would have been A2. And now, I would still say my level is A2, since I am doing a high-A2 class (A2.2)

      From my experience in the test, the limitation was the vocabulary (of course, the sample size here is 1. So it's not really representative). In a few questions in the placement test, I knew that I had to fill in the past participle of the verb, but I just didn't know what the word was. I could also recognize the sentence structure when two clauses are used. But I didn't know the meaning of some words and thus couldn't answer them.

      But still, I think the test was gauging my academic level. I have no reason to suspect that they tested my real level, because the whole test was just writing answers in a sheet (without time limitations) and some speaking.

      Finally, aren't the official tests a different ball-game? I was always under the impression that you need to specifically practice for them to do well. Duolingo is not targeted towards this, so I am not surprised that some people got the results that you say they did.


      I found this incredibly helpful! I just moved to Germany almost 3 weeks ago. I took a Goethe institute placement test before I moved here. Like you, I also tested into B1. But when it came time to practice conversations I found I was very rusty and spoke only short and basic sentences. I had conversations with small children, get around the city, buy things, and ask for directions. But my personal conversations with adults were significantly lacking content. I just recently enrolled in am A2 class so I could back-pedal a bit to refresh and reapply my skills to focus on speaking and understanding. Now I'm using Duolingo everyday for the extra practice. I've decided to go slow with the Duolingo in order to aim for accuracy over completion.

      I will also add that being in Germany for three weeks has already progressed my skills significantly. It really helps tear me away from my comfort zone and force me to speak German and also embrace the fact that I am going to make a lot of mistakes. I wholeheartedly agree that while Duolingo is very useful, if you're serious about becoming fluent then I definitely recommend using other resources. finding local meet ups to practice speaking has been the best resource for me so far. It's even more useful than the accelerated learning classes.

      I currently have to take an A1 language test in order to have my immigration application approved, but my professors thinks I should be able to pass that with flying colors. Although, much of that did not come from Duolingo, but rather practicing conversation with others.

      I also recommend the books Dino Lernt Deutsch on Amazon! Even with a basic knowledge of German you will be surprised with how much you can understand.


      Thank you! Congratulations on your placement too! Did you study German previously through other means?

      Regarding the placement test, it is the exact same feeling that I had. I was speaking only short sentences and was lacking confidence. Interacting in German beforehand, however basic it may be, would have helped in my confidence. That is something I am certainly going to do from now on. Get myself out of the comfort zone and speak German and recognise the fact that I am going to make mistakes and its part of the process.

      Good luck with your A1 test! I hope you ace it! And thank you for the books. I will try them for sure.


      I previously studied it in high school for 4 years (which was 10 years ago lol) so I had a little bit of knowledge. My husband is a German native so thats where most of my practice came from before we decided to move to Germany! So now I bug the poor man constantly with questions and asking what things mean haha!


      Seems about right, I have nearly finished the French tree (getting back to French after nearly forgetting it from high school) and I think my vocabulary is low B1, but my speaking skills are missing. DuoLingo (especially with Tiny Cards) seems like really great tool to get you to learn the basic vocabulary, and it seems to get you at the level where you can start exploring the language on your own without being completely lost, but nowhere near actual fluency.

      After finishing Duolingo and actually learning the words from TinyCards (and Drops - love that app for the vocabulary it has) I think I will try to struggle through some French stories and get into reading in French. That worked rather well for my English, so I hope it will work with French. Actually I set my iPad to French and some games there to French (though some apps with a lot of text I switched back to English) and I am enjoying getting familiar with some basic vocabulary. Wish I could actually spend some time in France soon to get myself actively using the language.

      PS: I know a lot of grammar is available on the website though I mostly get to learn when ravelling to and from work and I use the app for that. I really wish the tips and notes for each lesson were available in the app as well.


      I have never given TinyCards a serious try. I might check it out now, thanks!


      They have some serious flaws (especially for many words that have multiple correct translations), but they are incredibly helpful for learning alphabets (Russian, Japanese), and I use them for French vocabulary (wish they were updated to match the current tree though, some words are missing). Anyway, since I knew a lot they were rather annoying for words I already knew (those can be made invisible if you wish so you will not be tested out of them), however after I answered correctly for a few times the Tiny Cards ask me to make repetition only after a long time and I like being reminded of those words after such a long time. The words I do not translate correctly come up more often so I learn them faster, there is similar software but I got used to TinyCards now and they complement Duolingo in some courses really well. My only serious gripe with them is that I wish I got xp for using them, My French would be at least two level higher if I got xp for TinyCards. Anyway there is official DuoLingo pack for German as well, I think it is worth it giving it a try, it will take some time to learn everything (I cheat a bit and turn off keyboard to learn stuff quickly and then for repetition I use keyboard to actually learn something) but once you learn everything you will need to make everything golden with increasing intervals and after few goes it is nice reminder of words you are about to forget and need to be reminded of. And once you learn a deck they work perfectlly well offline, which is something Duolingo fails to do, I cannot practice offline, only learn and I need predownloaded content for learning...

      Sorry for the wall of text, in the past few weeks I was musing about what I like and hate about duolingo and tiny cards.. .will have to make separate post about that.


      Giving XP for TinyCards is a nice idea, You could maybe add it as a suggestion in the forum (I don't know if that's the right way, though)


      Nachdem ich Ihre nachricht gelesen habe, habe ich beim Goethe-Institut in New York registiert! Für den Immersionstag habe ich mich angemeldet. Ich wollte es immer tun aber ich war sehr faul. Wenn ich diesen Immersionstag beendet habe, werde ich mich für den Standardkurs (A1) anmelden. Sie haben mich inspiriert! Danke und viel gluck!

      Ich entschuldige mich für meine schlechte Deutsche sprache :)


      Danke schön! Was ist der Immersionstag?


      Es ist ein Tag, der dauert acht Stunden und Ihnen ein Beispiel ihres Kurses gibt

      Es ist mein erste Schritt und ich werde den A1-Kurs als nächstes tun


      Thank you! This is really helpful information. I appreciate you taking the time to give such a thorough analysis of the Duo experience. All the best in your continued learning!


      Thank you! Good luck to you too!


      Ich liebe Deutschland! Liebe des Vaterlands! Ich spreche ein wenig deutsch aber ich will sprechen wie fliesend bin!


      Das ist großartig! Viel Glück!


      I would agree that it would be very difficult to speak well even after finishing Duolingo. I learnt French through Linguaphone records and am now starting Italian through Linguaphone. I can't recommend them highly enough. I speak French well, and have already been complimented on my Italian accent by Italians. I think it's easier to learn from little stories one listens to repeatedly than from isolated phrases. I do repeat the Linguaphone lessons a lot - in fact I don't go on to the next lesson until I can say a lesson with the speaker by heart. There are very good grammatical explanations too.

      [deactivated user]

        Sì, this is why I really wish the Italian stories on Duolingo would appear.


        Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.


        Thank you so so much for sharing this with us Karthik!!

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