German Higher Education Entrance Qualification – a detailed guide

Last updated:
Don’t have a valid certificate to apply to the German university of your choice? Don’t worry! Our guide on the German Higher Education Entrance Qualification has everything covered for you.

Abitur – The German Higher Education Entrance Qualification

Before you plan to take the first step towards study abroad journey in Germany, as an international student you must be aware that having an appropriate qualification to study in Germany is a must. It is one of the most significant aspects of filing a successful application and pursuing higher studies in Germany.

You must possess Hochschulzugangsberechtigung – the University Entrance Qualification for applying to a university in Germany for your higher education. However, apart from the University Entrance Qualification, there are numerous other requirements for successfully applying to a German university for your higher studies. And, it is vital to keep those requirements in mind and ensure that you fulfill them as well.

The Abitur – What is it?

When German students complete their high school studies, at the end of the term, they are provided with a certificate that permits them to enter higher education in a German university. This certificate is known as the “Abitur”.

A German student receives the Abitur at the Upper Gymnasium Level or Gymnasiale Obersufe after twelve or thirteen years of high school education in a German school. This certificate allows them to pursue higher education in any subject in a German university.

What about students who do have the Abitur?

Well, this case applies to you if you are an international student who wants to pursue higher education in Germany. It is important to know how your high school education will be evaluated based on your country in the absence of the Abitur.

If you do not have the Abitur, you must possess an equivalent certificate that corresponds to the German Abitur. The German universities sometimes consider the school leaving certificate provided by your country or the university entrance qualification examination.

Whatever be the case, the protocol remains the same, whether you are a German student or an international student. All students must possess a Higher Education Entrance Qualification.

As an international student, you must remember just one thing. Since you do not have the German Abitur, you need to have an equivalent high school leaving certificate for your application to be considered by the German universities.

What if your international high school leaving certificate is not equivalent to the Abitur?

It is very much possible that your international high school leaving certificate may not be recognized as being equivalent to the Abitur by some German universities. In such a scenario, as an international student, you’ll be required to enroll yourself in a foundation course at “Studienkollegs” that will lead you to the University Entrance Examination Qualification which will make your international school leaving certificate valid for entering German universities.

Enter a German university for higher education – entitlement categories

Based on your previous educational qualifications, different entitlement categories will qualify you to apply for higher education in a German university.

The different entitlement categories are:

Direct entitlement

If you possess a direct entitlement, you can easily sail through the application process and will be authorized to apply directly to the German universities and pursue higher education in Germany.

Indirect entitlement

If your earlier qualification or certificate does not allow entitle you to apply to German universities, you will get an indirect entitlement. Once you’re in this category, you need to get enrolled in a complete year preparatory program at the Studienkolleg and pass the necessary University Entrance Qualification Exam. Once you pass the examination, you’ll be able to apply for a higher study program in a German university.

Subject-based entitlement

If you possess a subject-based entitlement, you can only apply to a selected few study fields in the Germany universities. Since in a subject-specific entitlement, the school in your country clearly defines the subjects you are great at, it will only help you in applying to subject-based study programs in Germany.

Germany recognized four types of subject-based entitlement. These include:

• Social Sciences and Economic Studies (W)
• Biology, Medicine or related subjects (M)
• Scientific or technical subjects (T)
• Languages and Humanities (G and S)

Being sure if your international school leaving certificate is valid or not

As you’ve already read before, sometimes your school leaving certificate may not be adequate for applying to a German university. The country where you received your school leaving certificate plays a primary role in deciding whether the entitlement is valid for applying for higher education in Germany or not. The rules of foreign education in Germany vary from one country to another.

If you’ve received your school leaving certificate from an educational institute in Liechtenstein, Iceland, European Union, Switzerland or Norway, there are high chances that your certificate will be valid for applying to a German university. Or, if you’ve completed your high school studies from around 140 German schools across the globe, your certificates will be recognized by the German universities.

The best way to find useful information related to your certificate

Since there are numerous rules and regulations about school leaving certificate being recognized by German universities or not, it’s not easy to find all the information in one place.

The best way to grab maximum helpful information is checking useful resource databases on the validity of international school leaving universities in Germany. DAAD’s database and Anabin database are two trustworthy resources that you can check.

The International Wing of the University you wish to apply is another ideal place to check for such information. They are the final authorizing committee which will decide if the particular German university will recognize your certificates or not.

1. The Anabin database

It is a highly user-friendly, reliable and free online database for international students like you who want to pursue their higher studies from Germany. It can provide you with all the valuable information you need to ascertain if your school leaving certificate will be recognized by the German university you wish to apply to.

The Anabin Database enables you to search for country-based information and allows to fetch country-specific information about the validity of your certificate provided by your home country.

2. The DAAD database

The DAAD Database also provides necessary information about your international school leaving certificate’s validity to apply to a German university for higher education. Here too, you can pick your country and get your desired information.

3. The International Office of the University you are applying to

If you want information that is definitive and on-point, there’s no better place to go than the International Office of the university you’ve chosen for your higher education in Germany. You can get in touch with the office via e-mail (you can get the contact information from the university’s website). Send them the details of your certificate along with the list of questions you have and request them for advice on the recognition of your certificate by the German Educational Standards.

If your certificate is valid and recognized by the German university, they will get back to you with more details on your entitlement category. They will also provide guidance on other parts of the application and what you need to do to fulfill the mentioned criterion.

It is vital to remember that it is solely the university’s discretion to decide whether your certification is recognized or not.

What if the high school certificate is not sufficient for admission?

​In case your international high school leaving certificate is not recognized by the German university of your choice or is not corresponding to the Abitur, don’t get hassled. It is not the end of the world. You can still aim for a valid document that is equivalent to the Abitur.

You can get the document once you pass the Feststellungsprüfung or the German University Qualification Entrance exam.

The University Qualification Entrance Exam – all that you need to know

​Feststellungsprüfung or the University Qualification Entrance Examination is a qualifying examination for international students who want to pursue higher education from a Germany institute, but, their school leaving certificate is not recognized by the German university.

On successfully passing the exam, you’ll be treated as an eligible candidate for the German university you want to apply to. It will be considered equivalent to the German Abitur.

Since the exam is not a cakewalk, you are required to attend the full preparatory course at the Studienkolleg which two-semester is long (a complete year). During the course, you will also gain subject-related knowledge. However, this is mandatory.

You can also appear for the exam as an external international student and independently prepare for the entrance exam. Although, it is best to consult with the university or Studienkolleg before you decide the future course.

If in any case, you fail the examination, you will get only one more attempt. That too, after six months of the previous exam.

Things to keep in mind when appearing for the Entrance Exam

There are few key aspects that you must be aware of before you appear for the University Qualification Evaluation. These include:
Preparatory Course at the Studienkolleg

Ideally, if you are appearing for the Entrance Exam, you must join the preparatory course at the Studienkolleg. However, it is not mandatory. The course lasts for two-semesters or a complete year to be precise.

You can easily find Studienkollegs in various universities and colleges. No tuition fee is charged for enrollment. However, you need to pay the semester fee which may vary based on the university you are applying to.

List of Studienkollegs you can join

1. G – preparatory course for German studies or humanities
2. M – preparatory course for biological, medical or pharmaceutical studies
3. S – preparatory course for language studies
4. T – preparatory course for technical, mathematical or scientific studies
5. W – preparatory course for business, social science and economic studies

Getting into the Studienkolleg

If you were thinking that your enrollment into Studienkolleg will be easy, you’re absolutely wrong!
You need to pass the Aufnahmetest or Studienkolleg Entrance Exam. You need to prove your proficiency in German language and adequate knowledge in subjects which will be taught at the Studienkolleg.

Depending on the status of validity of school leaving certificate and the subjects you wish to study, there are two types of Aufnametest that you can appear for – the T Entrance exam and the W Entrance exam.

T Entrance Exam – German, Chemistry, Physics, English, Mathematics, Technical Drawing, Informatics
W Entrance Exam – German, Economics, Mathematics, Social Studies, English, Informatics, Accounting

All the tests are sixty minutes long, and if by chance you fail the first exam, you have two more attempts.

Proving your proficiency in the German language
To get enrolled in the Studienkolleg, it is imperative to have adequate proficiency in the German language. You need to have cleared the B1 level as per the Common European Framework of Reference for Language or the Upper Basic Level of the Goethe Institute.
Applying to the Studienkolleg – make a note

Before you sit in front of your laptop to apply, you must be aware of the best Studienkolleg and its details. You may find the option to apply online in case of some Studienkollegs, while in case of others, you may be asked to send your details by post. The application procedure can vary from one International Office of the University to the other.

However, remember that you cannot enter a Studienkolleg without passing the entrance exam. Also, all universities do not have Studienkollegs, and all Studienkollegs do not offer courses in all subjects. Therefore, you must be very attentive and vigilant while picking a Studienkolleg based on your subjects and relevance.

The bottom-line

Don’t have a valid certificate to apply for higher education studies in a German university? Worry not. As mentioned in the article, there are ways you can make things work in your favor. All you need to do is stay focused, conduct adequate research and stay confident. Do let us know if you have more questions related to the German Higher Education Qualification or any topic from this article.