Exams FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the department's Language & Use exams (Intermediate and Advanced)

What level of English is required in order to pass the exam?

The level that you should aim for in order to do well in L&U Intermediate/I is C1; for L&U Advanced/II, the level is C2. Please see the Global Scale and the Self-Assessment grid for further information on what C1/2 means.

How can I study for the exam?
First things first

Before you do anything else, read this: Please refer to the departmental Sprachpraxis website, and the Sprachpraxis letter for detailed information on what you can do to prepare for the exam.

We are frequently asked what students can do to study for the exam. In a way, that’s the wrong question to ask. Rather than asking what you can do to prepare for the exam, what you should be asking is what you can do to improve your language skills. Your language skills are the foundation of everything you do for your English degree – you need an adequate level of English to be able to follow our literature and linguistics courses, to understand secondary literature, to present complex academic arguments, and to write academically sound term papers. It’s all connected – if your language skills are not up to scratch, there’s a chance you might not excel in other modules either.

There are lots and lots of things that you can do to improve your English. Read on for some of our favourites.

What role should reading play in my plan?

Read! Read lots. Read anything – books, magazines, newspapers, comics, blogs. Read for pleasure. Reading will improve your grammar, speaking, and writing. Start by reading more widely and tackling more complicated texts. Read around on different subjects: art, economics, philosophy, politics and so on. Summarise the texts you read aloud using as many new and higher-level (i.e. C1/2) words as you can, or try and make up dialogues on the same topic. If you rarely read, you might want to question your decision to study English as this does not bode well for your progress. Good written texts are the most important source when it comes to learning C1 and C2-level vocabulary and grammatical structures.

What about media?

Watch English media – TV shows, movies, YouTube clips, TED talks, etc. You can also listen to podcasts, but it is often easier to understand if you can watch and listen at the same time. Turn on subtitles if necessary (English, of course!). This exhortation comes with one major caveat: the level of formality we tend to require and aim for in our exam tasks is higher than what one might hear in day-to-day speech. Even if you might hear speakers of English modify a verb with an adjective, this is not an argument for doing it yourself on our exams. The same applies, for example, to the use of the past perfect in a conditional sentence where spoken English might allow an albeit sloppy but acceptable simple past usage. We tend to err on the more formal side of grammar and vocabulary.

What about writing? Or corresponding with (a) partner(s)?

If you need to work on your writing skills, the best thing to do is ... well, to write. Perhaps find a tandem language partner (you write in English; they write in your native language, and you help each other). Do you have a hobby or interest? Try keeping a blog about that topic, and post regularly.

You could also look for a tandem language partner who is interested in speaking and meet on e.g. Zoom or Skype or WhatsApp – half an hour of English conversation, half an hour of conversation in your native language.

If you don’t know where to find a tandem partner, check out this link.

Vocabulary?

Vocabulary! Now that you’re aiming for an advanced level of English, the thing that will help you get better is mostly building a wide-ranging vocabulary: collocations, fixed expressions, idioms, etc. Learn how to identify useful vocabulary items (this is addressed in the Language Courses); then pick them out from the texts that you’re reading (or films you’re watching/podcasts you’re listening to). Note the items down in a vocabulary book and memorise typical examples of how each structure is used.

Grammar?

Grammar! Obviously, you need to study the meanings and the forms of grammar, but you should also learn through examples. For instance, say you're worried about the present perfect continuous: its form is fairly simple: have / has been + -ing, and so is its meaning: continuing from the past to the present, or continuing from the past to a time very close to the present, and with a present result.

However, to really know the grammar well, you need to know the most typical ways of using it! Why not keep pages in your notebooks for good examples of each grammatical structure that you come across? For example:

How long've you been doing that?

  • Not very long. Only a few weeks.
  • Quite a while now / Quite a long time. I started a couple of years ago.

I haven't been sleeping well recently.

  • Why? What’s the matter?

I haven't been feeling very well (for) the last couple of weeks.

They've not been playing well all season.

I've been living here for three years, and still do.

She's been working here for almost forty years (now).

  • Gosh! She must be nearing retirement.

I’m not feeling well. I think I might be coming down with something.

  • Yeah, you look like death warmed up.

Pay attention to the time expressions that go with structures. Different tenses help you to talk about different times. As such, lots of different time expressions are generally only used with certain grammatical structures. For example, if you want to talk about something at the moment, you need the present continuous, but if you want to talk about something over the last few months, you need the present perfect or the present perfect continuous. It’s important to notice and learn the time expressions that go with each structure and, in cases where more than one structure is possible with a certain time expression, what the difference is between the structures. When you record common examples of different tenses, try to also record common time expressions that can be used with each one. For example:

I’ve not / I haven’t been feeling well lately / recently / of late / this week / for the last few days / for quite a while now.

Learn the grammar of individual words! Grammar isn’t just tenses. Individual words also have their own grammatical patterns, and it’s very useful to learn what kind of grammar you should use with some important everyday words such as “suggest” and “want”. Make sure you own a good up-to-date learner’s dictionary (see here, for example). When you look up new words in these dictionaries, you will also see the patterns and grammar that go with the words. Keep a record of these in your notebook or electronic device. The grammar used with individual words is often different from one language to another. For example, if you translate directly from German, you might say “*My mother suggested me to get a job.” However, in English this is wrong. We say: “My mother suggested that I (should) get a job” (In fact, the most idiomatic [=the way language is used by fluent/native speakers] way of saying this is probably something like “My mother told me to get a job.”). A good learner’s dictionary will highlight such patterns. The onus is now on you to notice, record, and learn them!

Of course, it is important to look at grammar and to try to be accurate, especially at CEFR levels C1+. However, it is even more important to be able to say what you want to say. Without grammar, you can’t say very much, but, without words, you can’t say anything at all. If you spend time studying English outside the classroom, make sure you spend more time learning words and expressions than doing grammar exercises.

Become aware of how another language you speak affects your understanding of English. We, of course, spend most of our time thinking about how German affects your learning of English, but you might need to be on the lookout for interference patterns from other languages. Consider the fact that there is in many ways a collective understanding of English in Germany that is often at odds with what we consider standard and correct:

  • The present simple should not be used in situations where you mention a plan:
    • “What are your plans for tomorrow morning?” “I go grocery shopping.”
  • In English, we capitalise the first letter of the body of an email message or letter. In German, we don’t. Notice it; then learn it.
  • Pronunciation is often affected by one of your other languages as well. Consider the fact that there is a difference between the verb “extend” and the noun “extent.” Likewise, Rock am Ring is never referred to in English as “life” music. When listening to fluent/native speakers, pay attention to (i.e. notice!) the correct pronunciation of individual words and the intonation of longer stretches of speech. Then think about how this differs from your own rendering of spoken language and practise the new pronunciation patterns.

You may think that these are insignificant niggles, but getting such details right matters! And you will get tested on them in the exams.

Final thoughts on studying for the exam(s) ...

In heeding the above-mentioned suggestions, you will invariably be well prepared for the Language & Use exams. That said, if you want to study specifically for the exams, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Make sure that you are familiar with the tasks that you will encounter in the exam. Your instructor(s) will go through one or two mock exams in class, and you can also contact the student council and ask for additional past exam papers. There is also a dedicated Language & Use moodle course which you may want to check out.
  2. Find a study partner. This is in addition to the tandem language partner mentioned above. With your study partner, you can create exam-style tasks (e.g. reading comprehension, gap-fill (verbs/multiple-choice/general), word formation) and then exchange them and give each other feedback on your performance.

Join the following Team on MS Teams: [P] Academic Word List – Student exercises
You can join as follows: MS Teams – Teams – Join or create a team [bottom left corner] – Enter the following code: 6n9u7jk

This is a shared space which you can use to exchange worksheets based on the Academic Word List. You have access to other students’ worksheets, and you should upload worksheets yourself. Please upload your exercises in one single document (ideally MS Word) and include an answer key. For examples of different exercise formats, please check out the folder called “Example tasks”.

There is no quick fix. If you think that you can reach C1/C2 by studying hard in the weeks leading up to the exam, you will run into all sorts of trouble. You need to start early and work on your English continuously over a long period of time.

What kinds of tasks will there be in the exam?

As part of the language courses, you will encounter one or two mock exams, i.e., papers from previous semesters, which will give you a pretty good idea of the kinds of tasks you will encounter. If you would like to have access to further old exams, please contact the student council or your instructor(s). For further information on the exams, please see here for L&U Intermediate/I and here for L&U Advanced/II.

You can also join the following Team on MS Teams: [P] Sprachpraxis Anglistik - Language and Use exams
Join the Team as follows: MS Teams – Teams – Join or create a team [bottom left corner] – Enter the following code: 6wfoj0s

This is a shared space where you will find L&U exams from previous semesters, including reduced versions (after Cambridge C1/2).

How long will I have to complete the exam?

It depends on your situation.

Amount of time allowed for each exam situation and type (L&U Intermediate)

  • BA: three hours
  • ERASMUS: three hours
  • Reduced: 90 min. 

Amount of time allowed for each exam situation and type (L&U Advanced)

  • Lehramt (LC III required): three hours
  • ERASMUS (with LC III): three hours
  • ERASMUS (without LC III): two hours
  • MA (LC III part not required): two hours
  • Reduced (with LC III requirement): two hours
  • Reduced (without LC III requirement): 90 min. 
How much time should I dedicate to my language studies?

The amount of time you need to invest in your study depends on your level at the beginning of your studies. If you have Abitur-level English (B2), that’s a good starting point. Researchers at University of Cambridge English Language Assessment estimate that it takes 200 guided hours for a motivated learner to advance from one level to the next. The key word is motivated: language acquisition varies dramatically between individuals. Are you open to learning new structures? Will you build upon what you have already learned instead of clinging to basic “good enough” grammar? Will you commit to consistent study and practice? The bottom line is: if you are a motivated and genuinely willing to work hard to improve your English, it will take you at least 400 hours of dedicated study to reach C2.

How can I go about improving my vocabulary?

Please refer to the Sprachpraxis letter for information on how to improve your vocabulary and for a comprehensive list of useful resources.

Will I pass the exam if I take Language Courses I to IV?

Attending the language courses alone (even more than once) won’t guarantee that you’ll pass the exam as language skills are highly individual and differ from student to student. They are there to help you develop your own independent learning skills, identify any weaknesses and correct them where necessary, and give you practice in the sort of tasks you might encounter in the Modulklausuren. They are NOT designed to bring each individual student’s language skills to the required CEFR level (C1 for BA students; C2 for Lehramtsstudierende). Please see the Sprachpraxis letter for further information.

When should I take the exam? Should I start early so I can “get it out of the way,” or should I wait until I’ve invested a lot of time in my studies?

There is no correct answer to this question. Please realize that, for most students, this is a challenging exam. If you decide to just “give it a try early on” and you fail, you’ll suddenly be left in the unenviable position of having only two attempts left. If you wait until late in your studies to attempt the exam and you fail one or two attempts, you might find yourself believing in the trope that the exam is the “only thing holding you back.” It is very much your responsibility to plan accordingly and to be able to gauge your readiness. Seeing and attempting the old exams in the language courses is a good place to start.

Do I have to take the L&U Intermediate/I exam immediately after Language Course II?

No, you do not need to take the exam at any specific point in your studies. Students often take L&U Intermediate/I directly after attending Language Course II, and L&U Advanced/II after LC IV. This is, however, only a guideline and you are free to decide when the time is right. You may consider, for example, taking the language courses more than once and with different instructors as this will give you additional language practice. Similarly, for obvious reasons, many students find it easier to take the exam after their stay abroad. It is ultimately up to you to decide when you feel ready to tackle the Modulklausuren. If in doubt, speak to your instructor(s) – they will be able to advise you.

I have failed the exam. What should I do now?

That depends on whether you have failed the exam for the first time or the second time. If this was your first attempt, it is now crucial that you identify the reason(s) why you didn’t pass. You should contact the Prüfungssekretariat and request Einsicht, i.e., ask for an appointment so that you can look at your exam paper to see where you went wrong. You may also contact your instructor(s) to ask for some advice on what to do next. Most importantly, however, do not simply assume that the fail was a slip-up and that you will do better next time. We strongly advise against going into your second attempt without having identified and addressed any areas of weakness.

If this was your second attempt, you need to contact Dan Honert urgently to discuss the next steps. Do not sign up for attempt number three without having spoken to Dan. If you are facing your third attempt for Language & Use (Intermediate), please refer to this document for information about an alternative form of assessment that you might qualify for. If you are facing your third attempt for Language & Use (Advanced), consult this document.

Can I have a look at my exam paper?

Yes. Please contact the Prüfungssekretariat and request Einsicht, i.e., an appointment for going over your completed exam.

The exam often includes texts from fields that I have never encountered before (e.g. culture, politics, science, sports, etc.). Isn’t that unfair?

Levels C1/2 require you to understand a wide variety of texts. For example, at level C1, you can understand long and complex factual and literary texts, appreciating distinctions of style, including specialised articles and longer technical instructions, even when they do not relate to your field.

At C2, you can read with ease virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, structurally or linguistically complex texts such as manuals, specialised articles, and literary works.

The Language and Use exams test your reading, vocabulary, and grammar skills, and they correspond in level of difficulty to C1 and C2 respectively.

I suffer from test anxiety. Where can I get help?

The Studentenwerk im Saarland e.V. offers help with personal, emotional and psychological concerns. Please see here.

The registration deadline for the Staatsexamen is approaching fast. Can you prioritise my exam paper for marking?

We always do our utmost to ensure that all exam papers are handed in before the registration deadline for the Staatsexamen. What we cannot do, unfortunately, is prioritise individual students' exam papers and hand them in separately.

If there is little time between the Language and Use (Advanced) exam and the above-mentioned deadline, please write a short note on the Deckblatt (e.g. URGENT STEX) so that your grade can be entered into the system as soon as the papers have been handed in to the Prüfungssekretariat.

How long will it take you to mark the exams?

We aim to mark and hand all exam papers in to the Prüfungssekretariat within two to four weeks. However, depending on the number of registered students, this may take a little bit longer and we would ask you to refrain from sending emails to ask whether the exams have already been marked.

How are cases of exam plagiarism and other forms of cheating/fraud/deception dealt with?

Please consult this document for information on the department's policy in cases of plagiarism and cheating/fraud/deception, whether on term papers, course assignments, or exams.