Prep courses and Studienkolleg (foundation courses): Quick reference for international students

If your school-leaving qualification is not recognised in Germany, you will need to attend a "Studienkolleg" (foundation course) in order to enter a German university. This ends with an exam - the "Feststellungsprüfung". There is also another way to prepare for your academic studies in terms of language and subject knowledge if you do not feel confident enough yet. This is an option for you if you do not have to attend a "Studienkolleg" – you can attend a language course or a preparatory course (Propädeutikum).

by the Editors (last updated May 2019)

Students talking in front of the university in a preparatory course  © DAAD/Jan Zappner
Students in front of the university in a preparatory course . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

If your school-leaving qualification does not qualify you for admission to a Bachelor's degree programme in Germany, you will need to take an exam. This is called the "Feststellungsprüfung" (university qualification exam). You can attend a "Studienkolleg" (foundation course) in Germany to prepare for this test. Using the anabin database, you can check how your existing qualifications are classified and whether you need to attend a "Studienkolleg".

Note: Often the "Studienkolleg" is referred also as preparatory course in English. But preparatory courses could be also a "Propädeutika" (see the passage below), which are having a different content and not offering the "Feststellungsprüfung" in the end.


Foundation courses, called "Studienkolleg" are offered at universities and universities of applied sciences. Not all higher education institutions offer these courses. The courses cover a variety of key topics to prepare students for specific subject areas.
If you take the "Feststellungsprüfung" (university qualification exam) at a university of applied sciences, you will only be able to study at a university of applied sciences afterwards. If you take the exam at a university, you can study at both. The international office at your higher education institution will help you find the right "Studienkolleg"-course and prepare you for it properly. There are different types of "Studienkolleg"- courses.

At universities

  • M-course (for prospective students of dentistry, medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, biochemistry, bioinformatics, biology and other medical, biological or pharmaceutical degree programmes)
  • W-course (for prospective students of business administration and economics (BWL and VWL) and other economics and social science degree programmes)
  • G-course (for prospective students of all humanities and foreign language degree programmes)
  • T-course (for prospective students of all natural science degree programmes, except biochemistry and biology, and other mathematical, scientific or technical degree programmes)
  • S-course (for language studies)

At universities of applied sciences

  • TI-course (for prospective students of technical and engineering degree programmes)
  • WW-course (for prospective students of economics degree programmes)
  • GD-course (for prospective students of creative and artistic degree programmes)
  • SW-course (for prospective students of social science degree programmes)

More information about the application process and a list of preparatory courses >>

For admission to a "Studienkolleg"-course you must meet at least these requirements:

You must sit an entrance examination to prove that you have sufficient language skills. If you have not learned enough German in your home country, you can first attend a language course in Germany. At some universities, this course is taken into account when you apply for admission to a "Studienkolleg"- course.

As a rule, it is free of charge to attend a foundation course ("Studienkolleg") at a state higher education institution. However, course participants must pay the semester contribution that all students have to pay.

A "Studienkolleg"-course usually lasts for two semesters. There are approximately 30 hours of lessons per week. Students who perform very well can take the "Feststellungsprüfung" (university qualification exam) after one semester.

"Feststellungsprüfung" (university qualification exam)

At the end of your "Studienkolleg" (foundation course), you must take the "Feststellungsprüfung" (university qualification exam). The test covers several subject areas that are important for the subject you want to study later on. There is also a language test. If you pass the test, you can apply for a Bachelor's degree programme in your subject area.

In some "Studienkollegs" you can take the "Feststellungsprüfung" also as an "extern Feststellungsprüfung".  That means you don't have to attend a "Studienkolleg" before - but usually this is really though.

More information about the "Feststellungsprüfung">>

Students learning German together  © DAAD/Jan Zappner
Students learning German together . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

Language courses

In preparation to your studies it can be really helpful to atend a language course to improve and consolidate your German skills. A selection of language courses in Germany can be found in the  DAAD database. The international office at your chosen higher education institution can also help you choose a German course. But it is best if you have already found a course before you come to Germany. Then you won't miss any registration deadlines or have to wait long for a place.

There are various types of language schools in Germany. Not all of them offer the same quality of German course. When making a decision, you should make sure that the language school offers the right course for your level. You can test your German language skills on the Goethe-Institute website. The Common European Framework of Reference differentiates between the various levels of competence. It is also important to know whether a recognised German language test can be taken at the language school.

Basically, you should obtain precise information about the conditions from the language schools before you book a course. Reputable language schools can provide you with detailed information about their courses and the language levels they teach. If a language school is expensive, it does not necessarily mean it is good. There are adult education centres in all major cities. They offer language courses at many different levels that do not cost a lot of money.

Preparatory courses (Propädeutika)

If you want to apply for a Master's degree, you do not need to attend a "Studienkolleg" - course at a university. But you can attend a Propädeutikum (preparatory course, sometimes also introductory course). Also, if you want to study for your Bachelor's degree in Germany but do not have to attend a "Studienkolleg" - course, you can take an preparatory course.

In this type of introductory programme, you will prepare specifically for your degree programme in terms of language and subject knowledge. There is often also an introduction to the German academic system and academic working methods. This means that when you begin your degree programme later on, it will be much easier to settle in to everyday student life in Germany.

There are programmes for international students

  • who have already been admitted to to study at a higher education institution in Germany,
  • who have not yet been admitted, but have already met the formal requirements for studying in Germany
  • who still need to meet the formal requirements for a higher education entrance qualification.

These courses last for a few weeks or for one or two semesters.

You will find a selection of preparatory courses (Propädeutika) under the heading “Prep Course” in the DAAD database.

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