telc: Everything You Need to Know

by Gyovanna Monreal

When students first hear about the telc exams, they often get wide-eyed and their expressions become worried, uncomfortable, or confused. This blog post is to help clarify what the telc exam is, reasons to take the telc exam, and how Primus helps prepare our students for their telc exams at various levels of the German language.

What is the telc exam?

Starting with the abbreviation itself, “telc” means “The European Language Certificates” and consists of “international standardized tests of ten languages.” According to Wikipedia, “all telc language examinations correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR),” which covers skills including “listening, reading, speaking, and writing.” The tests are available in 10 different languages: Arabic, English, French, German, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. The language exams are offered “in over 3,000 test centers in 20 countries, including community colleges and private language schools” (Wikipedia). Training is another resource offered by telc for teachers and staff in the area who are looking to gain more experience.


The telc exam is composed of two parts: the written examination and the oral examination. Each of these has sub-sections which are timed and graded differently, but “all candidates must complete four modules (reading, writing, listening and speaking) to obtain a score” on the telc exam (Wikipedia).


The written examination portion is composed of 4 sub-sections: reading comprehension, language elements, listening, and writing.

  • Reading comprehension pushes candidates to read for overall meaning, detail, and selective reading. Difficulty and structure of this section vary depending on the candidates’ language level. 
    • Reading sections can include excerpts from newspapers, letters, advertisements, and more.
  • The language elements section typically includes choosing from multiple options to fill in a paragraph, with varying options depending on the candidates’ language level. For example:
    • B1 and B2: Candidates complete a multiple-choice test choosing from 3 different options per question in order to fill in a paragraph. Then, candidates must complete another paragraph, choosing 10 out of 15 words to fill in each blank section.
    • C1: Candidates complete a multiple-choice test, choosing from 4 different options per question in order to fill in a paragraph.
  • Similar to reading comprehension, the listening section requires candidates to listen for overall meaning, detail, and selective listening. Difficulty and structure of this section vary depending on the candidates’ language level.
    • Listening sections can include radio interviews, public transportation announcements, voicemails, and more.
  • The writing section typically involves writing a letter in response to a prompt, using the correct form of greeting and conclusion. Difficulty and structure of this section vary depending on the candidates’ language skills.
    • Writing sections can include writing an application letter, complaint letter, a letter of inquiry, and more.


The oral examination typically involves two candidates and two examiners. The two candidates participate in a conversation, which can include some or all of the following three different sub-sections: presentation, discussion, and a task (problem-solving), depending on their German level. Candidates should have an active conversation with their partners, “producing an interesting dialogue on a variety of topics” (Wikipedia). 


Oral exams last around 15 minutes, shared between the two candidates. Before beginning their exam, candidates are allotted 20 minutes to prepare for the exam using sheets with descriptions of the tasks they will complete. However, candidates are not allowed to communicate during this time and the sheets should not be read from directly as a “script” during the entirety of the oral exam. Students may refer to their sheets but ultimately should have a flowing conversation with their speaking partner.

  • During the presentation part of the exam, students will choose 1 of 5 topics and present something briefly to their partner. The duration of the presentation shouldn’t be more than 90 seconds, and afterward, the student must answer questions that his/her partner asks. Then, the procedure is the same for the second partner when they present to the first student.
    • Example: Favorite film or a memorable trip
  • The discussion section of the exam involves each student discussing a controversial topic. The conversation begins with each candidate commenting on the text they read during the preparation, highlighting arguments or points they found interesting. Then, candidates must present their opinion on the topic and make sure they respond to their partner’s own argument.
    • Example: Discussing global warming
  • In the task section, students are given a hypothetical task to carry out. The candidates are provided with a situation, and they must discuss how to respond to the situation during their conversation. Students should write down points they’d like to make, emphasize their opinions, and respond to their partner’s suggestions as well.
    • Example: Planning a birthday party for a friend


Exam Duration and Points

The telc exam lasts roughly 2.5 to 3 hours, and a break is often allotted between the listening and speaking portions to ensure each pair of students has their “appointment” with the supervising examiners. Below are the duration of each section in the exam:

  • Reading Comprehension and Language Elements = 90 minutes
  • Writing = 30 minutes
  • Listening ≈ 20 minutes
  • Speaking ≈ 15 minutes


The total number of maximum points in the exam is 300, with the written examination adding up to 225 points and the oral examination adding up to 75 points. Below is a table that breaks down the points for each section (Wikipedia).


Sub-Test Maximum Number of Points
Reading Comprehension 75
Part 1 25
Part 2 25
Part 3 25
Language Elements 30
Part 1 15
Part 2 15
Listening Comprehension 75
Part 1 25
Part 2 25
Part 3 25
Writing 45
Presentation 25
Discussion 25
Task 25


Why take the telc exam?

The telc exam provides passing students with a certificate that proves students’ German level skills and serves as a document to prove that the person is eligible for multiple opportunities: studying at a German university, employment in Germany, and more. Here are the various applications of the telc exams, written directly on the telc website:

  • General use: For those who use the foreign language primarily in their private lives
  • Education: For school and universities
  • Job: Business and technical language certificates for those who need the language for their work and career
  • Migration: German as a second language and as a requirement for integration into a German-speaking environment


Starting with the telc German A2 certificate, students can begin to apply for their residence permit in Germany. After the telc German B1 certificate, students can apply to some universities and even begin applications for German citizenship. With the telc German B2 certificate, most employers will consider students for job opportunities. Finally, the telc German C1 and telc C1 Hochschule certificates offer endless opportunities in gaining admission to German universities and employment at native German speaking companies.


According to the official telc website, the telc exams checked constantly “for validity, reliability, and objectivity of our language examinations to guarantee maximum quality.” The website outlines multiple advantages with choosing to take the telc exams over others, including:

  • High quality and international recognition at universities, companies and government authorities
  • Transparent, world-renowned CEFR level system
  • Authentic, practical examination tasks
  • More than 3,000 test centers worldwide
  • Flexible examination dates, short registration deadlines
  • Fast and reliable scoring of exams
  • Free practice materials for download
  • Fair prices


To learn more about which exam is right for you and find several examples of practice material at each level of German, visit the “Language examinations” page of the official telc website here.


How does Primus prepare students for the telc Exam?

Primus prepares our students every step of the way for their telc exams. Our language school offers practice exams which utilize methods that test-takers will encounter during the exam: listening/audio, reading, speaking, and grammar sections.


From the beginning of your course, teachers implement concepts from the telc exam combined with their general lessons within your level of German. Regardless of whether or not you decide to take the telc exam, there is always an option and sufficient preparation for the exam at the end of your course.


Although the telc exam is not included in the cost of the German courses, Primus offers enrolled students a discount on their exams. Furthermore, it is not mandatory to take the exam immediately after your course. If students would like to take a telc exam a while after their course is completed or even when they have already started the next level of German, they are free to take the exam separately. If you’d like to learn more about pricing and information about the exams, visit Primus’ webpage on telc exams here.