Learning any foreign language is like climbing a tall building (photo: DC Tower in Vienna)
One of my biggest goals for 2021 was to "Pass the B1 ÖIF exam". This one was the hardest to do, and it took the most of my time and focus this year.
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of the links I shared here. The wish to promote some of those is my personal desire and is based on my experience.
ÖIF (Österreichische Integrationsfonds) is a fund of the Republic of Austria and a partner of the federal government in promoting integration (source). What this means is that you need to pass their exams if you want to get visas for Austria. There are different levels, but the one I had to take was B1, which is in turn the highest that they have (require).
The test itself consists of two parts, the language part and the integration part.
The integration test is pretty easy and I do not see how anyone can fail that one. As long as you understand what the question is about (if you understand it in german) you will know the answer. The full list of all the questions as well as the answers you can find here. You can also download the official app and learn those on the go.
The language test contains four parts:
The whole test is done in one day. First, the whole group does listening, reading, writing and the integration test and then the speaking is done in pairs, where each group goes one after the other. Advantage is given to women with kids at home, so it could very well be that for an average participant the whole test lasts from 9h in the morning until 15h or 17h in the afternoon, depending on the number of participants.
The certificate is received in 4-6 weeks after the exam and there is no way of knowing whether you passed or not before that. Usually, the certificate arrives in around 4 weeks to your home address. For anyone needing to do this test (especially if you plan to take a test in Vienna), I would like to point out that you need to register for a test one to one and a half months in advance as the appointments are usually booked months in advance.
I would also advise you to go to the preparation course. Those are usually organised by the language schools that also offer taking the actual test. This preparation course usually lasts two or three days and it usually costs below 100 euros. The school I can recommend is CIB Sprachschule. I went to the preparation course and took the test with them and the whole process was very seamless. You can register and pay online and they send you all the details via email. I was very pleased with that. Also, the staff there was very helpful and the teacher was very patient and knowledgeable.
I believe that no matter which language you are learning, you need to know the grammar. Street language is fine, and it will serve you well, but for official tests it is usually easier if you know the language rules and apply them. I had to point this out as I have seen this question asked a lot in the process. "Can I pass the exam without knowing the grammar?". Of course it is possible, but I believe it will be much easier, and you will learn better if you go through the grammar.
I, myself, learned the grammar on my own. I got the course and work books for the B1.1 and B1.2 and went through them. I also got another grammar book which was really awesome and fills in the gaps that the other books leave. Consistency is key here, and I spent 30-45 minutes everyday for around 5 months or so.
Another option would be to go to the classic language course. I dislike this because in those groups people are on different levels of knowledge. Also, not everyone is learning at the same pace. So, it can be that the tempo is too fast, or too slow. In my opinion this leads to a lot of time wasted. I like to do things at my own pace and I do not like wasting time.
One other great option would be one-on-one sessions. Those are quite expensive in Austria, so I advise you to find some language schools outside of Austria as they offer quite lower hourly rates. The good thing is, you can do those online, from your home. Also, having regular classes and someone giving you homework or otherwise pushing you is a great option if you are lacking the discipline to stick to regular learning when you are doing it on your own.
In my opinion, the best way to get rid of the anxiety and fear of the test is to do some sample tests. Those provide you with a great way to get a feeling of how the process goes and how much time you have to do the actual exercises. Also, you can see how much time you have to check your answers and whether it makes sense to read the questions before answering. It is a great way to prepare for the mechanics of the test itself.
What they are not so good for is, of course, the speaking part. The writing part, as well, can be a bit problematic, because there are a lot of possible topics you could get on the actual test. Nevertheless, it gives you some framework for practising your writing. One other thing, those are sample tests, and the actual test will be quite a bit harder in both grammar and topics.
Watching YouTube videos can be of great help and a great listening exercise. I am, of course, referring here to the specific german lesson channels where actual teachers are explaining how to prepare for the tests, explain the actual grammar needed on this level and give you tips and tricks on how and what to do on the actual test.
I have learned a ton watching them, both of the test process itself, as well as, the german grammar and language in general. Couple of channels I can recommend are: Benjamin - Der Deutschlehrer and Deutsch lernen mit FORMIKA. I didn't really do a comprehensive search of the best german teachers on YouTube, but those two provided great value to me and shared a lot of tips and tricks for the actual test so I did not have a need to look further.
Well, B1, right?! Yeah, but what does that mean? There are several things that you need to know how to use, grammar wise. However, you do not need to know all of these things perfectly. In my opinion, you need to have a nice vocabulary, which is built only with practice and it does not come overnight. Grammar is the base, vocabulary is everything else in the language. You can have one without the other, but to speak and understand well, you really need both. With all of that being said, let's see what you actually need:
All in all, you need a certain amount of time for the actual test preparation. Both for all the grammar that B1 level actually consists of, as well as, the test mechanics and what is actually required and asked of you, especially for the speaking part. That one was the hardest for me to prepare for. Also, it takes some time to build up the vocabulary, so start practicing now.
Give yourself enough time to go through the B1 material and also take some time to practice for the test and you will do just fine. The hard work you put in will definitely pay off, and hey, you might just start talking actual german in the process.
I am a self-taught Web Developer. My mission is to explain things in a simple but understandable way. During the years, I have helped several Junior Developers kick start their careers, land an internship or a job or just in general get over the coding hurdle that they encountered.