Tips on German Reading Exams:
- Talk to other students who have taken the exam at your school.
- Take into the exam a very good dictionary (See Advice on Choosing a Dictionary) and the dictionary in Modern Theological German (See Textbooks and Grammars).
- You probably do not have time to write your translation under the German words and then later write your translation on your paper. So directly write your translation on a yellow pad.
- Skip lines so you have room to make corrections. Start each new sentence on a new line.
- Use a Post-it Note to keep your place. Put it at the end of the sentence. When you have finished that sentence, move it to the end of the next sentence.
- People have still been known to pass even if they do not finish the whole thing if what they have finished is well done.
- If your translation of a certain sentence is unclear to you, leave your rough translation and move on to the next sentence. Perhaps when you have translated the whole section, that sentence will become more clear from the context. Leave time at the end for going over your whole translation and smoothing it out.
- Many advisors will choose a text you are somewhat familiar with if you ask. Bonhoeffer's Life Together / Gemeinsames Leben is a popular choice.
- Many programs accept a completed German academic course in lieu of taking the test.
- Standardization in language learning has grown increasingly common with the adoption of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in 2001. However, this has not yet been adopted by many religion departments as the criteria for their evaluation. Therefore, levels of acceptable proficiency vary widely. See Deutsche Welle (sponsored by the German government) for a brief description of the CEF levels:
- A-1 is reached with about 75 hours of German study.
- A-2.1 about 150 hours.
- A-2.2 about 225 hours.
- B 1.1 about 300 hours.
- B 1.2 about 400 hours.
For the test, you have two hours to translate two pages of a journal article with a dictionary.
Otfried Hofius, "Gemeindeleitung und Kirchenleitung nach dem Zeugnis des Neuen Testaments: Eine Skizze," Die Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 103 (2006):185-186.
Sample Exam 2:
Matthias Konradt, Gericht und Gemeinde: Eine Studie zur Bedeutung und Funktion von Gerichtsaussagen im Rahmen der Paulinischen Ekklesiologie und Ethik im 1 Thess und 1 Kor (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003), 521-522.
Google Books tells you that the most common terms and phrases in this book on its overview page. Those terms might be worth memorizing as an example of current theological New Testament work in German.
Sample Exam 3:
Jörg Frey, "'… dass sie meine Herrlichkeit schauen' (Joh 17.24) Zu Hintergrund, Sinn und Funktion der johanneischen Rede von der δoξα Jesu" New Testament Studies 54 (2008): 395-397.
Sample Exam 4:
A selection from:
Ernst Käsemann, "Gottesgerechtigkeit bei Paulus," Die Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 58 (1961): 367-78.
The translation is available at:
Ernst Käsemann, "'The Righteousness of God' in Paul," in New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 168-82.
What other advice do you have about passing graduate program German reading exams?