German Reading Knowledge Exam

This translation exam, offered four times throughout the year, is accepted by UW-Madison graduate programs. Register at least one week prior to your chosen exam date. When you register, you must include what your degree program is and what type of pass is required. No refunds after registration.

At a glance

What: German Reading Knowledge Exam

When: Last offered Aug 12, 2015. Check back for next offering.

Where: 21 N Park St, Rm 5045, Madison, WI

Cost: $45

Registration closed

Register at least 1 week prior to your chosen exam date

For additional information, contact Sage Goellner: 608-262-4873

When you take the exam you are given 1 hour to read and translate approximately 1 page of academic German prose from a scholarly publication. The text selected will be generally compatible with your graduate degree program. You are permitted to use a German-English dictionary which you must provide, and 1 additional dictionary to aid in writing English - such as non-native English speakers may desire to use. Handwritten notes about German grammar written in one's dictionary are permissible, but additional materials are not. You will write your translation in a blue book which the proctor provides for you. You are given 1 hour from the time of first seeing the text to handing in your translation.

Reading Ability

Your reading ability is measured by the percentage of the text which you translate accurately and coherently. It is not useful to attempt translating a larger portion of the text without remaining accurate.

Your translation will be rated with one of these 4 results:

  • 6th-semester (High Pass)
  • 5th-semester (Intermediate Pass)
  • 4th-semester (Pass)
  • Fail

The percentage of the text which you translate accurately and coherently will be compared to the average quantity of that particular exam text which UW-Madison students can translate at the time they completed 4, 5, or 6 semesters of German language coursework at UW-Madison. On some exams you can achieve a "Pass" rating with as little as one-third of the exam text translated accurately. You may choose to skip some sentences of the exam text, as long as the sentences you do translate are coherent and fit their context.

For the exact requirements you need to fulfill, please contact your academic department. Each UW-Madison graduate program determines its own standards for reading-knowledge requirements. After you have taken the exam, please contact the exam proctor to receive your results. If (and only if) you pass your department's requirements we will automatically notify your department of your exam result. If you must re-take the exam you will need to register and pay for a new exam. See the “Retaking the Exam” section below.


You can get an idea of the minimum level of German grammar skills you will need by reviewing the course content covered in UW-Madison's German 204 ("Fourth Semester German"). For example, look through the textbook chapters that are covered in that course and make sure you are able to accurately decipher sentences written using all of those German grammar features. More information about German 204 can be found at the German Department's Web site:

You may view a sample exam (using a text that would be appropriate for an English Department graduate student). Download a sample exam.

We recommend that you practice the skill of writing timed translations in advance. Feel free to use the above sample exam, as well as working through self-timed translations of additional scholarly articles in German from your own field of research. Memorial Library has a vast collection of German-language scholarly publications, and the Web is also a source of such texts

Retaking the Exam

If you do not achieve your desired exam result on your first attempt at this exam, you will be notified of what your exam result was, but your graduate department office will not be notified. You may not retake the same exam again. Instead you must follow this process:

After a first attempt:

  • You may register for this exam again, using the link above, for the next exam date. During the exam you will be presented with a different text than the one you saw before.
  • If your exam result was within one grade of your desired result, and you have an emergency need to pass the exam before the next exam date, you may contact our office at to ask for a personal appointment to take the exam at an earlier date.
  • If you scored a “Fail” and you needed only a 4th-semester Pass grade, then you may request an opinion of how well you did from our office at, and approval may be granted to take your exam at an earlier date if you scored reasonably close to a 4th-semester Pass result.
  • Please consider the advice above (under “Practicing”) and below about how to improve your German reading skills before your retake.

After a second attempt (or beyond):

  • You may register for this exam again, using the link above, for the next exam date, as long as that date is at least 6 weeks in the future from when your most recent exam result was communicated to you. If that exam date is closer than 6 weeks, you may register for the exam as above and then request a personal appointment for your second re-take that meets the 6-week minimum delay rule, but sooner than 2 exam dates from now.
  • During the exam you will be presented with a different text than any of the ones you saw before. The grading of these later retakes may be stricter than your previous attempts due to the necessity for the examiner to use new texts that have not been measured against real German 204 students.
  • You are strongly encouraged to use the time before your next retake to seek intensive, outside help in improving your German reading skills before attempting this exam again. Options available to you include: