True, I have heard that too, but there is no need to worry and lose your will. Below I share some quotes from the experiences and suggestions of a few foreign students studying in Germany.
“German education is very different from other countries outside Europe. Therefore, the first challenge for a student is to try to understand the system, the exam model, the lecturers and what they expect from a student during the exam“.
The best way to understand this is to interact and ask as much as you can. (The key word is interaction!!!) You should use opportunities to ask your questions to the lecturers and coordinators, such as weekly events, orientation, day trips.
The lectures are mostly conceptual. They explain to you the concepts of the subjects. Normally you get scripts or notes from the professors, which is more than enough for the relevant exam and the relevant subject. However, in the exam you are not expected to learn the concepts and just answer direct questions. You will always be asked questions about the application of the concepts you have learned and this is where most students are unprepared. Just knowing the concept is not enough. You need to know the concepts deeply enough to be able to apply them to an abstract/practical problem. Some questions will require 3-5 parts of combined concepts to find a solution.”
Another student states;
“Exams at German universities, whether written or oral, require considerable preparation time and conceptual understanding. The questions are not very direct and are always about applying concepts to a specific problem rather than memorizing them.
You have to understand the technical terms and also do some background work and research them if they were not done in great detail in class, but somehow mentioned as part of the lecture.
During the semester it is important that you attend lectures, do the exercises and assignments (even if not compulsory) and try to understand as much as possible from the Professors or Teaching Assistants. You can also read more about it on the internet and check out additional lectures and tutorials on YouTube, for example. Try not to skip any topics during the preparation.
During the exam you are of course expected to remember some basic terms, equations and formulas. Some exams allow the use of a “Cheat Sheet”, in which case you should prepare the Cheat Sheet before the exam and try to refer to it when solving previous sample exams or doing homework. This way, you know exactly what you need to remember and what you should not remember. “
In fact, with my own university experiences and what I have listened to from the students studying, I summarize below what you should simply apply. If you work in a disciplined way and follow the suggestions, I think you will have less difficulty in the exams.
First suggestion, it is important to solve and understand the previous years’ exams thoroughly (students share such question banks among themselves, don’t let the lecturers hear!).Unless specifically stated by the lecturer, no questions should come from outside the lectures. If possible, form a small study group. This will speed you up in solving and understanding the questions.
The second thing to be aware of is not to skip lectures under any circumstances. The warnings of the lecturers are important. Attendance will be strictly controlled in some programs and courses. Be careful not to miss a lesson.
Thirdly, special attention should be paid especially in Mathematics. This is because, as I commented above, just knowing the concept is not enough. In the first years of university, the highest failure rates are in Mathematics. This is sure to be a big surprise for those who think math is just numbers and operations.
Fourth, don’t let negative people demotivate you. This is extremely important and surprisingly common (especially for people from South Asian countries). The Chinese in particular stand out for their ambition and hard work. Don’t let them intimidate and discourage you, and generally surround yourself with people who will motivate you in a positive way.
The thing is, we are all scared as international students. But you should trust your choices and not blindly follow anyone’s advice. If you choose to take advice, I suggest talking to professors or program coordinators and upperclassmen in student unions (Asta). Classmates may not be the right choice as they have limited experience like you.
Fifth, make a good choice. There are three types of universities in Germany: Universities, Technical Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences. Understand the difference between the three and choose well. The first two are usually considered more difficult than the latter.
One more tip. At German universities you are tested for something called ‘transfer’: Can you apply the principles and knowledge you have been given to a new problem? (In fact, if you can do just that, you have a good chance of getting a high grade).
Did I help you? If you have any questions, you will probably find the answer on these pages, but you can still contact me at recep[at]recepdayi.com.tr and on my social media accounts. I try to improve my articles according to your feedback, so please send me your comments. Thank you in advance.
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