All you need to know about taking a German GCSE!

3 mins
May 3, 2022
German is one of the most expressive languages on the planet and is home to words like ‘Backpfeifengesicht’ - a term for someone you feel needs a slap in the face, and ‘Kummerspeck’ - which refers to the weight one might gain from comfort eating. Who wouldn’t want to know a language that literally has a word (often a funny one) for everything!

We know that the time to pick your GCSE options is coming up soon, so we’re here to help answer the big questions you may have about the German GCSE! So without further ado…

What topics are in German GCSE? 

Your German GCSE will typically cover three themes and within these themes are certain topics. These themes will apply to all of your exam papers; listening, speaking, writing or reading. Let's break them down. 

  1. Theme one: Identity and culture

Here you'll learn to talk about your relationships with friends and family, social media, what you like to do with your free time, and touch on some French-speaking countries' customs. 

  1. Theme two: Local, national, international and global areas of interest 

Here you'll learn how to describe your town, neighbourhood and region; you'll also find out how to discuss social and global issues. Finally, you'll learn about travel and tourism. 

  1. Theme three: Current and future study and employment

Here you'll learn to communicate about topics like your studies, life at school and what you want to do with your future, including your ambitions and career choices. 

Is German GCSE hard? 

Unfortunately, German is a pretty tough language to learn for an English speaker. There are a load of factors that influence how hard (or easy!) you find it, like your general enjoyment of the language, your motivations and ways/methods of learning. But German is considered a difficult language to learn by most, below we’re going to list some of the reasons why you might struggle, so you know exactly what you're getting into:

  • Four extra letters: A common misconception about the German language is that it’s hard to pronounce, but in reality, it’s actually a lot easier than some of the English rules of pronunciation. Having said all that, the best way to master German pronunciation is by looking at the alphabet. There are four extra letters: ä,ö, ü, and ß.
    - ä’ is pronounced like ‘e’ in ‘telling’
    - ö’ is like ‘i’ in ‘girl’
    - ü’ like ‘oo’ in ‘food’
    - ‘ ß’ is simply pronounced as a double ‘s’
    Once you’ve grasped these you’re well on your way to being pronunciation perfect.

  • CaseWORK: According to their function in a sentence, many words either have a different ending or change their form slightly; the name given to these changes and different endings is ‘cases’. There are four cases in the German language: accusative, dative, genitive and nominative.

    Believe it or not, in English, we use something similar to the nominative and accusative cases without even realising it! Cases can be pretty confusing, especially if you’re not a big fan of grammar, so it’s worth watching a couple of YouTube videos to see if it’s something you can (and want to!) wrap your head around.

  • Spelling: If you struggle with spelling then German could be a particularly difficult language for you. There are some ridiculously long words in the German language, an example of this is ‘Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeit’, which simply means ‘food intolerance’.
    However, a lot of this is down to smaller, shorter words being added together to create one mammoth word, so in some cases, you can just keep writing and then go back and delete the spaces between the words.

  • Word order: Or syntax, is basically how we structure sentences, where we put the noun, subject, object… you get the rest. In German, the verb is the boss of the sentence and everything else is fairly flexible. In German, you could say ‘I learn german this evening’ in three ways:
    Ich lerne heute abend deutsch
    Heute abend lerne ich deutsch
    Deutsch lerne ich heute abend
    And these different word order combinations are pretty common!
  • Man, woman, neuter: In the German language, nouns can either be feminine, masculine, neuter and generally the gender of the word needs to be learnt alongside the word itself which can be a little tricky!

Now you know what makes German difficult, are you still interested in taking the German GCSE? If so, read on!

How to revise for the German GCSE?

The best way of knowing how to revise for an exam is to understand what the exam wants you to know; there's no point in the pronunciation of foreign words when you’re about to sit a writing exam. The best way to get ahead and be confident in what you’re learning is to look at the exam format. The German GCSE is split into four exams and each is worth 25% of your final grade. 

  • Paper one, listening - tests your understanding and response to different types of spoken language. The exam will typically involve you listening to a recording and then writing your answers based on what is being said. In Section A, questions will be asked and answered in English and in Section B questions will be asked and answered in German.
  • Paper two, speaking - tests your ability to communicate and interact effectively in speech for various purposes. In the AQA exam, there is a mix of role-play and general conversation. You’ll also be given a photocard and be asked stimulus questions about what’s shown on the card.  
  • Paper three, reading - tests your ability to understand and respond to different types of written language. There are three sections in this exam and a combination of answers written in English and German are needed. 
  • Paper four, writing - tests your ability to communicate effectively in writing for various purposes, this exam is typically split into four questions, each with a higher achievable mark . 

It's essential you know (and check!) what exam board your education provider uses as all exams can differ slightly. We’ve based this article on the AQA exam board’s scheme of assessment.

How to revise for GCSE German Writing? And how to revise for German Listening?

We’ve listed loads of techniques, tips and tricks in our French GCSE article here, from role-play to writing words phonetically, we’ve discussed it all. So head over there for all you need to know about revising for a speaking or listening exam in a foreign language. 

How can we help? 

Unfortunately, we don't have any resources that will help you get a wunderbar grade in your German GCSE. But, we have something that might help you decide whether a German GCSE is right for you. Our pathfinder quiz will help you determine what career sector you're most interested in, so you can see if completing a German GCSE would help!

German GCSE revision resources

Our aim at Springpod is to empower you students and as we don’t currently have any language learning resources, we’re going to point you to some of our friends that do! Have a look at the resources below, we’re sure they'll help you with your revision:
Bitesize, Duolingo, GetRevising, Revision World, Seneca and Quizlet.

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