Adapting to the German Education System for Master studies

I realized what it takes to survive in the German education system. In this article I tell you about it.

Moving to a new country for studies brings lot of opportunities as well as posing new challenges. While there is lot of excitement and learning of the new culture, studies remain the major and primary challenge. After having faced ups and down in my ongoing master studies, I try to share my observations and experiences to fellow international readers.

When an international student comes to Germany, there are important lot of struggles at hand like immigration formalities, moving into the apartment and then adjusting to the new place.  While these are very essential, sometimes due to these struggles, we find ourselves no time to understand the education system at Germany.

When I started my masters in November 2020, it was already a very difficult time. Due to COVID-19, we had to attend lectures online from our home countries. There was no classroom atmosphere, no lively interaction and not much scope to socialize with new people. And all these are of great importance to experience the new style of teaching. Having missed all these, I came to Germany directly to write my exams and then struggled and even failed in a couple modules.

But later, in the next semester I was able to do relatively better. By this time, I had realized what it takes to survive in the German education system. “While some of my peers tend to get always better grades, what did I miss and how can I improve them?” – For some new students, this may already be a question they are looking to get answered.

From my personal experience, the answer to the question lies in two parts. Understanding the classes and then the exams.

Understanding the teaching style

While the biggest stress or workload is felt during the examination period, it is how much importance we give to the classes and lectures, that may do the trick.

In this digital age, it may seem like everything is available on the internet. At least this is what I experienced in my Bachelor studies. To be honest, there are lot of better resources on the internet that could explain the contents in a better way with visualization and simple.

But I have seen that in my lectures from German professors, it was not mostly the case. Most of their contents are always tailored to teach specific topic in a very specific order. And mostly this is possible because, they mostly have a very dedicated teaching assistant. And usually, the teaching assistant can help a lot. For most of the exercises and assignments, the responsibility is given to the teaching assistant, and they can usually offer more consulting times for this matter.

The assignments and exercise are also equally important like the lectures. I feel that one should try to understand the concepts in these assignments and exercises to the fullest possible, even if not all the lecture contents.

The reference books provided in each module will turn out to be very useful in some cases. Usually, some more information on which books the teaching assistant prefers is helpful to understand what order and kind of topics they focus on.



Understanding and preparing for the exam

Most of the students might already know this but for readers not aware, there are three modes of exam – written, oral and project based. The written is the most straining and difficult. And in written both the open book and closed book are equally demanding. And in most of the Indian universities, it was only closed book exams and the thought the open book exams would be easier totally turned out to be false.

What one of my peers used to do was to enquire some seniors how the module is and importantly about the exam. It is useful to gather information on how difficult the past semester exams were and what kind of questions were expected. In some institutes, they also provide some sample questions or past semester questions itself that can be very useful to evaluate one’s preparation level.

And fortunately, there is a German roommate in my shared apartment who has a stellar record of Grades. And when I asked her how she was able to prepare in such way, she mentioned that she practices the same exercises and assignments, not once, but multiple times so that the flow of steps is very natural for her. And this helped her to save a lot of time in exams. It also accustoms us to know where to look for the formulas in our notes or scripts instead of searching it every time.

In my experience, the oral exams are enjoyable. Most of the times, it is checking our strong understanding of the fundamentals rather than solving numerical problems that create a lot of errors.

Some final remarks

No matter how well we performed in our home countries, the same may not turn out to be true in a new country and too a very systematic one like Germany. Some final tips to ace this upcoming exam period from me are

  • Plan the number of credits you intend to take in each examination period and make sure there is some adequate time between two exams.
  • Never miss reviewing the exercises and assignments.
  • The difficulty of exams is proportional to credits. Higher credits mean more demanding exams.
  • Always try to solve previous exam questions and make sure you can do this naturally without having to think for each step.
  • For open book exam or for any exam, create your own short notes containing key formulae or points instead of carrying the whole lecture script.

Ram Dhiwakar


Bishwash Krishna Parajuli

March 22, 2022 11:38:50 AM

As an incoming postgraduate student, this article has really been a huge heads up for me.
Thank you Ram for your insights!

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