How to pass the German Final Exams in English (Englisch-Abitur BW, 2020)

Advice in advance

  • It’s never too late to prepare! Watching Netflix on a regular basis is not sufficient!
  • Nobody can prevent you from collecting materials that have been handed out to students in other classes.
  • Also, who says it is bad to ponder over study guides for the relevant topics?
  • It is also a good idea to read the official regulations for the final exams in the respective state. The ones that apply to Baden-Württemberg can be found here.
  • It is always wise to double-check whether the dates in your calendar are correct.
  • Don’t forget to set a second alarm clock and inform your parents or siblings to wake you up timely before the final exams begin.
  • Trust you teacher when they issue warnings or recommendations towards tasks you should prefer or avoid!
  • Doubt your teacher’s expertise whenever they make predictions on which text or task type will “almost certainly” appear in the exam!

What will the final exam look like?

The exam consists of three parts: While the materials for part I (comprehension) are in English, part II.1 may contain a German mediation text.

Part I: Reading Comprehension

  • The materials consist of a text in English (factual or fictional) that is connected with the general topic (in this case, “The Ambiguity of Belonging”).
  • Along with the text (and to check on your comprehension skills), you’ll face either closed tasks (matching exercise, multiple choice, ordering exercises, yes-no-questions) or half-closed tasks (completion of statements). Depending on the task descriptions, you may have to quote from the text.

Part II.1: Analysis

  • This part of the exam will present you with further tasks related to the comprehension text above (analyse, show how, give reasons…).
  • You may have to compare it to the film or book.
  • Part II.1 may also consist of a mediation exercise.

Part II.2: Composition

  • This part of the exam will confront you with a comment, an argumentative essay, a personal statement, or a creative interpretation task (such as personal letter or a speech).
  • You can choose between two options:
  1. A task based on the book and film covered in your English class;
  2. A task connected with another topic covered in your English class according to the curriculum.

How should I organize my time management?

  • You have a total of 210 minutes to be divided by three:
  1. 70 minutes for Part I (Comprehension) ( -10 points)
  2. 70 minutes for Part II (Analysis) ( -25 points: 10 contents & 15 language)
  3. 70 minutes for Part III (Composition) (-25 points: 10 contents & 15 lang.)
  • It is advisable to make a rough draft for both II and III.
  • Write legibly and use an extra sheet for annotations.

Does it make sense to create a draft?

  • Yes! According to the official guidelines, teachers can take a closer look at your draft if it is obvious that your essay is incomplete. However, your notes must contain of complete sentences arranged in a structured way.

Will my handwriting matter?

  • Yes, it will! In case your handwriting consists chiefly of hieroglyphs or if you don’t respect margins for correction, teachers can lower your grades by 1 or 2 NPs.

Will teachers receive official papers that include levels of expectation?

  • Yes, a table of expectation is always included in the correction materials. While part I (reading comprehension) does not offer much tolerance for alternative findings, the list of expected statements in part II contains recommendations. Teachers cannot simply count the points you have covered and grade your paper accordingly.

Can we bring any additional items?

  • Yes, you can bring pens and rulers, erasers and pencil sharpeners – everything is fine that fits in your pencil case but does not resemble a crib.
  • Food, sweets and drinks can also be brought into the examination hall. However, avoid coffee, energy drinks and everything which is rich in sugar and fat. Low-carb, proteins and vitamins make a better diet.
  • Schools will usually also provide you with monolingual and bilingual dictionaries. You should make yourself familiar with how to use them.

What do the correction signs mean and what does it tell me?


Gr = Grammar

Make sure you revise the important grammar chapters. After all these years, you should know your problem areas.

L = Lexicon (words and idioms)

Avoid unusual words and phrases. Don’t try to sound extremely clever, but use words you are familiar with.

R = Orthography

Spelling problems can be eliminated by looking up all the words that are notoriously difficult to spell. Mark your problem words while composing your essay and come back to them later.

Z = punctuation

The most common punctuation problems (and the most obvious ones) are related to commas and quotation marks. Contrary to common belief, English has a couple of rules to be obeyed – it makes sense to revise them (no comma with “who” or “that”, unlike in German). You’ll need quotation marks for titles and quotes.

St = style

As for style, avoid colloquialisms like “wanna” or “he’s / she’s like”. Use a wider variety of structures but don’t overdo it – if you cannot handle embedded sub-clauses, don’t use them. Use structuring phrases and signposting.

ul = illegible

Please write legibly. If your handwriting is microscopic or a bit on the sloppy side, make sure not to upset anyone who will have to correct your exam.


I = wrong content 

Keep to the facts. Re-read the novel that has been covered in class and watch the movie you are the analyse. Online summaries can be one-sided or selective; however, if you don’t have any other option it’s still better than no preparation at all.

ug = imprecise

One of the things that causes problems is blurriness – if you feel tempted to use phrases like “and so on” or “kind of” or “somehow”, you know that your writing will turn imprecise. Make sure that your text is detailed and precise enough.

uv = incomplete

Incomplete statements usually lack evidence. Avoid making judgements without proving them.

L = Logical error

Logical errors are often hard to spot and even harder to avoid. Re-read your text carefully and check the logics of your text (before – after, cause – effect).

Zshg = context missing

Arrange your facts in a well-connected series of statements. Some students just offer lists of facts. Don’t expect the corrector to find a framework for the isolated facts in your text – this is your job.

Th = task / topic

Keep to the task descriptions. A good draft may help you to stay focussed and prevent you from wandering off the topic into irrelevant areas of your knowledge.

W = redundant

Redundancy is a common problem which occurs when students use the same facts over and over again to prove different statements. When you compose your draft, please ensure you can rely on a wider range of facts.

In Part I, can I get points for ticking the right box but giving wrong evidence?

  • You need to tick the right box AND give a relevant quotation.

What if my English is great but my knowledge is zero – or if my English is rotten but my knowledge is vast?

  • If your text (in either part of the exam) is graded “insufficient” in content (= 1 VP), the maximum you can get in the language section is 8 VP.
  • If your paper is graded “insufficient” in language (= 1.5 VP), you cannot get more than 5 VP in content.

What should I keep in mind when it comes to content?

For good results in content, make sure the information you provide is …

  • comprehensive (don’t omit important facts),
  • detailed (don’t stay on the surface level and don’t generalize too much),
  • task-oriented (relevant and suitable with regard to task description, genre, audience),
  • well-organized (make a draft), and
  • coherent (again, make a draft – arrange your facts well).

What matters most with regard to langue?

 For good results in language, make sure your English is …

  • intelligible and clear (straight and simple is better than barely intelligible),
  • correct (common problems: tenses, third person “s”, who / which, this / these…),
  • with a wide range of vocabulary (look up words that seem suspicious),
  • grammatically complex,
  • rich in syntax patterns (sub-clauses, participles, inversion…),
  • with idioms and collocations that work well,
  • complete with excellent signposting (phrases).

Last Recommendations

  1. Read the task description carefully!
  2. Revise the official list of task descriptions (“Operatoren”).
  3. Read good summaries of all the works relevant in class!
  4. Make a draft!
  5. As for style, straight and simple is better than wrong and complicated!
  6. Make paragraphs!
  7. Memorize the structure of a typical essay (comment - discussion / writing about literature).
  8. Make a list of twenty mistakes you want to avoid.
  9. Memorize structuring phrases.
  10. Read guidelines on how to do mediation tasks.
  11. Study a synopsis of parallels between all the relevant works covered in class.
  12. Excellent time management is a must! Start quickly! Don’t idle away your time!
  13. If you can afford it with regard to your time management - look up every problematic word in a dictionary!
  14. Finally, read out your text to yourself - but make sure nobody can hear you! If it sounds wrong, it probably is!