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In order to be successful in your studies, you need more than good language skills and a high level of interest in your chosen subject. A key factor for your success is to understand the teaching and learning culture of the country where you study. In learning just as in other areas of life, countries differ greatly in how studies are structured, what is required from the students, and what constitutes good academic practice. The following pages are intended to help you understand the German teaching and learning culture and to give some tips for mastering daily life at university!
Structure of your studies & modules
Depending on the programme, German universities currently offer Bachelor’s, Master’s or State Exam degrees. The structure differs between the various subjects. In Germany, studies have a modular structure, irrespective of the chosen subject. This means that thematically connected classes are combined into so-called modules, which usually can be taken in parallel and spread over several semesters and which end in a final module examination.
The grades achieved in the final module examination form part of the overall final grade. Please note that the number of times you can repeat a final module examination often is limited! Students who finally fail the examination despite repeated attempts must terminate their studies and are no longer allowed to study this particular subject in Germany! Furthermore, you must register for a final module examination during the semester by a deadline specific to your study subject. If you miss this registration deadline, you are not permitted to take the examination. If you register for an examination but do not take it, it is automatically graded as “failed“ and counts as a failed attempt. Should you feel unable to take an examination, make sure you de-register before the registration deadline! If you fall ill on the day of the examination, you must get a doctor’s note from a public health officer in order to be allowed to repeat the examination.
Study and examination regulations
The study and examination regulations for your study programme contain a detailed description of the subject-specific structure, number of modules to take, registering and de-registering, repeat examinations and much more. It is therefore advisable to read the study and examination regulations carefully before you begin your studies and to find out which modules have to be taken by when, whether the studies must be completed within a specific number of semesters, what form the examinations will take etc. You can download the study and examination regulations from the website of your faculty’s examination office.
If you have questions regarding your studies, how to create your schedule, about the content of your study and examination regulations etc., get in touch with your faculty’s academic advisor (Studienfachberater*in). You can contact them either by email or in person during their office hours. Should you be unsure who to talk to, you can always check in with the International Office during office hours. We support you during your studies, in particular with social issues and how to achieve success in your studies as an international student.
There are many different types of classes to attend during your studies. You can find an overview and explanations of the individual types here. The university portal QIS lists the classes offered for the current semester. Be aware that you may have to register for certain module classes before the start of the semester via “QIS“ or “OLAT“ in order to participate! The description of the respective classes in QIS also comprises specific registration deadlines.
German character traits at a glance
Being responsible for yourself
German universities – unlike universities in other countries, or schools – rarely check regular attendance of lectures. In many classes, attendance is not obligatory; it is up to you how often you show up. Likewise, there are rarely any consequences for dropping a course during the semester. However, if you want to succeed in tests, term papers etc., regular attendance is essential – so make sure you miss as few classes as possible, whether attendance is obligatory or not. You are also responsible for creating your own schedule for each semester and for registering for a class or event, if necessary. Furthermore, it is your own responsibility to prepare classes and do follow-up work, to register (and, if necessary, de-register) for examinations by the deadline as determined by the relevant faculty, etc. In other words, you are in charge of ensuring all requirements are met so you can successfully complete any given semester. Should you require help with this, your faculty offers a diverse range of support and advice, above all from academic advisors and student bodies. At university level, there are wide-ranging counselling services to help you master any situation life might confront you with – for example the Central Student Guidance, psychological and legal counselling, or the Career Service. This page offers an overview of the most important institutions for international students. And, of course, the “Support and advisory services for international students“ are always at your service.
Making contacts among fellow students is an important part of your studies and helps you achieve success. Share and compare notes or test exams amongst each other, do joint presentations, or form study groups to prepare for a test or a term paper. This way, you will also find out about important dates and deadlines or interesting special events. Students new to Germany in particular will benefit from German students’ experience, improve their German and make Frankfurt a new home with new friends. This page offers advice on how to become part of the university and your faculty and find new friends! Go out and meet your fellow students, don’t wait for them to find you – it’s worth it!
The key element of successful studies is a high level of organisational skills. Although there are some exceptions, many study programmes leave it up to the students to determine which classes to attend at what point of their studies, how many written tests to take per semester and so on. In order to avoid needing more time for your studies than you initially planned, you should take some time right at the beginning to structure the upcoming semesters! Many faculties offer a sample study plan for your orientation. In any case, you are expected to take charge of structuring your entire studies on your own – in this, Germany differs from many other countries. If you are uncertain or have questions about your programme, there are academic advisors for every programme who will be happy to support you before and during your studies.
Diversity of classes
The classes on offer during your studies are diverse both in their structure and in their requirements and are always tailored to the subject in question. Depending on your choice of programme, you can attend lectures, seminars, tutorials, colloquia, do academic internships and much more, and each of these events requires a different form of preparation and follow-up. The examination regulation for your programme contains exact definitions of the classes. Make sure you get detailed information about what is required for a specific class so you can prepare properly! You may often be able to choose from a wide variety of events and pick the ones that you are most interested in or that you think may be easier to complete than others. You prefer written tests to term papers? Then look for a class where the final module examination is a written test! We encourage you to make use of the diversity of classes on offer – within your faculty’s parameters – in order to adapt your studies as much as possible to your personal needs and to facilitate your studies!
Aside from various classes you have to attend during the semester, you will need sufficient time to prepare and follow up on the various subjects, to relax a bit and perhaps also to get a part-time job. We recommend drafting a schedule that contains all your university classes as well as fixed times for preparation and follow-up, time for a job if necessary, and so on. This page shows a sample schedule. You require help with time management, coping with examination stress or other areas? Then you may find a workshop to help you with these challenges on the pages of Kompass³, the Career Service, the Writing Centre, and the Starker Start ins Studium (Kick off your studies!)
Preparation and follow-up
Diligent preparation for and follow-up on classes will enable you to better follow, understand and retain what was covered in class. You should plan to spend as much time for preparation and follow-up as for the class itself (e.g. two hours of preparation and follow-up for a two-hour lecture). Preparation for a class usually consists of reading academic texts, marking the key ideas and noting any questions which can then be discussed during the class. In any case be aware that you have to allow more time for preparing longer texts! Many lecturers offer a “Reader“ containing all relevant texts for their class. You can usually get these readers in one of the copy shops near the university. It is advisable to take detailed notes during class so that you can revise the session afterwards and make sure you don’t forget important content. Presentations are often uploaded before or after a session. After the class, you should follow-up on what was covered, using notes and textbooks, and make sure any questions are cleared up. Preparation and follow-up often works best within smaller study groups. Be pro-active, ask your fellow students if they’d like to form a study group with you. It is much easier to deal with questions in a group, you can share notes, and you make new friends.
In Germany, a wide scope of standards and regulations govern what constitutes proper academic work. Aside from advice on successful research of the relevant literature or on the typical structure of term papers, essays, research protocols etc., these standards and regulations focus on the fundamental requirements of proper academic work. Central to this is honesty regarding authorship: results, statements etc. from other academics and authors must be clearly and unambiguously marked as such. Should you fail to mark content produced by other authors in your academic work as such, you risk legal consequences such as failing the module or even being excluded from your studies. Irrespective of your particular study subject, you can attend numerous workshops, lectures etc. that teach the required academic work practices – do this right at the beginning of your studies to make sure you have the necessary knowledge. In particular during the first semesters, most international students find the events organised by the ISZ very helpful in understanding what constitutes proper academic work. Furthermore, the Kompass³ programme, the Writing Centre, and the page Starker Start ins Studium offer a great variety of events covering this subject.
The university offers a wide range of opportunities to get involved above and beyond your actual studies. This includes participation in student bodies, your faculty, a political party at university or a student-led initiative where you can get job-relevant experiences and further education. This page offers an overview of the numerous ways to get involved at the university. Of course you can also get involved outside the university, in Frankfurt or the surrounding region – no matter whether this is in social, cultural or political matters.
Opportunities for additional education
You would like to add skills that may be useful for your studies or your future profession? You are keen on additional training? Then check here for a suitable workshop, class or similar!
Be aware that if you want to find employment in Germany, it is often not enough to have graduated from university. So make sure that parallel to your studies you engage in activities that will make you attractive to future employers – such as practical work experiences, working at the university, or other forms of engagement. You can find further information about this here. However, you should make sure you devote sufficient time to actually studying, as the overall time you need to complete your studies is also an important factor in finding employment. Aim at finishing your studies within the standard period of study and keep any necessary additional semesters to a minimum. This increases your chances on the German job market!