LKE3 200/2002: How to bluff your way in "Abitur"  Tips, courtesy of W.E.P.       EDITION 2002

          Above all, keep your cool! DON’T PANIC! (= motto of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) Well, you won't, will you?

It’s of the utmost importance that you read through the whole COMPREHENSION PIECE (= Textaufgabe) , including the (usually) seven questions on the text and the TRANSLATION before you start dealing with either one of them. The COMPOSITION (= Essay) will, hopefully, be the easiest part of the ”Abitur” test and it should be no problem for you to decide which of the (usually) three topics appeals to you most.

Equally important is the fact that you realize how many points each section is worth and, in particular, how manypoints each question on the text is worth. The number of points a question is worth also tells you how much you are expected to write. Obviously, a question that is worth 20 points is twice as “weighty” as a question that is worth 10 points and should also be  answered by using about twice as many words. The exact number of words is left up to you.

IF, big “if”, you feel up to it, it would be a good idea to start with the TRANSLATION. You have 240 minutes, all in all, and you should allow yourself a MAXIMUM of 60 minutes (with 5 – 10  minutes to spare) for the TRANSLATION. Once you have got the TRANSLATION out of the way, you should tackle the TEXTAUFGABE. Try to do this section in about 100 minutes (with 10 minutes to spare). Then tackle the essay and don’t write more words than is required (“Write about 150 – 200 words.”) So it would be unwise to write more than 220/230 words as you won’t get any extra credit for mere (or “sheer”) length.

►I. TRANSLATION: 50 points   [≈ 200 English words; yes, W.E.P.’s translations were a damn sight longer! ]

Use your DCE/ALD wisely, that is to say make sure you have found the correct entry – which very often does NOT happen to be the first one !!! -  and try to figure out the meaning of a word you don’t know by reading both the definition and (hopefully) the example that follows that definition. Do not lose any  time by thumbing around too much. You should have “prepared” you dictionary by marking clearly the letters of the alphabet for quick and easy reference. Make absolutely sure that you don’t leave out a word – or worse still, heaven forbid, - a whole sentence!!! To avoid this you should tick off on your “Angabe” every English word that you have translated into German when you have finished your translation.

It doesn’t really matter all that much if you get a word wrong here and there, but leaving out words by mistake is something you should avoid at all cost(s). And now for the “worst case scenario”: You leave the TRANSLATION  until the end and are so hard pressed for time that you can’t finish it. Well, that would really spell disaster. THIS SIMPLY MUST NOT HAPPEN! So my advice is: first do the TRANSLATION (≈ 60 minutes, see above), then tackle the rest of the test. OK!?

►II. TEXTAUFGABE: 110 points [usually 7 questions on the text, 10 or 20(!) points each: (5/5) x 1 or (5/5) x 2]

It’s absolutely essential (see above) that you read through the whole text first and then through the questions ON the text.Take a pencil to mark things while you read through the text the first time in one go. Very often something that you don’t understand right away becomes clear to you the further you get in the text. In case there are unknown words in the text, try to find out if this word is/these words are important for the overall understanding of the text. Don’t lose any time over looking up words that don’t matter in the end.

In the “Questions on the text” it says: Read all the questions first, then answer them in the given order. Use your own words as far as is appropriate. And this is exactly what you should do. You should use your own words as far as is appropriate. This means that you should rephrase in your own words the “Klausur” text. You can quote from the text,but you must mark your quotations. Sometimes, you are even expected  to quote from the text [“Give evidence for your findings”/”Give evidence from the text”/”What (psychological etc.) explanations are given in the text?” etc.] Make sure you quote correctly, e.g.: (l. 7) = something in line 7, (l. 19 f) = something in line 19 and the following lines, (ll. 30/31) =something in lines 30 and 31, (ll. 23 – 26)  = something in lines 23 to 26. Don’t forget, in English the quotation marks are always raised.

Take 5 or 6 differently coloured pencils (or “highlighters”) and mark those passages that you think contain the answer(s) to the respective [= jeweilig/entsprechend] questions on the text. Very often the last question on  the text is more general in nature and often contains a reference to style: “Give two examples of metaphorical language and explain their function”/”Show that the writer uses a variety of means to make his [What if the writer happens to be a woman!?] text interesting and convincing?”/ “Show three different ways in which the writer tries to arouse the reader’s interest in his topic.” /”Find three different stylistic devices and explain their function.”[For this section, see your little booklet “How to bluff your way in LITERATURE, LANGUAGE, STYLE”, distributed in K12.]  In a fictional text you can also expect aquestion that refers to the “narrative perspective” and in both fictional and non-fictional texts a question that refers to tone/humour/irony etc.

If you are lucky, the question on the text even tells you exactly where to look for the answer, giving the exact lines. In other cases, the first question refers to the first paragraph or opening argument of the text, the second question to the second or third paragraph and so on, but you cannot rely on this somewhat simple principle. The most important thing is to understand the question. If you misunderstand it, you won’t get any points for content, which means no points at all!As regards the length of your answers, that’s up to you. Keep your answers short AND TO THE POINT. Remember, “brevity is the soul of wit”. Avoid repetitions and, above all, all your answers must refer to the  information given in the text. Anything that you include in your answers that is not contained in the text will not count. Above all, avoid any personal comment(s) or judgement. Whether you agree or disagree with the views or opinions put forward in the text or expressed by the author is “not at issue here”. Your personal opinion should be reserved for the COMPOSITION.

►III. COMPOSITION: 40 points   [(4/6) x 4]

This should be the easiest part of the test! Make sure your essay is well-structured. There should be a short introduction that tells the reader what you are going to write about [= “introductory statement”]. You can even repeat the topic itself:“Nowadays the question of (whether or not  …should …)./the issue of ….is being hotly discussed/is on everybody’s mind”/”Hardly a day passes on which one doesn’t read something about …”/ etc.

Most “Abitur” essay topics are of the “discuss-the-pros and-cons” kind or of the “first-second-third-alternative” kind, which gives you the structure of your essay. This is the central part of your essay and this is where you can work in some of the “hot-air” material I have given you. Things like “on the one hand, …”, (but)”on the other hand, ..”/”that is not to say”/”it would hardly be an exaggeration to say” etc., etc. There are really enough very useful expressions in the materialI distributed. Please make sure your “concluding” statement” is introduced idiomatically: e.g. “in conclusion, ”/”suffice it to say, …”/”all things considered,…” ≈ “taking everything into account, …” etc., etc.


a) Keep your sentences simple, avoid long sentences with several subclauses. There is nothing wrong with repeating a    word to make the context clear. Steer clear of (≈ avoid) tricky participial constructions.

b) IF you use a conditional clause, make sure you know how these clauses work. No “would” after “if”. “If I were you, I    would do something.” [If you blow too hard, the balloon will burst./If you blew too hard the balloon would burst./If you    had blown too hard, the balloon would have burst.]

c) Even more importantly, make absolutely sure that you stay consistent in the use of tenses. Stick to ONE tense      throughout! Don’t switch, e.g., between present and past. [You shouldn’t do this in German either!]

d) Commas: “When in doubt, leave it/them out!” No comma before “that” [meaning “dass”]. However, in theTRANSLATION  into German you should make sure NOT to forget the commas.

e) Spelling: Anyone who still doesn’t know how to spell “to lose” [= verb] and “loose” [= adjective: locker, lose, wacklig],    “life” [= noun, plural: lives]    “to live”/”to be alive”/ “this problem” [singular] and “these problems” [plural] should      “have his (or her) head examined”!  Ah, yes, there’s one more of your “favourites”: beeing (sic[k]) = “bienend” !!!!  Make sure that in the TRANSLATION into German you distinguish clearly between “dass” [formerly = “daß”] and “das”. E.g.: “Ich hoffe, dass das Englisch Abitur ein Erfolg wird.“

                                                                  I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, W.E.P.

                                                                          TESTING TIME (pun!)

                             ALD: to test (verb): four meanings, here meaning #4 [see also special entry “testing”]

                              DCE: to test (verb). Six meanings, here meaning #5 [see also special entry “testing”]