Glossary of important terms
Like any other institution, German universities have their own specialised terminology which is not always easy to understand, particularly if one is new to the university system. Here are a few expressions you will encounter constantly during your stay in Ludwigsburg:
Vorlesung, die (Lecture)
In a one- or two-hour lecture a certain topic is presented and discussed academically. As a rule students only listen in lectures and do not make any contribution to the proceedings themselves. However, in exceptional cases students may submit extra work in order to obtain more than two credits.
Übung, die (Practical class)
In a practical class students are strongly involved. They are expected to apply their practical skills and abilities. Typical practical classes are those that take place in the foreign languages.
In a seminar the foremost consideration, as a rule, is theoretical knowledge acquired by students themselves. Normally students present the results of their own studies of the particular topic and discuss these with other students under the supervision of a lecturer. Seminars are of various levels: introductory seminar (Proseminar) – seminar (Seminar) – main seminar (Hauptseminar).
Kolloquium, das (Colloquium/Tutorial)
This is a discussion with a lecturer on a particular academic topic. This type of class corresponds to the “tutorial“ in English-speaking countries. In addition, a colloquium can also serve as a kind of test.
Studienleistung, die (Student assignment)
To receive credits students must carry out monitored assignments: write an essay (Hausarbeit), give a presentation (Referat), and/or pass a written or oral test. On the basis of such work, students are awarded grades. The kind of work actually required for particular practical classes or seminars is decided on by the individual lecturer. Often students must complete various tasks in order to receive their credits.
Schein, der (Full credit)
A German student gets a credit in the form of a “Schein“, a slip of paper with the student’s name, the department, and the name of the class on it. Also stated on the paper is the work the student has done to get the credit, and as a rule also the grade awarded. International students receive a Collective Credit Slip (“Sammelschein“) from the International Office, on which all classes attended and all credits and grades obtained are entered.
Testat, das (Audit)
If no assignment is required for a particular class, only half the credit points are given, which in many cases is simply a confirmation of attendance.
Hausarbeit, die (Essay)
The student writes an (academic) essay on a particular topic dealt with in the class. Form and substance of such an essay can vary. Individual consultation with the particular teacher is the best way of finding out exactly what is required. Essays are sometimes written in the semester vacation. But this is a matter decided on by the individual lecturer and should be discussed with him or her.
It is important to note that there is much worth placed upon these in Germany. Copyright and ownership are checked and must therefore be sited and clearly discernable. Any copying without commentary or siting, for example from an internet source, can result in a rejection of the Hausarbeit and refusal to administer a grade.
Referat, das (Presentation or Project)
Often students give (short) talks on certain aspects of topics dealt with in seminars. Such talks are called “presentation” or “project” (Referate). Students giving papers are expected not simply to read out their notes, but also to speak freely and use various media to enhance their presentation.
Klausur, die (Seminar test)
This is a written test usually held at the end of a semester.