Latest World News

Why the university aptitude test makes school


For some courses in Germany, aptitude tests must be taken. The medical test has been around for a long time – now there is a test for psychology for the first time. What does this change?

By Marleen Wiegmann for

For her big dream, Hannah Schatz passed the medical test last year. “There was a lot of pressure because that was really my last chance,” she says. So far, participants have only been allowed to take the test twice. In the end, the result of her test was better than the first time – but still not good enough. Unfortunately, Schatz did not come to study medicine. Since then, she has not been on good terms with the aptitude test.

Those interested in studying psychology could soon have comparable experiences. Applicants can take an aptitude test at some universities in Germany this year in order to improve their Abitur grades. Since a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2017, the Abitur grade alone is no longer sufficient to select students for nationwide admissions-restricted courses. Instead, at least one other meaningful criterion must be taken into account, such as professional experience or the result of an aptitude test.

A total of around 40 percent of courses at universities in Germany have restricted admission. In these subjects, the number of applicants exceeds the number of places available. In all other courses, interested parties are admitted without a selection process. The judgment of the Constitutional Court applies to pharmacy, human, veterinary and dental medicine. Psychology is not one of them – the universities still follow the decision, since a comparable lawsuit should be filed for this course, and an identical judgment would be expected.

Aptitude tests in artistic courses

In art courses, aptitude tests are often used as a selection option. In order to study design in Münster, for example, applicants must submit a portfolio in which they deal with a specified topic in various works. They then have to pass an exam in which they have four hours to solve a design task.

In recent years, however, aptitude tests have also become established in other courses – for example to reduce dropout rates. The tests are intended to help predict which of the applicants are likely to successfully complete the course. The medical test (TMS) has existed in its current form since 2007. Its prognostic power has been researched accordingly: studies show that the medical test can reliably predict study success. This tendency is also confirmed in other subjects.

Applicants can show motivation

An advantage of aptitude tests is that applicants can improve themselves. Cort-Denis Hachmeister works at the Center for University Development, among other things, with university access and calls the tests “a kind of self-empowerment” for applicants: “They have the opportunity to improve something in their starting position.” Someone who also takes the extra step and takes part in the medical test, for example, shows initiative and motivation. For medicine and psychology, the aptitude tests are explicitly voluntary and not a prerequisite for studying.

But there is a sticking point: aptitude tests are an enormous effort for universities, says Hachmeister. “The universities have to think about which skills they want to test. They have to design, test and evaluate the tests.” A selection based on the Abitur grades, on the other hand, is simple, inexpensive and transparent – and is therefore still the first choice for many courses.

opportunity for applicants

The next few years will show how the aptitude test is accepted in psychology, who takes it and for what reasons. For some it could be an opportunity.

There is also another possibility for Hannah Schatz to study medicine. She would like to apply for the next semester to a university that takes her completed training as a physiotherapist into account when making her selection. Many universities include training in the medical field in their selection. However, the weighting differs greatly. Maybe it will work in the next attempt and treasure can finally start her dream study. Without an aptitude test.