About onSET



In 2004, the TestDaF-Institut began work on the development of a placement test for German as a foreign language following the C-test format. The basis for the test development was the joint research work by Dr. Thomas Eckes, TestDaF-Institut, and Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Grotjahn, Seminar for Language Teaching Research at the Ruhr University Bochum. Research findings appeared in specialist journals and books.

onSET evolves from onDaF


As a result, the demand for a placement test for English as a foreign language increased in German universities. The wish was that an English placement test should follow the same methodological and conceptual principle and have the same advantages as the onDaF. At the end of 2006, work began on the development of the English placement test. Initially, the newly calibrated tasks served as language screening for the bilingual study aptitude test TestAS.

In the spring of 2012, the test was used for the first time in the English-language Bachelor and Master courses at the Vietnamese-German University (VGU; Ho Chi Minh City).

Language classifications have been available worldwide in German or English since January 2015. The test system is called the "Online Language Placement Test" (onSET). The previous onDaF is listed as "onSET-Deutsch", the English test is called "onSET-English".

The onSET system is being developed further in co-operation with the Association of Language Centres (Arbeitskreis der Sprachenzentren an Hochschulen e. V. – AKS), representatives of UNIcert® and the language centre of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, where the Erlanger program for creating gap-filling texts (Erlanger Programm zur Erstellung von Lückentexten – ErPEL) orginated. The goal is to offer online placement tests for a whole range of modern languages at as many university language centres as possible.

How a C-test works


C-tests utilise redundancy within natural language. This is achieved in the test tasks by the removal of word parts.

Verbal and written statements or sentences usually contain more information than the recipient needs to understand them. These redundancies are to be found at both the individual character and word level as well as at the sentence and clause level. In the case of an interruption in communication, for example, by noise during an announcement or illegible handwriting, understanding is impaired. Recipients with a high level of language proficiency understand what is being said (or written) even if parts of the message are incomplete or missing.


(1)    Mny universities hve cnteens. There, students and employees hve lunch, drink coffee or simply tlk.

(2)    Many _______ have _____. There, students and employees _______ lunch, _____coffee or simply ______.

In sentence (1), the letter "a" was removed from each word at the character level. Nevertheless, the statement is easy to follow. Sentence (2) is an example of a classic gap text as used in language teaching. Linguistically competent readers can fill in the gaps if they are aware of the context.

However, the removal of whole words can also cause problems if, for example, several solutions are possible:

(3)    Many universities have _______. There, students and employees have lunch, drink coffee or simply talk.

Participants are not aware of the fact that the term "canteens" is used in sentence (3). Words such as cafeterias or lunchrooms could also be entered as a solution. In such cases, filling the gap with the original word is more difficult. If the examiner only allows the original solution, only the participants with the relevent prior knowledge can find the right solution. If alternatives are allowed, this begs the question which ones are accepted and which are not.

The number of possible alternatives is reduced by the removal of word parts instead of whole words. In addition, many gaps can be generated in shorter texts, thus increasing the accuracy in the measurement of language competence.

The gaps in a C-test are usually created according to the principle "rule of two". Starting with the second sentence, the second part of every second word is deleted.
This means that different types of words have to be completed in different positions and functions.

 (4)    Many univer_____ have cant_____. There, stud_____ and emplo_____ have lun_____, drink cof_____ or simply ta_____.

The finding of the solution is facilitated through knowing the context from the title, the beginnings of the words and the first and last sentence. The more advanced the language learner, the easier it is for him or her to use existing text parts to fill in the gaps.

In order to complete a C-test properly, participants need sophisticated language knowledge and must be able to access those different areas of knowledge. This applies to knowledge of spelling, vocabulary, morphology, syntax and the semantics of the target language as well as contextual aspects.

Technical requirements


Administering the onSET requires no special hardware. The network and browser must fulfill the following prerequisites:

Common network

The computers at which the participants sit the onSET and the test manager’s computer must be in the same internet network. They are on the same network when the first three blocks of the IP address are identical.

HTTP proxy

An HTTP proxy must be deactiviated as a cache during the internet connection.


Use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Compatibility issues may occur when using other browsers.

Browser settings

The browsers must be set up in such a way that:

  • JavaScript is enabled,
  • The use of cookies is accepted, 
  • Pop-ups are allowed for the website, 
  • Automatic translation and spellcheck of web pages is disabled.

The onSET provider


The onSET is offered by the Society for Academic Study Preparation and Test Development (Gesellschaft für Akademische Studienvorbereitung und Testentwicklung – g.a.s.t.). The non-profit association g.a.s.t. and the Association of Language Centres (Arbeitskreis der Sprachenzentren – AKS) co-operate in the development and application of the onSET.

g.a.s.t. is the operating company of the TestDaF-Institut and the Deutsch-Uni Online.

The purpose of the association is to support the university studies of qualified international study applicants and scientists, especially through the development and use of tests for suitability and performance assessment in the field of higher education, in particular the Test of German as a Foreign Language (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache – TestDaF) and professional suitability and selection tests.

In addition to the onSET, the following tests are also available:

In conjunction with the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, g.a.s.t. offers the web-based learning platform Deutsch-Uni Online (DUO) at:

The AKS pursues the goal of a sound, university specific and quality-oriented language training at universities. It is expanding the network of language centres and promoting their co-operation. In addition, the AKS publishes contributions to research and promotes developments in the practical language context.

Key measures for the quality assurance and improvement of university-specific foreign language teaching are the creation of the foreign language certificate UNIcert® and the training certificate FOBIcert®.

The AKS has institutional, individual and affiliated members. Institutional members are the 147 universities and associations in Germany and abroad:
AKS Members

Members and Memberships

 Members of the Society for Academic Study Preparation and Test Development (g.a.s.t.) are:

  • German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)
  • German Rectors‘ Conference (HRK)
  • Goethe-Institut
  • Ruhr University Bochum
  • University of Hagen
  • Leipzig University
  • Ludwig Maximilian University Munich
  • Professional Association of German as a Foreign Language (FaDaF)
  • Association of Language Centers (AKS)


Memberships of g.a.s.t. and the TestDaF-Institut

  • Association of Language Testers in Europe
  • Evaluation and Accreditation of Quality in Language Services
  • European Association for Language Testing and Assessment
  • International Test Commission
  • Gesellschaft für Medien in der Wissenschaft e. V.