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Is there any differences in usage between Klausur, Prüfung, Examen, Test*, and (Klassen)arbeit*?

* Edit: added more synonyms based on answers below.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Let me go through each of them to explain some differences:

  • Prüfung: The most generic term of all three. A "Klausur" is a kind of "Prüfung", as well as an "Examen".

  • Examen: This term is in modern times used only with final exams within some educations, especially when the test is conducted by a state authority. Then it is called "Staatsexamen"; examples for this might include final exams for law or medical students. This Wikipedia article lists other examples for "Staatsexamen". If I understand right, "Examen" was once used for every type of (final) exam in higher education.

  • Klausur:: A written test in universities. The term sometimes* is used for written tests within the last two years of grammar school (Oberstufe).

    [*]: At least when I was in grammar school...

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1  
You can delete sometimes and thus the [*], too. –  Em1 Jan 24 '12 at 8:12
1  
The term Klausur was used all the time when I was in school, I think anything from 7th grade ("Quarta") up to Abitur, with the final exams also being Klausuren. And the term replaced the term Klassenarbeit which was used in the years before. I don't know if that is a regional thing. –  OregonGhost Jan 24 '12 at 11:44
    
As far as I know in both medicine and law studies, as well as teaching (Lehramt) gibt es das Erste und das Zweite Staatsexams, wobei das 2. noch nach einem praktischen Abschnitt nach dem Studium abgelegt wird. –  Alexander Galkin Jan 24 '12 at 12:40

Just want to add the word "Arbeit". At the school I visited, we only used the words "Prüfung" and "Arbeit". We used "Prüfung" for the "final exams" and "Arbeit" for the normal tests.

Schreiben wir morgen eine Arbeit in Deutsch?

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You may add "Test" too. –  user unknown Jan 24 '12 at 9:15

AFAIK, Klausur and Examen¹ are only used for theoretical tests, while Prüfung can as well be a practical test, like Führerscheinprüfung (test for driving license) and Materialprüfung.

You couldn't say Materialexamen or Materialklausur. (Well - in German, you're free to combine old words to new ones, so you could say it, but people would raise they eyebrows for this unusual combination).

Test would be another alternative, which is used for practical tests too.

Klausur has a second meaning as in "Die CSU geht in Wildbadkreuth in Klausur.", which means conclave, and similar: enclosure.

¹) according to Wikipedia (thanks to Hendrik Vogt), Examen is used, for example for musicians, for practical tests too.

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"Prüfung" could be most generally translated as "test".

An oral test, could be a "Mündliche Prüfung", for instance, but there is never a "Mündliche Klausur". It wouldn't make sense, since the word 'Klausur' implies a silent session behind closed doors.

"Examen" implies almost every time a kind of final test, final exam, etc.

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The first sentence is a bold statement. ;p –  Em1 Jan 24 '12 at 12:11

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