Qualification Tests

Qualification tests for any kind of art related study fields are of utter importance! Quite logical, since you won’t be accepted at the university/college unless you pass one. Therefore many prospective students feel intimidated and some even give up without even trying. Sure, preparations can be really money- and time-consuming depending on one’s interests, and perhaps the people surrounding you try to discourage you or you do so yourself out of fear to see yourself failing…But you should at least give it a shot, because nothing is worse than living a life full of regrets! That was my biggest obstacle, the fear that I might not be good enough, that everyone would be disappointed. I started studying something else until I realized I couldn’t watch animated movies nor could I look at nice paintings without feeling pity for myself and hating myself for not even trying! That’s when I pulled myself together and tackled the test…And I passed!

Don’t ever give up before even trying! As corny as it sounds, it’s true.

But let’s return to the main topic: Qualification tests. Right now I’m going to give you some examples of how those tests could look like. You can find tips on the tests themselves here.

First of all you should start a major research on the Internet! Visit the universities’ Internet-pages, look for hints in forums or blogs (O_O). Precore for example is a real good forum for German (prospective) design students. Most universities will be announcing coming up counselings, of which some require a registration a few weeks ahead. You should also check out the modules (topics) each university is offering.

Eventually you should decide on a few but not too many universities and register for a counseling if offered. Make sure to prepare yourself correctly and write down the most vital questions for you and DO NOT forget to bring as much of your own artwork as possible! The advisers want to see how experienced and how imaginative you are in order to give you tips for the qualis. Do not leave sketches out! In most cases that’s exactly what advisers want to see. Sketches show how much effort you really put in observing your surroundings and developing your skills. The unis aren’t looking for the next Picasso! They need students who are open-minded and willing to try new things out.

At the counseling make sure to check out what the others have to show and listen to the comments given. Advisers will be in most cases VERY direct and they won’t spare you, believe me, they will criticize you whenever possible and that’s how your whole studies will look like. You have to be aware of this! No criticizing, no improvement! Don’t be shy to ask any question that comes up your mind, no matter how stupid it may sound. Every little bit of information is extremely valuable at this stage!

After the counseling you shouldn’t miss to find some students lurking around and ask them some questions, too. Most of them will give you as much advice as you wish.

Now comes the second part of your application: Your work on the actual qualification test. But how do such tests look like? Although most tests differ in details one thing is always demanded, and that’s a portfolio. This is the heart of every qualification test. The specific requirements on the other hand can vary immensely. While some universities give you a certain topic and a period of time, during which you have to finish your portfolio, other only want images without giving you a topic or time-limits. To make it easier to understand how these things vary I’ll give you three examples of real university requirements:

1. Given topic “movement”, a time-period of 6 weeks, no material (chalk, oil, pencils etc.) or technique (photographs, vector, movie, painting, sketch, sculpture etc.) limitations, biggest format not bigger than 70 x 100 cm/27 x 40 inch, maximum of 20 artworks, only originals accepted (too big objects have to be documented), an index with descriptions of all works

2.No given topic, no time-period (of course portfolio must be ready until the date of hand over), no material or technique limitations, biggest format not bigger than 70 x 100 cm/27 x 40 inch, minimum of 20 artworks, only originals accepted (too big objects have to be documented), index not required

3. No given topic, no time-period (of course portfolio must be ready until the date of hand over), no material or technique limitations, no fixed format limitation but has to be within the realm of possibility, no fixed artwork number limitations, only originals accepted(too big objects have to be documented),  index not required

Additionally some universities may demand further tests:

1. If portfolio passes one has to complete a 4-hour practical test at the university itself AND present the results at an interview with some professors and students. If everything has been passed one gets a grade and has to apply with it, so you’re not 100% accepted.

2.If portfolio gets a grade of 1,4 (about A-) the student is 100% accepted, if portfolio gets a grade between 1,5 and 4,0 (B+ to D) student can complete a homework with 2 given assignments during a time-span of one month. If passed student is 100% accepted.

3. If portfolio passes you are accepted for one year on probation. If not showing pleasing results you could get kicked out…

Well that’s how three different qualification tests actually looked like for me. Number one and two were universities of applied science (design) and number three was an art academy (free art). Another possibility for you would be to apply at a private academy, which in most cases should accept you without big qualification tests but a portfolio could be of need in order to advise you. Why, you ask? Because private academies cost a lot (for example 1200 Euros/1600 US-dollars per MONTH, a university would cost 18-60 Euros/24-80 US-dollars per month in Germany) and if you can’t even draw a straight line it would be a big waste of money. I’m well aware that US college fees are a lot higher than most European fees, but nevertheless you see the huge difference!

Oh, and one last thing. Every university has its own application deadlines. You have to apply for the qualification test separately a few MONTHS before the regular university application deadlines.

So now that I gave you some examples and some useful hints get to work and start applying!