There are three main ways to earn your German higher education entrance qualification.
The higher education entrance qualification (e.g. German Abitur)
You earn the higher education entrance qualification by completing your “Abitur”, for example, at a general or vocational secondary school which also teaches a second foreign language (Gymnasium).
Other certificates that are considered equivalent to the higher education entrance qualification are identified on the web page Studieninformation Baden-Württemberg (study information Baden-Württemberg).
The subject-specific higher education entrance qualification
You earn the subject-specific higher education entrance qualification by graduating from a “technischen Oberschule”, “Wirtschaftsoberschule”, or “Berufsoberschule für Sozialwesen” (specialized secondary schools).
You can only study select subjects with a subject-specific higher education entrance qualification. Your university entrance certificate will list the study programmes you are qualified to apply for. If you are interested in studying a subject not listed on your university entrance qualification, you can alternatively take the Deltaprüfung (delta exam) to qualify.
There is a difference between the “Fachgebundenen Hochschulreife” (subject-specific higher education entrance qualification) and the “Fachhochschulreife” (German qualification for study at universities of applied sciences). With the “Fachhochschulreife”, you may only study at the University of Konstanz after passing the “Deltaprüfung” (delta exam). Only the “Fachhochschulreife” allows you to study any subject at universities of applied sciences.
The "Deltaprüfung” (delta exam)
If you have earned either the "Fachhochschulreife" or the “Fachgebundene Hochschulreife” but either want to study at a university or study a subject that you do not have the required qualification for, then you will need to register for the Deltaprüfung (delta exam). Passing this exam will allow you to apply for bachelor's studies, for which you would otherwise not have the higher education entrance qualification.
You cannot, however, qualify to study law (first state examination) by passing the delta exam.
The delta exam is managed by the University of Mannheim for all universities and teacher training institutions in Germany. The written exam consists of questions that test your general scholastic aptitude for university study.
You can register for the next annual delta exam (05 May 2018) between 1 March and 31 March. The examination fee is 200,- euros.