This paper examines a communication model based on six theoretical facets. Each facet was operationalised according to two aspects of Habermas’ theory of communicative action: strategic and understanding-oriented action. The aim of the empirical analyses was to ascertain whether the postulated model could be used to measure different levels of competence, employing analyses from item-response-theory. We used a sample of 515 students from 11 German higher education institutions. Our empirical study confirmed qualitatively different levels of competence in all six facets. By linking rubrics with quantitative results, we were able to describe each level of competence qualitatively and to relate the different facets to each other. The purpose of this study is to support higher education institutions in the development of concrete strategies for helping students master complex competencies that aid them in their personal and professional development.