Tips for passing Delta Module One without taking a preparation course

Professional development plays a very important role in my teaching life. Having a CELTA is all well and good, but you can’t live off that for the rest of your teaching career. After all, it’s just a pre-service certificate that gives you a very effective formula for delivering classes, though using some of those techniques doesn’t work in all teaching contexts. If you wish to keep improving your teaching skills, it’s necessary to have an open mind and be dedicated to continuous learning.

Delta and DipTESOL are advanced certificates that will take your teaching to another level. They can also open more doors for you in terms of career prospects. If you are considering moving into management or teacher training, you’ll probably need to get a relevant Master’s degree or one of these two certificates. I chose to pursue the Delta because of the fact that there are a few places Latin America where it can be taken. That said, you should bear in mind that many employers in Colombia have never heard of it, but don’t get discouraged by that! You’ll grow as a teacher and your students will definitely appreciate that. The most prestigious institutes and universities here are familiar with this qualification, so getting a Delta could lead to new job opportunities.

Delta Module One

The Delta is composed of three parts that can be taken independently, and you get a separate certificate after completing each module. When you have passed all of them, you will officially become a Delta-qualified teacher. There are numerous ways to take the Delta, but one thing is certain: you have to work hard to get the certificate. Getting ready to tackle Module One took me four months of preparation while working long hours in my full-time position. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience, but I am very happy that I did it.

Delta Module One is a three-hour written exam, which takes place in June and December. There are numerous course providers offering preparation courses and I wanted to sign up for one of them, but my payment didn’t go through, so I decided to prepare for the exam individually. You can simply contact an authorised centre and register as an independent candidate, so I decided to take my exam with the British Council in Bogotá. Not spending money on a course proved to be a good decision because I managed to pass the exam with a good grade. There are tons of resources available online, so if you are a disciplined and organised person, you can prepare for the exam by yourself.

My exam preparation consisted of three phases. I spent the first two months reading ELT books and taking detailed notes. I had read only a couple of titles during my CELTA course, and I felt that I needed to read literature that goes beyond tips for teaching practice. I selected the following eight books:

Adrian Underhill: Sound Foundations
The CELTA provided me with some basic ideas on pronunciation without going into details, so reading this book proved to be extremely useful. I finally managed to learn the phonemic chart and features of connected speech, and it gave me confidence to focus on pronunciation in my own classes.

● Scott Thornbury: About Language
This is a crucial title for Delta Module One because it will help you prepare for the language analysis section, which represents 50% of the points you can obtain in Paper One. About Language is a must-read!

● Patsy Lightbown & Nina Spada: How Languages are Learned
Language teachers should be familiar with the main theories related to second-language acquisition, so this is another very important title. I really enjoyed How Languages are Learned because it is well-written and refers to relevant research.

● Jack Richards & Theodore Rodgers: Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching
This book provides an overview of various methods that have been used to teach English. Even if you never try them out your own practice (Suggestopedia says hello), knowing what they are based on is very helpful for the exam.

● Scott Thornbury: Beyond the Sentence
One of my favourite ELT books ever! Beyond the Sentence deals with discourse analysis, which is a fascinating topic for me. Thornbury uses relevant real-life examples, and there are some genuinely funny passages in the book to make your studying a little more cheerful. I wrote about it in more detail in this post.

● Arthur Hughes: Testing for Language Teachers
Assessment is another important element of Delta Module One. This book does a great job of explaining how testing works, and you will need that knowledge for the first task of Paper Two.

● Jeremy Harmer: The Practice of English Language Teaching
This book is worth reading because it covers numerous ELT-related topics. It’s a comprehensive resource written in a way that is easy to understand, and it points you to other titles that will help you study specific areas of teaching practice more in depth.

● Scott Thornbury: An A–Z of ELT
You are expected to use correct terminology in the exam, so this is another title which should be read from cover to cover.

After all that reading, I went down the rabbit hole called ELT Concourse. I have already written about this amazing website in this post. ELT Concourse contains a very helpful Delta section, which provided me with a lot of detailed information related to the topics I had read about in the books. I also brushed on my knowledge of grammar thanks to the tests available on the website. I am really grateful for the fact that the content is available completely for free.

I allocated the last month for getting ready for the exam itself. First, you should definitely read the Delta handbook because it gives you clear advice for answering the tasks. I also bought How to Pass Delta written by Damian Williams, an experienced Delta tutor who is familiar with the grading criteria. Sandy Millin and Lizzie Pinard provide valuable tips for tackling the exam on their blogs. Module One isn’t only about your knowledge, but you need to learn how to answer the questions as well. I guess many of the candidates who fail the module (38.8% in 2018) underestimate this part. You have to use precise language and include information that may appear obvious to you.

You should also download sample exams (One and Two) with an examination report from Cambridge’s website. There are also older past papers with correct answers available here thanks to some kind strangers from the internet. The 2016-19 past papers (without answers) can be found here. Please note that the exam was tweaked a little in 2015, so you need to pay attention to this list of changes when checking the older papers.

It’s also a very good idea to go through the past papers under exam conditions. I gave myself 90 minutes for Paper One, a 30-minute break, 90 minutes for Paper Two, and then I compared what I wrote with the correct answers. I found this strategy very effective because it gave me a clear idea of what to expect during the exam itself. You may also need to train your wrist to cope with writing by hand for 3 hours! My past papers practice yielded promising results, so I travelled to Bogotá feeling quite optimistic.

There were no surprises in the exam. I found Paper Two pretty straightforward and completed it a few minutes before the time limit, but Paper One was a bit tricky. Many people recommend doing Task 5 first and I should have listened to their advice. I spent too much time on the previous four tasks, which meant that I didn’t manage to write as many details as I would have wished in the last one. Anyway, two months after the exam I found out that I received a pass with merit, so I didn’t lose that many points because of my flawed strategy.

Delta Module One was a very demanding experience, but I feel that I really benefitted from it as a teacher. It pushed me to re-evaluate some ideas that I had held at the beginning of my teaching career, which led to positive changes in my own practice. I highly recommend this exam to every English teacher interested in professional development.

2 thoughts on “Tips for passing Delta Module One without taking a preparation course

  1. Great article Martin and good advice. I agree; I completed DELTA M1 last year and found that it definitely improved me as a teacher. Some of the exam Qs were certainly challenging but Thornbury’s About Language and A-Z of ELT were my bibles, so I also managed to achieve a Pass with Merit. Have you completed module 2 or 3? I’m considering which to take next and when. With this unstable situation we’re living in at the moment it’s difficult to commit to things. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Thomas,
      Congratulations for your result! You’re right about Thornbury; I don’t think there are many people who have passed M1 without reading those two books. 🙂

      I’ve done M3 as well and I’m going to write about the experience in one of my future posts. We’re going through uncertain times and there’s nothing we can do about it, but maybe this is a good time to upskill in order to be better prepared for our return back to normal. By the way, Module 2 can now be done fully online because of the exceptional circumstanes we find ourselves in.

      Like

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