Cambridge Delta FAQ

My posts about the Delta qualification have attracted quite a lot of visitors, which shows that many readers are interested in professional development. Since I have finally passed all three modules, I feel that this is the right time to publish this post addressing frequent questions about the diploma. As always, this article is based on my own experience and I recommend checking out other sources of information as well.

Cambridge Delta FAQ

Is it worth the money and effort?
First and foremost, you need to be sure that this qualification is right for you; I can’t imagine anyone doing this just for fun! For example, you are expected to have a Delta if you wish to become a CELTA trainer. However, if your main career goal is to teach at an international school, then it would make more sense to pursue another qualification. I did the Delta because I wanted to improve as teacher and I’d like to become a teacher trainer in the future.

This certificate certainly isn’t cheap. If you really need to save money, then the most economical option would be to do Module One and Module Three as an independent candidate without taking a preparation course. Module Two can’t be done without attending a course, and I believe the most affordable ones are provided by ITI Istanbul and ATI Ankara.

Should I get a Delta or an MA in TESOL?
This depends on your career goals and the country in which you wish to work. Some places prefer a Delta, others feel that a relevant master’s degree is more valuable. Delta is accredited by Ofqual at Master’s level in terms of content, but there are clear differences between the qualifications. I decided to do the Delta because it is considered to be more practical. It makes sense to do both of these qualifications, though. My MA is in an unrelated field, so I’ll probably have a decision to make at some point in the future. Some universities provide Delta-qualified teachers with credits and exemptions in their master’s programmes, which is something worth exploring.

How much teaching experience do I need before doing the Delta?
There are no official requirements for any of the modules. In fact, Module One and Three can be done by anyone who wishes to do so. Module Two is a bit trickier because you need to convince a provider to accept you into their course. The Delta handbook recommends having at least a year’s ELT experience, but I think it would be a very bad idea to take a Module Two course with so little experience in teaching.

I took the Delta Module One exam in June 2019 two years after doing my CELTA, which was still relatively early, and then I managed to pass Module Three in June 2020. Finally, I started my Module Two in January 2021 as the least experienced teacher in our group of trainees. Everything turned out to be fine in the end, but having more experience in various teaching contexts would have been an advantage.

Do I need a degree or CELTA to do the Delta?
No; see the question above. However, it helps to have both before doing the Delta. A degree is a visa requirement in many countries and it’s something important for making progress in your teaching career. It may also be useful in terms of academic writing because you need to be really strong in that area in order to pass M2 and M3.

Having a CELTA isn’t essential, but it provides you with teaching foundations and helps you familiarise yourself with the way Cambridge teaching qualifications work. It has its drawbacks, which is understandable since it’s just a four-week course. My Delta Module Two tutors kept mentioning CELTA’s shortcomings during the course and it was nice to understand what they were referring to.

What’s the best way of doing the Delta?
Everyone’s circumstances are different. If you can afford to take time off from work and do the full-time Module Two course, then it could be a good option for you. There is a plethora of possibilities, so you should choose the one that suits you best. You can do in-class, blended, and even 100% online courses, and each of them has its own pros and cons. The most important thing is to make sure that you can dedicate enough time to the Delta because there are no shortcuts and you’ll simply have to work very hard to get the diploma.

Can I do the modules in any order?
Yes, and this is an advantage of this qualification. I think the most logical way is to do the modules in the traditional M1 → M2 → M3 order, but it’s good to have the option to choose another strategy if your circumstances require it. For example, when I finished Module One, I decided to do Module Three next because it was much more convenient at that time. There are no Module Two providers in Colombia and fully online courses weren’t approved in 2019.

Some tutors actually recommend doing Module Two first, but I think it would have been too early for me at that stage of my teaching career. I felt that doing the other two modules before M2 helped me prepare for the most challenging one. I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing Module Three first, though. I struggled with it because I hadn’t gone through the experience of writing background essays for Module Two LSAs.

What is the most helpful resource for passing the Delta?
ELT Concourse. There is so much information that it may seem daunting at first, so you need to take it one step at a time.

Is it as difficult as everybody says it is?
Yes, but it’s doable. Let’s check the 2019 worldwide pass rates:

Module One: 57.6%
Module Two: 83.3%
Module Three: 78.1%

The good news is that you can sit the Module One exam as many times as you wish. Module Two is a bit trickier because you need to pass the internal coursework in order to be eligible for two LSA4 retakes, otherwise you need to repeat the whole course. Module Three can be resubmitted once. If your second submission fails, you’ll have to select a completely new topic and start afresh.

How much hoop-jumping is needed to pass the Delta?
A lot. Module One isn’t only about your knowledge, but you need to know how to answer the questions. The essays in the other two modules are about cramming key information into the main body of the document with strict word limits. Every single detail counts and you need to make sure that you haven’t forgotten to include something important.

I certainly wouldn’t describe working on the written assignments as an enjoyable experience because they made me want to tear my hair out at times. That said, I guess this is necessary since Delta is a standardised qualification and not allowing candidates to have much freedom in writing helps with marking the assignments. It does feel like unnecessary torture at times, but by successfully completing the diploma, you prove that you are capable of following specific instructions and complying with strict requirements.

Can I call myself a Delta-qualified teacher after passing Module Two?
I wouldn’t do it. You need to complete all three modules to obtain the full diploma.

Will having a Delta on my CV help me get a better job?
When it comes to Colombia, International House, British Council, and a few reputable universities do recognise the Delta. However, run-of-the-mill language institutes and many universities often have no idea what it is, so you’ll be offered the same terms as someone with no certificate because the word Delta doesn’t appear in the institution’s salary structure. From what I understand, this happens in some Asian countries too. It’s a bit sad, but it leaves you with two options when applying for that kind of job: Ruffle some feathers and try to educate the employer about the Delta, or look for a better position somewhere else.

Martin Higgins: The best institutions are in Bogotá

My next interviewee is a Delta-qualified teacher who moved into TEFL from another career. We talked about differences between private academies and universities, teaching other subjects, his own professional development journey, and other topics related to teaching English in Colombia.

Martin Higgins is an English teacher from the UK. He obtained a BA in International Studies in 2009 and an MSc in European Social Policy a year later. Before moving to Colombia, Martin was employed by Cambridge Assessment in various non-teaching roles. He also worked as a news reporter writing about Colombian politics. Martin started teaching English in Bogotá after taking a CELTA course in 2013, and he has been working at Universidad Externado de Colombia since January 2017. He successfully completed his Delta in 2020.

Martin Higgins: The best institutions are in Bogotá

Let’s start with your work before becoming a teacher. Could you briefly describe how you landed a job at Cambridge Assessment and what your responsibilities were?

I’m from Cambridge originally and had worked for Cambridge Assessment in various roles as a temp during the holidays when I was at university. When I graduated from university, jobs were pretty scarce due to the recession, and I wanted to work in politics, which turned out to be a very difficult sector to work in when you have no experience, no contacts, and no ability to work in unpaid internships for a couple of years.

By fortune, a vacancy came up in the Public Affairs department at Cambridge Assessment where I was temping at the time, and I got the role. At first I did the admin for the events team, but after 6 months I was promoted to the Unit Coordinator and got involved in more things related to my desired career path at the time. My boss was really good to me and supported me with my development, but in time I realised that working in politics wasn’t for me, so I decided to move to Colombia with my partner, who is from here, and to take up teaching.

In your role as a reporter, you dealt with topics such as illegal mining, same-sex marriage, and workers’ rights in Colombia. What was your experience like?

It wasn’t as interesting as it might sound. I was living in the UK at the time and wrote articles in the evenings for a mate who was running the Colombia Politics website. It was essentially churnalism, that is regurgitating news into English from other websites.

What prompted you to make a move into teaching?

Necessity, really. As I mentioned, I moved to Colombia with my partner and I didn’t speak any Spanish at the time, so this was the obvious career move. My father worked in EFL for many years and having worked for Cambridge Assessment, I was aware that the CELTA was the best way to start. After a few months working as a teacher, I realised that it was an enjoyable profession, and luckily I’ve been able to secure some decent roles here in Bogotá over the years.

You did your CELTA at International House Bogotá eight years ago. Looking back, did you feel ready for your first teaching job after taking the course?

I’m not sure anyone is ready after the CELTA, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I started off working with very small groups, so that was an easy way in before teaching large groups in my first university role.

What are the main differences between teaching at private academies and universities in Colombia?

The money and the hours. Working in private academies in Bogotá is pretty poorly paid, and the class times are usually first thing in the morning or in the evening. Not fun, but a rite of passage you have to go through I guess when you have no experience and cannot get a job at a university or bilingual school.

You have also taught subjects such as Diplomacy and International Relations Theory. How does that compare to teaching English?

It’s not entirely different. Most of what you learn in terms of lesson planning and classroom management can be transferred across to teaching other subjects. The key difference with teaching those courses was that I would have to spend a lot more time preparing for the classes by reading.

Have your degrees and experience in non-teaching jobs helped you in any way in your work as an English teacher?

Of course. Working at Cambridge Assessment certainly helped me organise my time better, which is an essential skill for teachers. Plus there are all the admin skills I developed that make life so much easier when you’re a teacher.

You spent four years working as an IELTS speaking examiner. Would you recommend this role to other teachers?

Absolutely. It gives you much more confidence in evaluating student’s level, and it’s a really good thing to have on the CV.

Some schools and universities in Colombia are finally returning to in-person education. How would you describe your experience working during the pandemic?

We are still teaching completely online. I can’t say I’ve particularly enjoyed teaching during the pandemic. Virtual teaching is something that can work, but only if the students choose it. The current situation has been imposed on our students and many of them don’t particularly enjoy it and would much prefer to be back in the classroom, as would I. Here’s hoping next year will see that possible.

Let’s hope so! It would be great to finally see the students in person. By the way, where did you do your Delta? Do you think that it has helped you in your teaching career?

I did it through Bell and their distance programme. I chose that school as I had worked there as a teacher before and I really like the institution. I was fortunate enough to find a really helpful tutor here in Colombia to assist me through Module Two, which was by far the most useful in my development as a teacher. After doing that, I really feel confident about entering any classroom in any environment and being able to teach a principled and interesting lesson.

I remember that you weren’t impressed by the structure of Module Three. If you could make some changes to this module, what would you do?

I would change the word count. It’s far too short and it hinders your ability to really explore the course design element properly, so you end up just trying to tick the boxes that the assessment criteria require, which leaves very little room for creativity.

Do you have any further plans for post-Delta development?

I would like to find some extra work in materials and course design in the long term, perhaps for a publisher. That’s a long term plan and will require more development, but I’m not sure if I’ll do any formal qualifications in the short term.

You have spent many years in Bogotá, so I imagine that you enjoy living there. Have you ever considered looking for a job in another city?

I’m very happy at the Externado and wouldn’t want to work anywhere else in Colombia – Bogotá is where my partner’s family live and the best institutions to work in are here. Who knows what the future holds, though.