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.

● 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.

Tips for getting a CELTA Pass A

As I mentioned in the post about teaching qualifications, doing a CELTA is a great choice for new teachers because the 4-week course will prepare you for your first job. The CELTA is also taken by experienced teachers who wish to improve their teaching skills. This standardised course is offered in numerous locations around the world, including Bogotá and Medellín. It can now be done 100% online because of the pandemic, but I will focus only on the in-class option in this text.

I had never taught English to anyone before taking my CELTA at CELT Athens, so I didn’t know what to expect. In the end, it turned out to be an unforgettable experience that completely changed my professional life. Getting an A grade was a nice bonus, and it made me feel good about my decision to become an English teacher. I can’t provide you with a step-by-step guide to achieve the top grade because there are too many variables, so I will try to share some general advice instead.

Tips for getting a CELTA Pass A

At first, we need to look at relevant statistics. In 2018, the overwhelming majority of trainees (95.4%) successfully passed the course. The CELTA is really demanding, but there is no need to feel anxious about it. Course providers screen candidates by asking them to take a test and undergo an interview in order to select only those who have a real chance of passing the course. If you search for CELTA-related information online, you will probably encounter some terrifying stories of people being on the verge of a nervous breakdown during the course, but I wouldn’t recommend paying too much attention to that. Again, the numbers are clear: if you are accepted on the course, you will most likely pass it.

So who exactly doesn’t pass the CELTA? According to the 2018 statistics, 4% of the candidates withdrew from the course. It’s necessary to emphasise that the full-time CELTA is very time-consuming because you have to spend 8 hours at the centre every day and then do your lesson planning, background reading and assignments in your free time. That’s why taking the course in your hometown may not be the best option because you need to avoid distractions. You should also stay in a place close to the training centre so that you don’t waste a lot of time commuting.

I couldn’t really afford to fail the course because I had quit my job and bought a ticket to Colombia. No pressure then! My solution was simple: I decided to sacrifice four weeks of my life. I spent most of the evenings and weekends studying, and ventured out of the apartment only to do my grocery shopping. It wasn’t the most exciting way of spending June in Greece, but it had to be done. In the second part of the course, I got a little bit more adventurous and went for a walk a couple of times. I even found time to watch two films: Logan was brilliant; T2 Trainspotting disappointing (with the exception of one good scene).

Well, what about the 0.6% candidates who actually failed the course in 2018? All trainees receive constant guidance from their tutors, so you would need to ignore what they tell you in order to fail the course because of your performance in the classroom. In addition, some people think that arguing with the tutors or other trainees is a good idea. Teaching English is a serious profession and it’s important to have that in mind when taking the CELTA. Being punctual and respectful, taking the tutors’ advice into account, and behaving like a decent human being is as important as your performance in the classroom.

Now that I have been teaching for a few years, I know that the bar to pass the CELTA is quite low. You don’t have to do much reading before the course, but you can certainly make life easier for yourself, especially if you are eager to get a good grade. Your centre will probably provide you with a pre-course task, and it’s a good idea to take it seriously. I also recommend that you read the syllabus and assessment guidelines and familiarise yourself with the way the course works. You should also refresh your grammar knowledge to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use, which is aimed at intermediate students, will be sufficient.

If you have some free time before the course, you could read the following books, which are very useful for CELTA trainees:

● Martin Parrott: Grammar for English Language Teachers
● Graham Workman: Concept Questions and Time Lines
● Rosemary Aitken: Teaching Tenses
● Jim Scrivener: Learning Teaching

Each course is externally assessed and it doesn’t really matter where you take it. You can find a lot of websites with detailed information about the CELTA, including my favourite resource ELT Concourse. That said, the most important thing you have to do is listen to your tutors because their feedback is the most valuable part of the course. It’s necessary to pay attention to the tips for improving your teaching that you are going to receive. If you are told to talk to your students and not to the board, you are expected to do that in your next lesson. It’s not exactly rocket science because even the input sessions are done in the same way you are supposed to teach.

I understand that teaching your students while a group of people is observing your every move isn’t the most comfortable experience. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, though. Copying the tutors’ and other trainees’ techniques and using them in your lessons is perfectly acceptable. Your students don’t expect you to be a world-beater either because they know that you are being trained to be a teacher. I highly recommend that you learn their names as soon as possible and try to talk to them during breaks. Teaching people you’ve chatted with before is more pleasant than standing in front of complete strangers.

If you plan to get a CELTA, you need to know that it isn’t a walk in the park. However, if you are a hard-worker with good time-management skills, there is nothing to be afraid of. You are going to receive a lot of support during the course, so you just need to keep an open mind and absorb the knowledge. Chasing an A may leave you feeling disappointed, because the criteria for obtaining that grade are a bit fuzzy; some centres seem to be stricter than others, so luck may play a role as well. Your main objective should be improving as a teacher, and the process of obtaining your CELTA will certainly contribute to that.