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.

Tips for passing Delta Module Two

When I contacted IH Mexico at the beginning of 2020, I certainly didn’t expect that I would have to wait more than a year and a half to be able to call myself a Delta-qualified teacher. I had already passed Module One and submitted Module Three, and I was looking forward to completing the last module. The pandemic threw a spanner into the works, so I had to be very patient, but in the end I managed to obtain the full diploma. If you are considering tackling Delta Module Two, I would like to share a few recommendations based on my experience.

Tips for passing Delta Module Two

Choose a course that suits you
There are various way of doing this module, ranging from six-week courses to distance options that take nine months to complete. You need to be 100% sure that the selected course is right for you since Module Two will require a lot of effort from your side.

I decided to go with IH Mexico’s three-month online course because it allowed me to continue working. In the first half of the course, I was teaching 21 hours per week from Monday to Saturday, and it was really challenging to combine it with my Delta work. Reducing my workload to 16 hours per week helped me focus on the last two assessed lessons. Doing the module this way wasn’t easy because I didn’t have a single day off for the duration of the course. In fact, I kept waking up at night thinking of my lessons, which wasn’t pleasant at all. I still think it was a good decision to take a shorter course because I managed to complete everything I was supposed to do.

The online options are convenient since you can do the course from the comfort of your home, but it’s really important to choose the right provider. I didn’t have to worry about huge time differences with IH Mexico, and I was also given access to a lot of books and articles. It would have been impossible to pass the course without relevant resources, so I recommend that you double check this with your provider before you pay the course fee.

It’s also important to clarify who your learners will be during the course. I chose to work with students provided by IH Mexico because my own classes at work started at a later date and I usually teach shorter courses, so it made more sense to work with the same group for the whole three months. I’d recommend working with your own students if you have that option, though. When you have to rely on your tutors, teaching partners, volunteer students, and technology, many things can go wrong. There were some issues related to my TPs, and I felt that it made an already difficult course even more stressful. Let’s just say that doing this module online has its drawbacks.

Make sure you know what you have to do
This is something I found extremely useful. You simply don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what exactly is expected from you. It’s very important to know what terms like PDA, LSA, and EP mean and when you are supposed to submit the documents. I highly recommend that you read the Delta handbook for tutors and candidates and familiarise yourself with the module. You can find a condensed version of the handbook with some good advice in Damian Williams’ book How to Pass Delta. If you are very ambitious and perhaps you’d like to achieve a Distinction grade, there is a lot of detailed information about the module on ELT Concourse. Blogs are another helpful source of information: Jim Fuller, Sandy Millin, Rachel Tsateri, and Lizzie Pinard have incredibly valuable content on their websites.

I understand that you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information. There are a lot of requirements, word counts, and abbreviations that you need to remember, but it’s worth spending extra time doing your research. Being familiar with the structure of the course will make everything a little easier for you.

Read relevant books before the course
If you have some extra time, try to read as many books as you can before you start the course because you probably won’t have enough opportunities to do that when you are working on your LSAs; your reading will need to be much more selective. I have already mentioned some important titles in my posts about CELTA and Delta Module One. In addition, I read the following books in preparation for Module Two:

● Michael Lewis: The English Verb
This mind-blowing book made me reconsider the way I teach grammar. You can read my blog post about it here.

● John Field: Listening in the Language Classroom
This one was a game changer for me when it comes to teaching skills. Field criticises the traditional comprehension approach and suggests that we shouldn’t just test what the learners already know. It’s necessary to go much deeper and help the students improve their ability to employ various processes involved in listening. In short, this book will help you move beyond the CELTA way of teaching skills.

● David Nunan: Syllabus Design
During a Delta Module Two course, you are always expected to justify your choices. You also have to conduct a needs analysis at the beginning of the course. I don’t think this is a critical title for this module, but having knowledge of syllabus design will help you with writing certain sections of your lesson plans.

● Scott Thornbury: Uncovering Grammar
Teaching grammar can be done in a more creative way than by following the tedious PPP lesson framework. Seeing grammar as a process instead of treating it as building blocks that need to be ‘covered’ can help you deliver more effective and engaging lessons.

● Michael Lewis: The Lexical Approach
I didn’t actually teach a lesson on lexis during the course, but this book is about more than that. Michael Lewis was a prominent critic of the ELT industry, and his ideas influenced the way I see my role as a teacher.

● Paul Nation: Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing
I needed to learn more about teaching skills, so I decided to read a book that deals with two of them at the same time. Nation’s book contains practical ideas for your teaching practice.

● Scott Thornbury: How to Teach Speaking
You know what you get from the How to… books, which are a good starting point for exploring the given area. Every lesson involves some speaking activities, so I found this book helpful for all of my LSAs.

● Scott Thornbury: Big Questions in ELT
This isn’t an essential title for the course, but I really enjoyed reading it. Scott Thornbury selected 21 topics from his blog and compiled them into a digital book. He tackles questions that come up all the time and shares some thought-provoking ideas. You can buy the ebook on Smashwords.

● Mike Long: Second Language Acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching
Module Two LSAs aren’t exactly the right place for TBLT, so I read this book for my own development rather than to pass the Delta. Among other things, there is a lot of useful information on second-language acquisition, which is something that influences our teaching practice. You can read my blog post about this brilliant book here

● Luke Meddings & Scott Thornbury: Teaching Unplugged
I knew that I would choose Dogme for my Experimental Practice, and reading this book helped me prepare for my first lesson in which I wasn’t in full control of the content. I also read a lot of articles and blog posts about the Dogme movement in preparation for the EP assignment.

I don’t think it’s necessary to read these exact titles because there are plenty of great books by other authors. The point is to focus on areas that you need to find out more about so that you are ready for the course.

Be organised
You will work with a lot of information during the course, so it’s very useful to know where to find it. I organised all my materials into specific folders on my PC so that I could get what I needed in a matter of seconds. You really don’t want to waste time trying to locate something important that you need for your assignment.

It’s also necessary to mention that you will have to do a lot of writing. Teaching actually takes up only a small portion of Module Two, and you will spend a lot of time working on various written assignments. I believe that I had to submit at least 17 documents, which meant thousands of words and long appendices. I created templates in Microsoft Word with key requirements and word number limits, which helped me save time because I didn’t need to keep checking the handbook all the time.

Choose a good strategy
You have to teach four assessed lessons during Delta Module Two. Two assignments need to be on a system (grammar, lexis, phonology, or discourse), one on a receptive skill (listening or reading), and one on a productive skill (speaking or writing). In theory, you are free to do them in any order. IH Mexico chose a different approach and asked our group of trainees to do a grammar-based lesson first because it’s considered to be a ‘safe’ option, and then we focused on a receptive skill in LSA2. I think this was a pretty smart decision because the lessons were tied to the input sessions, which meant that we received plenty of relevant information in preparation for the assignments.

Thanks to passing the first two LSAs, I was able to experiment a little in LSA3. I decided to focus on phonology, and even though it wasn’t the best lesson ever, I passed it as well. LSA4 is the most important assignment that you can’t afford to fail, so I chose writing because I think it’s one of my strongest areas. It definitely makes sense to leave something you feel confident about for the last lesson, and my LSA4 went really well because my final Module Two grade was a Pass with Merit. IH Mexico’s decision to restrict the candidates’ choices in the first two LSAs proved to be very beneficial in my case. Your provider may run the course in a different way, but you will still need to make important decisions about the areas you wish to teach.

Don’t take feedback personally
Receiving negative comments on a draft of your essay from your tutor can be disheartening. Being told that some ideas in your lesson plan make no sense isn’t easy to take. However, it’s important to bear in mind that Delta tutors aim to make you a better teacher. I found the post-lesson feedback sessions particularly valuable since it’s something that never takes place in my daily teaching practice. Of course, the tutors had to tell me that some of my lesson stages weren’t good, but that’s how it should be. If you wish to improve as a teacher, you have to address your weaknesses. Delta Module Two isn’t meant to be an enjoyable experience, and I definitely wouldn’t want to do the course again. Nevertheless, I am very happy that I decided to take this module because it pushed me to learn more about teaching, and now I feel much more confident in my abilities.