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.

Six ELT blogs worth following

Being a teacher in the 21st century is great, isn’t it? We have access to a plethora resources, so it’s quite easy to learn something new from the comfort of our home. I love reading blogs because it’s a great way of finding out what other ELT professionals think and do. I am always happy to see a new post notification, so I thought it would be a good idea to recommend my favourite bloggers.

I follow quite a lot of blogs through WordPress Reader, so having to choose just a few was rather tricky. I decided to select only those that have been running for at least a year and whose latest post was published within the last two months. There are some excellent dormant blogs with very useful content that I may write about in the future, but now I am going to focus only on the active ones. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Six ELT blogs worth following

Adaptive Learning in ELT
This brilliant blog, which has been running for 7 years, always makes me think. Philip Kerr is very diligent in dealing with various ELT-related topics in his essays. Fake news and critical thinking in ELT is a great example of the type of posts you can read on the blog.

The author is sceptical of anything that isn’t supported by evidence, and I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t hold back his opinions. He seems to have a great sense of humour as well. This post on instructional grammar videos is full of hilarious comments and it really cheered me up during quarantine.

ELT Planning
Pete is an experienced teacher and a prolific blogger. There always seem to be new posts on his website! You can find tons of lesson ideas, posts on CPD, reviews and much more on the blog.

In addition, Pete is involved in materials writing, and his blog provides valuable insight into the world of coursebooks and the process of their production. He summarises his views on that in The benefits of using an ELT coursebook. Pete’s posts are really witty and he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is always nice to see.

Evidence Informed EFL
As the blog’s name implies, it’s time for another dose of scepticism. Russ Mayne is more than happy to question what many believe to be true. I recommend that you read Woo Watch: The rise of Neuro to get an idea of what the blog is about.

I really like the way Russ tackles controversial issues. In fact, I discovered his blog when he decided to collect and publish anonymous opinions on ELT that might be considered unpopular: Taboo ELT and Taboo 2.

Sam Shepherd
This blog’s author teaches English in the UK, so it’s really interesting to read about his work in that teaching context. Sam Shepherd is another blogger who doesn’t mince his words, and that leads to thought-provoking posts. Moving on up? deals with career progression and makes for a very interesting read.

Sam also makes some great points in his post A bunch of lies that focuses on online personas. He says that blogs are a tool of self-promotion and you can never be sure if what you read on them is true. Well, I have no idea what Sam is like in real life, but I certainly enjoy his posts.

Sandy Millin
I assume most of my readers have already come across this blog because there is so much amazing content on it. Sandy Millin has been regularly updating her website for 10 years, which is just incredible. There is a lot of useful Delta-related information, including conversations with those who have obtained the diploma.

It’s amazing to read some of Sandy’s older posts and see what she has achieved throughout the years. I find her articles on CELTA tutoring and being a Director of Studies particularly insightful. It’s such an inspirational blog!

The TEFL Zone
If you are looking for new ideas for your teaching practice, I recommend that you follow The TEFL Zone. Rachel Tsateri shares lessons plans and downloadable worksheets that you can use in your own classes.

The Delta section of Rachel’s blog is a treasure trove for those interested in obtaining the diploma because it contains examples of successful assignments. There are also posts like Improving the quality of my teacher talk, which are very useful for developing teachers.