This is the fourth in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale! ) at Leeds Met.
The assessment for Module 1, as every Delta trainee is all too aware, is a 3hr exam. This consists of two papers, each one of which you are given 1.5hrs to complete, making 3hrs of hell in total. This post will focus on Paper 1. (For Paper 2, click here. For a collection of links to resources that might help you with your revision, click here)
Paper 1 includes 5 tasks:
Tasks 1 and 2 deal with terminology. In Task 1, you are given six definitions, for each of which you must supply the correct term. In Task 2, you are given six terms and must give definitions and appropriate example for four of them.
Task 3 is an activity, for which you have to identify five features (type specified by the rubric) that learners at a particular level would need in order to complete the activity successfully. For each feature, you must give an example.
Task 4 is based on a piece of authentic material. You must firstly identify five features that are typical of the genre and include an example for each. Then, you will have 3 further questions focusing on a mixture of form, meaning and pronunciation of selected language from the text.
Task 5 requires you to analyse a piece of learner-produced text. This is usually written but can also be a transcript of spoken language. First, you have to identify 3 key strengths and 3 key weaknesses of the text, providing an example for each. Then, you have to select a weakness to prioritise, giving 3 reasons for your choice.
Here are my top tips for completing Paper 1 successfully:
- Study your A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury (if you haven’t got one – either buy it or beg/borrow/steal it from somebody!)
- Only give one term per definition – if you aren’t sure and put two down, you will not gain the mark if one is correct. (Stands to reason – it’s not the examiner’s job to choose the correct term!)
- Read a lot – of ELT-related stuff that is, cheap thrillers won’t help you here! – over an extended time period. Repeated exposure to terminology in action will probably help at least some of it sink in. This tip is no good the day before the exam, really!
- Structure your answer clearly. Use bullet points and make it obvious where your definition, further point and example are.
E.g. c. pragmatic competence
Def.: ability to interpret/use appropriately the illocutional meaning/function of an utterance
f.p.: Differs from culture to culture, so learners need to learn how to do this using the target language.
e.g.: “It’s cold in here” could be a request to shut the window.
- Don’t forget your example or your further point, they are each worth a mark. Your definition will only score one mark.
- In terms of revision, revise as for Task 1
- Read the rubric carefully: What level learners is the activity aimed at? What type of features are you asked to provide? E.g. “speaking subkills/features of discourse”
- Lay out your answer clearly
Feat.: Questioning others’ opinions
E.g.: “That’s interesting, but what about…”
- Make sure the features and examples you give are suitable to the level of learner specified i.e. not too easy or too hard.
- Mentally picture running the activity in class and think about how you’d prepare your learners and what things they might struggle without.
For the identification of generic features:
- Before you look at the text, look at the rubric and how the material is defined, e.g. “a human interest story from a popular newspaper”. Predict what features you might expect to see in such a text. Then look at the text and see how much of what you predicted is there.
- Practice on any authentic material you can get your hands on – from leaflets to cereal packets.
- Use CLOGS to help you get a good spread of features. CLOGS stands for Content, Layout, Organisation, Grammar/Lexis, Style.
- Check what the rubric specifies you include or do not include e.g. “You must include features of organisation and of language” or “Do not include more than one feature of layout” Make sure you follow these instructions! (Easy to forget in the heat of the moment…)
- Give an example from the given text for each feature you identify.
- If your mind goes blank, move on to the next question – this is only worth one mark per feature/example.
For the focus on form/meaning/pronunciation:
- Use bullet points and break down your answer into as many bullet points as you can without being ridiculous. This will enable the marker to identify your points more easily.
- Put down anything remotely relevant, no matter how simplistic. (Yes, you can get a mark for saying “you” is second person singular or “the” is a definite article.)
- You can get the 35 marks allocated to this part of the task from any of the sub-questions (usually b, c and d), so play to your strengths.
- Put down as many points as you can in time that you have. (Some may not be accepted according to those pesky guidelines answers, so having a few in reserve is never a bad plan!)
- Use phonemic script for the pronunciation focus questions and think about features of connected speech. Also remember stress. (The sentence sort rather than the Arrrrrrrgh sort ;-))
- Use one piece of paper for strengths and one for weaknesses. That way, you can come back and add things if your mind goes blank and you feel the need to look at another question meanwhile. Label your pieces of paper “Strengths” and “Weaknesses” (not “Positives” and “Negatives” or any other variation)
- Lay your answers out clearly:
Category: Accuracy of grammar
Explanation: Persistent misuse of present simple
E.g.: “only child never have to”
Effect on reader: may lower the reader’s opinion of the language/cognitive ability of the learner.
- The “effect on reader” slot is to try and trap the few bonus marks that it is possible to gain in this question. You may or may not feel it worth it in terms of time management.
- Read the rubric carefully. What level is the learner who produced the text? What areas are you asked to focus on? Highlight them and refer back to them; make sure your answer matches them.
- When selecting your weakness to prioritise, consider the level of the learner, how pervasive the weakness is and how easy or otherwise it might be to fix it as well as the effect this would have on the learner’s production and on their reader/listener.
- You must give reasons for your choice – the questions I just recommended you consider in selecting the weakness can become reasons.
- Lay out your answer clearly:
Weakness to Prioritise: Misuse of present simple
Reason 1: At this level, the learner shouldn’t be making this mistake and there is danger of fossilization if it is not attended to.
Reason 2: Prioritising this will enable positive transfer across other genres.
Reason 3: It will greatly increase the learner’s chances of success in exams or in finding a job.
- There are bonus marks to be had if you include more detail in your reasons: a bare list of reasons gains 3 marks, adding more information can get an extra mark per reason. Whether or not you want to learn the tricks for the extra 3 marks is up to you!
- Related to the above bullet point: study an Examiner’s report/guideline answers for this question – it is pretty formulaic (something that I gather is going to change when the exam is given an overhaul!) so learn the formula!
General tips for Paper 1:
- Manage your time carefully: Don’t get bogged down by any of the questions. If you struggle with something, leave it and come back to it – you may find you can answer it when you’ve answered something else and, in doing so, calmed down. If you reach the recommended time limit (in brackets next to the task number), move on to the next task. You can always come back and fill in any gaps if you have time.
- Do a past paper under exam conditions: This way you can make sure you know how fast you need to write and learn to manage your time. You can work out what order you prefer to do questions in. (If terminology panics you, don’t start with Task 1. Paper is unlimited so as long as you are using a sheet per answer and you hand in all your sheets, you are free in your choice of what order to work in. Doing a mock also gives your hand a chance to get used to extensive, high speed writing! (This is one of the good things about doing the Delta integrated with M.A. in ELT at Leeds Met – you do individual tasks and a complete mock paper to get M.A. accreditation, and that, together with the extra revision classes they chuck in prior to both the mock and the real exam, all becomes a valuable learning process for the real Delta exam! – Let’s just say, in that mock I learnt all about the importance of time management and remaining calm…!)
- Look at examiners reports and guidelines answers: Cambridge are rather particular about what they want and how they want it – examiners reports and guidelines answers can shed some light on this!
- Learn how to package your answers. My suggestions above for laying out the answers may seem like a faffy waste of time, but there is a good reason behind them: If you have learnt a framework for answering the question, then once you write down that framework, it focuses your mind on what is needed, meaning you are less likely to include superfluous information or omit essential information. Even if you don’t want to waste time writing down frameworks in the exam, having them in mind will still help you package the answers how Cambridge want them. Making a chart can help with getting your head around answer frameworks, mark allocation and so on.
- Read the rubrics carefully and highlight essential information like learner levels, features to focus on etc.
- Don’t write too much – use bullet points and keep them short.
- Don’t forget to give examples where required
Delta module 1 is about what you know, but it’s also about exam technique and packaging what you know in a Delta marker-friendly way. So it’s definitely worth spending time on that as well as on revising terminology etc.
If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on Delta module 1, good luck – it is an interesting experience!!