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Concourse 2

What to avoid in Module One: examination tips and advice


You've taken the Module One course on this site, tried out the revision course and made lists of things to do in the examination, so what can possibly go wrong?
Here's a list.

As a teacher, you are probably quite good at advising your students about examination techniques.  Don't forget to tell yourself the same things.


Cambridge Assessment English issue reports on all three Modules of the Delta quite frequently.  These reports are publicly available on its website from this link.
What we have done here is to review the comments from a series of reports, looking in particular for what the Principal Examiner has repeated noted about weaknesses that lead to failing the Module One examination.
We have also made some suggestions about how to avoid the weaknesses altogether.
Passing an examination requires you to avoid things almost as much as it requires you to do certain things so read on if you are interested in passing the examination the first time around.
There are three areas which are repeatedly noted by the report writers and we'll take them one at a time.  They are not prioritised, unfortunately, in the Cambridge reports so we can only assume they are of equal importance and represent the most frequent reasons for being unsuccessful in the examination.


Reason #1: Lack of adequate knowledge

The reports for Module One cite this as 'the most common reason' for failing the examination.  Obviously, if you don't know your subject, you can't pass an examination in it.
So, what knowledge do you really need?  Here's a rundown:

Systems knowledge:

The reports repeatedly point out that unsuccessful candidates:

have a very poor knowledge of language systems, particularly describing grammatical and lexical form/use and phonology which can result in a significant loss of marks in Paper One, Tasks 4 and 5

It might be suggested that ignorance of the nuts and bolts of English will rather than can result in a significant loss of marks.
So, what do you need to do and what do you need to learn?
The features of the learner's text you are asked to look at for Question 4 and the genre example for Question 5 are remarkably consistent over the years so you need to be familiar with the concepts and know the terminology to describe them.
If you can't, for example, define any of the following (which does not constitute an exhaustive list) without referring to a reference text, you need to extend and deepen your knowledge of the structures of English

  1. Verbs forms
        finite and non-finite forms
        aspects: continuous, simple, iterative, durative
        tenses: absolute and relative
        auxiliary verbs: primary and modal
        verbal processes: relational, behavioural and material
  2. Lexis:
        lexical relationships: synonymy, antonymy, polysemy, hyponymy, collocation, colligation
        markedness: on adjectives, nouns, pronouns and verbs
        cognate forms
        style vs. register
        mass vs. count nouns
        prepositional phrases
        types of adjectives
        adverbials vs. adverbs
  3. Phonology:
        phonemes and allophones
        consonants: plosives, fricatives etc. and places of articulation: labial, alveolar, voiced vs. unvoiced etc.
        vowels: tongue height and position, lip rounding, pure vs. diphthong vowels etc.
        features of connected speech: assimilation, catenation, weak forms etc.
        stress: word and sentences stress, timing etc.
        intonation: contours, tone movements etc.
    You will find the ability accurately to transcribe English phonemes and word stress is invaluable.  There is a mini-course in transcription on this site.
  4. Phrase, clause and sentence structures:
        complex and compound sentences: subordination vs. coordination
        concession and/vs. condition
        phrase types
        clause types
        clause and phrase constituents
  5. Genre and discourse:
        conventional text staging for a range of genres
        cohesion and coherence
        Theme-Rheme structures
There are resources on this site to help.
The Handbook for Delta Candidates available on this site and can be downloaded, free of course, from this link.  There are two key parts of that:
  • A short guide to the essentials of grammar and structure (starting on Page 21).
    As the handbook states, the analysis is an outline of the areas you need to know about, not a definitive guide to what you need to know.
  • A glossary of grammatical terms (which starts on page 60).
    Work your way down through the list of terms in the glossary and note any terms which you couldn't immediately have defined before looking at the gloss.
    When you have a list, you can then either search the site for the topic you need to find out more about or use the A-Z index of topics.

Once you have done both of those things, try taking a short test to identify areas which you still need to know more about.
To do that, click here (that page opens in a new window or tab so shut it to return).
A much longer and more searching test is available here but is not specific to Module One.

Finally, here is the index of some of the topic areas in the in-service training section of this site.  You can use it to focus on areas where you know your knowledge is not yet adequate.  The full list is available here.

discourse lexis modality and mood pronunciation syntax verbs and tenses


Reason #2: Lack of awareness of task requirements

If you have done the Module One course on this site, it is unlikely that you will suffer from a lack of awareness of what is required in each task.
Equally, if you have taken an alternative, paid-for, course, your tutors should have spared no efforts in making sure that you are fully familiar with the demands of all tasks on both papers.  If that is not the case, what have they been doing with your money?
To reminds you, here are the basics.  For more, go to these links:
Paper 1
Paper 2

  • Paper 1 Task 1: You will be given six definitions of ELT-related items for which you have to provide the correct term.
    For this task, the advice from the Principal Examiner is:
        only write the required term; do not give an example or any extra information
        do not provide alternative answers
        spell terms correctly; a very limited number of alternative spellings are accepted
        provide an answer, even if you are not sure it is correct.
  • Paper 1 Task 2: You have to provide a definition and an example of the four terms you are given.
    For this task, the advice is:
        only write about four terms
        give a basic definition, an example and one item of further information for each term
        lay out your answer clearly using the sub-headings of Point, Further Point, Example.
  • Paper 1 Task 3: You will be given a section of published ELT materials and directed to some of the language features learners would need to be able to command successfully to complete the task.
    The advice is:
        read the rubric carefully and only discuss what the rubric requires
        outline no more than five features (five as the task requires and a maximum of an extra one for ‘insurance’)
        know about the features of spoken and written discourse in depth in terms of what different text types require
        make sure your answer cover a range of relevant subskills and discourse features
        avoid relying on pre-learnt answers from previous Guideline Answers
        make sure your answers, including examples, are specific to the activity described in the task
        always give examples and avoid repeating any
        provide one example for each feature
        provide full language examples, not just sentence stems
        remember the level of the learners and give examples which learners at this level could realistically produce
        avoid repeating any of the wording of the extract
        avoid including any information on why the feature is included
        do not write an introduction, summary or conclusion
        use bullet points
       make sure you include a Feature and an Example in each point you make
  • Paper1 Task 4: You will be given either a transcription of a learner's spoken language or a piece of authentic writing from a learner.  Your task is to analyse the language noting strengths as well as weaknesses.  You need to find four strengths and / or weaknesses.
    The advice is:
    In Part (a)
        only state five features and give one example for each (a maximum of 5 marks are available in this section)
        avoid saying why the features have been included as no marks are allocated for this
    In Parts (b)–(d)
        make as many points as possible
        read the rubric carefully to see what you are required to discuss
        pay attention to the words given in bold and only comment on them in the way required
        make sure you consistently provide the full information required, including giving examples when required
        use of linguistic / technical terms and spell them correctly
        use the phonemic script
        only comment on pronunciation/phonology in sections if it is specifically mentioned in the rubric
        lay out your answer in list form, and make it clear what part of the answer you are writing about
        use bullet points
  • Paper1 Task 5: You will be given an authentic text (such as an article from a magazine or a brochure etc.) and asked to identify typical features of the genre.  You are also asked to explain the form, meaning, use and phonological features of different language items.
    The advice is:
        only give one example for each strength and each weakness
        only discuss in part (a) the areas given in the rubric
        give both strengths and weaknesses as required
        only discuss three key strengths and three key weaknesses; marks are not given for more than three
        bear in mind the learner’s level when commenting in part (a) on the text’s strengths and weaknesses
        include two comments in part (a) on the effect the particular strengths and weaknesses have on effectiveness
        use a bullet point layout for the strengths and weaknesses
        organise your answer under the headings of strengths and weaknesses
        only discuss in part (b) a weakness mentioned in part (a)
        only discuss one area of weakness in part (b)
        state the weakness rather than the criterion as listed in the rubric
  • Paper 2 Task 1: You will be presented with a test or an extract from one and be asked to comment on it in terms of its effectiveness for the stated use.
    The advice is:
        state what kind of test it is
        read the situation in the rubric carefully, seeing how each part of it can be relevant to the test and to the specified learner
        make sure your answer is specifically about the particular test and not repeated from previous Guideline Answers
        use terminology only when relevant and use it accurately and note that you are not being asked to write all you know about validity, reliability, practicality and so on
        make sure you show how the points you make about the test’s effectiveness apply to the particular learner
        use a range of criteria  to evaluate the test, e.g. type of test, language content, skills content, assessment mode, test content/topics, task types, level, instructions
        make sure you mention at least one positive and one negative point
        make sure you make six points, including both positive and negative ones
        use clear layout that shows which points are intended as positive and which as negative
        discuss the positive points in one section and the negative points in another
        lay your answer out under the headings of Point and Application
  • Paper 2 Task 2: In this task, you are given an extract from a course book.
    Your mission is: a) to work out what the purpose of the activities and stages in the material are and how they combine and b) to figure out what the author(s) believe.  In other words, what the assumptions about language and learning are that underlie the design of the material
    The advice is:
        read the rubric carefully to ensure you discuss only those exercises specified in the task rubric
        do the exercises yourself so you really understand what the learners have to do
        write several relevant purposes for each exercise in part (a) and produce a minimum of eight purposes in total
        ensure that all the purposes cited refer to the stated focus of the material
        discuss the purpose of the exercises in relation to the purpose of the extract as a whole
        look at the skills necessary to achieve the focus of the extract
        look at the purposes of the exercise rather than describe what the learners have to do in them
        give two different reasons for each assumption to maximise your chance of gaining three marks for each assumption and rationale
        discuss only purposes in part (a), and only assumptions and reasons for them in part (b)
        use headings, e.g. assumption, reasons, exercise
  • Paper 2 Task 3: In this task, you get an extract or two from something such as a methodology or resource book, a lesson plan, a discussion of a lesson or tutor feedback.
    Your task is to answer a series of questions about it based on your knowledge of approaches, methods, theories, resources and roles.
    The advice is:
        read the rubric very carefully and only provide the information you are asked for, i.e. keep to the point
        make as many relevant different points, up to a maximum of 20 over the two sections
        use bullet points rather than an essay format; you are marked on the number of points that you make rather than the depth of your answer
        do not to write at length about one point but to make as many different points as possible
        allow yourself enough time for both parts of the task
        refer, where appropriate, to a range of learners and contexts
        consider the question (where appropriate) from the viewpoints of learners, teachers, institutional requirements, materials, etc. in order to generate a greater range of ideas.

Here's a summary and a few more tips:

  1. Don't write more than you have to.  There is a maximum which the marker is allowed to award for each item (and it is strictly adhered to).  You will get no credit for writing more than you have been asked to write, no matter how good it is.
    • In Paper 1:
      Task 1 asks for 6 terms to match the definitions.  Supply them and no more.  You will get no credit at all for giving examples.
      Task 2 asks for a definition and an example.  You will get 2 marks for each correct definition up to a maximum of 8 marks and 1 mark for each example up to a maximum of 4 marks.
      If the definition is wrong, the example is not scored at all
      If you provide 2 examples for one item, one is wasted.  You cannot provide 2 examples for one item and none for another in the hope that they will be balanced.  They won't.  You have wasted one example and lost a mark.
      Task 3 is similar: 2 marks for each feature and 2 marks for each example.  Extra examples are a waste of your time.
      Task 4 asks for 4 strengths and weaknesses (i.e., you should have at least one in each category).  You get 3 marks for each one and 2 more for one example of each.  Identifying more than 4 is a waste of time.  Providing more than one example of each is a waste of time.
      You get no marks for justifying your choice, so don't.
      You get no marks for prioritising the areas, so don't.
      Task 5 allows one mark for each correct point you make but you will get no marks for repeating yourself.  Make sure you respond to all the demands of the task and tick them off as you go along.
    • In Paper 2:
      Task 1: You get 2 marks for each positive or negative comment up to a maximum of 12 marks (so include both sorts).  You will get no credit at all for a seventh comment which will simply be ignored as will everything else over the 6 you have been asked for.
      You also get 1 mark for applying your comment to the learner for each idea so make sure you do that.
      Task 2:
      You will get 2 marks for recognising the purposes of the exercises up to a maximum of 12 so you need to identify 6 purposes (not more).
      You will get 2 marks for saying how the exercises combine up to a maximum of 12 marks so you need to say 6 things (not more).
      You get 1 mark for each of the writer's assumptions you identify.  You are asked for 6 so give 6.  Only the first 6 you state will be marked so make the first 6 your best 6.
      You get 1 mark for explaining the assumption (so refer to learning theory).
      You get one mark for referring to an exercise which illustrates the assumption.
      Task 3:
      In response to the questions, you get 2 marks for each correct point you make up to a maximum of 15 points (i.e. 30 marks).
      The more detail and background theory with correct terminology use etc. you can give, the better.  There are 10 marks available for the depth of your response.
    • Read the rubric and make sure you have responded to all parts of the task.
      Later questions in both papers (the ones that carry the most marks) usually consist of more than one sub-task.  Make sure you attend to all of them and tick them off as you go along.
    • Keep it simple.
      If you have forgotten a piece of terminology to describe something, don't leave the area out altogether.  You will get credit for identifying something even if you don't use the techno-term for it.
    • Be sure of what you say.
      Do not use terminology you aren't sure about.  It is better to supply a non-technical description with an example of what you mean than describe something wrongly.
    • Be prepared.
      Do thorough revision and you will feel confident and assured.
      Make sure you do the mock examinations on this site conscientiously.


Reason #3: Poor time management

The breakdown of the marks awarded for each task on both papers reflects the amount of time you should be spending on the tasks.  There is little point in taking half the time to get 15% of the marks.
Every year, the reports highlight the fact that people who are unsuccessful have often failed to complete some tasks (although it is not possible to tell if that was due to lack of time or lack of knowledge).

Keep an eye on the marking scheme and fix it in your mind
You have 90 minutes for each paper, so, bearing the marks you can get for each question in mind, the time allocation should be like this.

In Paper 1:

Task 1: 6 marks Task 2: 12 marks Task 3: 12 marks Task 4: 20 marks Task 5: 50 marks
5 minutes 10 minutes 10 minutes 18 minutes 45 minutes 

So, start with task 5 and work backwards.  That way, you will have tackled the high-scoring tasks when you are fresh and alert.  If you fail to do Task 1 at all, you can still, in theory, score 94% of the marks available.  Even if you ignore both Tasks 1 and 2, you can still get 82% of the marks.
This will leave you two minutes at the end to relax, knowing you have done the best you can in the time available.

In Paper 2:

Task 1: 18 marks Task 2: 42 marks Task 3: 40 marks
16 minutes 38 minutes 36 minutes

Leave task 1 till last.  Even if you fail to do it at all, you have given yourself the chance of scoring 82% of the marks on offer for the paper.
Subtract 1 minute from each task and you'll have three minutes over at the end.


Preparing for the Module One Delta examination

These links may be helpful.

a Module One preparation course a free Delta Module One preparation course
a Module One revision course do this after you have taken a face-to-face or online course
Try the test follow this link to try the 25-question test to check if you are ready for the examination
Delta Paper 1 task by task taking you through the examination papers, task by task
Delta Paper 2 task by task
Paper 1 revision exercises exercises to test yourself: are you ready?
Paper 2 revision exercises
Delta mock examination + key do this when you feel you are ready but make sure you keep to the timing suggested above
go to the Delta index