logo ELT Concourse teacher training for Delta

Delta: mythology, folklore and urban legends


The Delta qualification is so important to so many people's careers in ELT that a number of mythologies have grown up around it and its assessment.

None is true – that's the meaning of a myth.  Here are the ten most popular.


Myth #1: The pass rate for Delta is very low

Actually, it is variable from centre to centre and across the Modules.  The arithmetic gets quite complicated because there are three Modules (so three ways to fail) and each Module is differently assessed.
The following is based on figures for 2017 but they are pretty much the same year on year.

Module One
  • is assessed by an examination which has a fairly objective external marking system
  • the worldwide pass rate is around 70%
  • the 30% who don't pass includes some who shouldn't really be taking the examination (you don't have to do a course to enter) and some who try again and again without getting any better or doing the necessary work
  • some centres consistently get around 100% success rates and many candidates who don't succeed the first time will re-take successfully
Module Two
  • is assessed by a combination of internal and external assessments and is probably the least objectively marked of all the Modules (although great efforts are made and no little expense incurred trying to make it as standardised and objective as possible)
  • the worldwide pass rate is around 80% and, again, many centres consistently do better than that
  • re-take pass rates are very good
Module Three
  • is externally marked, again pretty objectively, against a clear set of criteria (which are explained on this site)
  • the worldwide pass rate is around 80% and some centres do even better
  • again, remember that you don't have to follow a course to enter for this Module so the failures will include some people who are very poorly prepared
  • re-take pass rates are good as you can see from the table below

(For more on the details of how each module is assessed, see the guide to Delta systems and terminology (new tab)).

In summary, here are the figures for Delta pass rates for each Module.
  Module One Module Two Module Three
Distinction 7.7% 4.0% 3.8%
Merit 14.0% 23.9% 26.3%
Pass 39.5% 51.9% 45.4%
Total pass 61.2% 79.8% 75.5%
Referred Not possible 18.3% 20.6%
Fail 38.8% 1.9% 4.0%
Source: https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/research-and-validation/quality-and-accountability/grade-statistics/2018

Clearly, if you look at the pass rates for people who pass all three Modules at the same time, these figures will fall but, overall, those aren't too bad odds.
The Module with the highest fail rate (over one third) is Module One, which is one reason only why there is a free course on this site for that Module.


Myth #2: To pass Module Two you need to use Delta-style methodology

There is no such thing as a Delta methodology.  Really, there isn't.
There are, however, a number of sensible and predictable things to have in mind when planning an observed lesson for Delta.

  1. Read the criteria.  It is your responsibility to plan a lesson in such a way that you can demonstrate that you can fulfil the teaching criteria.  (For more, see the guide to meeting the teaching criteria (new tab)).
  2. There is an implicit understanding that you will teach in a way that enhances your students' abilities to communicate accurately and appropriately.  If that is not your aim, what is?
  3. There is ample opportunity in your lesson Commentary to explain clearly why you are teaching the way you are.  Providing it is appropriate and properly rationalised, you will not be penalised for any approach you take.
  4. The Cambridge Handbook explicitly states:

The syllabus establishes a structure within which candidates can develop awareness, understanding and skills appropriate to working with a wide range of learners in a variety of contexts.  It does not set out prescribed procedures or techniques for language teaching.
(Cambridge English Delta, Handbook for tutors and candidates, p7, emphasis added)


  1. You need to teach in a way which is appropriate to your setting, your learners and their needs.
  2. There is no such thing as a Delta method.

eyes colours

Myth #3: Delta assessors use different criteria from centre tutors

Simply not true – everyone uses the same Delta5a form and everyone is standardised in its use in the same way.  To see one, click here.  Delta assessors are carefully trained not to use their own criteria and Moderators always check to see if the External Assessor's grades match the comments in each section.


Myth #4: The Delta examination is meant to assess teaching ability

No.  Module One isn't meant to do that.  That's what the Module Two does.
Module One is subtitled Understanding language, methodology and resources for teaching.  Note, 'understanding' not 'using' or 'applying'.  The examination is a test of your background knowledge, not a test of your ability to apply it in the classroom.
However, if you don't bring your experience and practical knowledge to the examination tasks, you are unlikely to pass.


Myth #5: Centres and tutors can influence the outcome of the external assessment

No.  Assessors and centres are explicitly forbidden from discussing individual candidates or their performance in the externally assessed assignment.  Breaking that rule would have very serious consequences indeed and people simply won't do it.
It's worth adding that external assessors see none of your internally assessed work before or after your external assessment.  External assessors also do not see the centre's summary report on your coursework or any other internal records.  Only Cambridge moderators see the whole picture.


Myth #6: The external assessment is a make-or-break event on which the whole result hangs

Not always true.  Of course it is important to do well in the external assessment.
Normally, as the regulations state, you have to pass both parts of the external assessment to pass Module Two.  However, there are a number of occasions when people have convincingly demonstrated consistent strengths in the areas singled out by the external assessor as serious weaknesses.  In these cases a pass overall may be awarded.
Note, however, that the evidence must be consistent and convincing.


Myth #7: There is no appeal against a result

Not true.  There is an appeals procedure for all three Modules.
Candidates cannot appeal personally to Cambridge, however.  The centre must do that on their behalf.  Go to www.cambridge.org/help/enquiries-and-appeals for more.
You can also, via your centre, get a full report on your performance on the external assessed assignment for Module Two (for a price).


Myth #8: I can call myself Delta qualified if I have passed Modules One and Two or just Module Two (because they are more important)

Not true.  You have to pass all three Modules before you are entitled to call yourself Delta qualified.  There are no exceptions.  Calling yourself Delta qualified when you have not passed all three modules is deception.


Myth #9: It's easier to pass Delta in some countries than in others


  1. All assessors for Module Two, wherever they are based, are subject to the same standardisation processes and scrutiny of their reports as all others.
  2. Modules One and Three are externally assessed by examiners who are also carefully standardised wherever they are based.  As they mark, their grading is scrutinised to make sure they are all applying the same standards with the same amount of rigour.
  3. The criteria for marking and assessing are the same everywhere.


Myth #10: You have to take a course for the whole of Delta

No.  For Module Two only, you must follow an accredited course.  For Modules One and Three, you can enter through a Cambridge Open Centre.  There is a free course on this site for Module One examination preparation and lots of advice and help in preparing your Module Three essay available from the Delta index page.  Many people successful enter Modules One and Three without attending a course.
To find an open centre near you, click here to go to the Cambridge site and enter the details.
You can also get advice from Cambridge via their Helpdesk.


Other mythologies in English Language Teaching

In addition to the above, one unfortunate characteristic of a lot of Delta courses is tutor and participant adherence to hypotheses and myths in English Language Teaching which have no, purely negative or very little empirical evidence to support them.
If you are told or perceive that an a priori assumption is being made that certain things are true, you need to take a breath and apply a little sceptical thought, whatever your tutors may say.
A short list will include:

There is a guide on this site which discusses all of these.  Go there by clicking here.