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What to avoid in Delta 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 issues reports on all three Modules of the Delta quite frequently.  These reports are publicly available on its website from this link (eventually).

What we have done here is to review the comments from a series of reports, looking in particular for what the Principal Examiner has repeatedly 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 systems 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.

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 knowledge do you really need?  Here's a rundown:

The features of the learner's text you are asked to look at for Paper 1, 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.
Equally, the terminological targets of Tasks 1 and 2 in that paper explicitly test whether or not you have a grasp of terminology in the profession.
If you can't, for example, define any of the following (which does not constitute an exhaustive list) without going 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, perfect, simple, iterative, durative, habitual
        tenses: absolute and relative
        voice: active and passive (dynamic and stative)
        auxiliary verbs: primary and modal
        copular verbs: colourless and pseudo
        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 course in transcription on this site.
  4. Phrase, clause and sentence structures
        syntax and word class
        complex and compound sentences: subordination vs. coordination
        concession and/vs. condition
        phrase types
        clause types
        clause and phrase constituents
        modification: of noun phrases, verb phrases etc.
  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 naturally, from this link.  There are two key parts of that:

Once you have done both 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 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 remind you, here are the basics.  For more, go to these links:
Paper 1
Paper 2
The guides to the papers also contain examples of the tasks and links to revision exercises.





Here's a summary and a few more tips:

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.


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 10% 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).
One examiner's report states:

Candidates are free to attempt the tasks in the order of their choosing and those candidates who attempt the high scoring tasks first are therefore able to complete them fully and maximise the number of marks that they can gain for them.

so work backwards on paper 1.  82% of the marks are available for Tasks 3, 4 and 5.  And, yes, you are right to ask why the examination paper isn't more sensibly organised to reflect this advice.

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.

If you would like the majority of this guide to keep by you as you work through practice papers and mock examinations, it's available from this link.


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 examinations + keys

do these when you feel you are ready but make sure you keep to the timing suggested above

go to the Delta index