Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

*I generally try to avoid bragging, but hopefully that title will get a few more hits from search engines, and will help future Delta Module 1 candidates to find this post!

There is no one way to prepare for the Delta Module 1 exam, and everybody will do it differently. This is how I did it.

I studied with Distance Delta for all three modules, although I ended up taking Module 1 six months after the end of the course, meaning that I had time to prepare for it again. The feedback I got from my tutors during the preparation was very valuable, and although it is possible to prepare for the exam yourself, I think having support from a tutor makes it easier.

I also strongly believe that you should not do Module 3 (the extended assignment) at the same time as Module 1 (the exam), as they are normally both due at the same time, and you will end up dividing your attention instead of focussing on them each as much as they deserve. They’re both pretty full-time in terms of headspace, even if you don’t have to spend as much time doing written work for Module 1.

I have a list of useful links for Delta, which includes all of the sources I used to help me prepare for the exam, so I won’t repeat them here.

During my Distance Delta, I created three sets of index cards.

  • Paper 1 reminder cards, summarising the mark scheme, the main things to remember when doing that paper, and any useful language I could steal from sample answers;

Exam paper 1 index cards

  • The same for Paper 2;
  • Exam paper 2 index cardsKey terms cards, with the term on one side and a definition (D), example (E) and further information (F) on the back. [Some people recommend DFE, but I liked alphabetical order!]

Key terms index cards Exam paper 1 index cards

I had a break between the end of Distance Delta in June, and the start of my Module 1 prep in October. Two months before the exam I started looking at my key terms cards again. I used Quizlet to fill in some gaps in areas like phonology and teaching methods which I’d missed the first time round. I started taking sets of cards on the bus with me, about ten at a time, to test myself on during my commute. I  spent time playing the games on Quizlet for general revision. I also took my paper 1 and 2 index cards on the bus to remind myself of the format of the exam and to start memorising some of the useful phrases.

About a month before the exam I started doing past papers. There aren’t many and I’d already done two during Distance Delta, so I needed to eke them out! I did one past exam each weekend for the three weekends before exam day. The first two times I did paper 1 on Saturday and paper 2 on Sunday, always with the 90-minute time limit, to get used to the time restrictions, and check whether I could meet them. The final time I did a full back-to-back mock with only a 30-minute break in the middle, as I would have to do on the real exam day. After I’d finished each time, I went through the guideline answers (in the exam report for each year), available on the Cambridge website, and marked the papers. I also wrote in big red letters anything which I’d missed out, particularly if it was connected to the structure of the exam or silly mistakes. Before doing the next paper, I looked at the red pen from the previous one again, and I didn’t normally repeat those mistakes!

During this process, I got a very useful tip from Lizzie Pinard:

Start every answer on a new page.

This may seem simple, but it made a huge difference to how clearly my answers were laid out. This resulted in me coming up with a system for each question based on the task requirements and guideline answers. This meant I didn’t have to keep reminding myself how many points I needed to make, or to check backwards and forwards to make sure I’d included all of the required information.

Below are examples of what I did for each question. I haven’t explained the structure of the exam at all, as you can find that out in many other places. Don’t forget to write the task number/part clearly at the top of each page in your answer booklet. Do anything you can to make the examiner’s life easier!

Paper 1 Task 1

The simplest task. Just do it quickly and don’t spend ages on a term you don’t know!

Paper 1 Task 1

Paper 1 Task 2

Do this as you go along, and remember, define NO MORE THAN 4 terms! Use D, E, F (or D, F, E) to make each section of your answer clear. Make it clear what ‘D’ and ‘F’ mean at the top.

Paper 1 Task 2

Paper 1 Task 3

Write the numbers 1-5 and the ‘eg’s as soon as you start task 3, before you even read the question! I always wrote ‘style/discourse’ at the top, because I originally forgot to include those features in my analysis, having focussed just on grammar and lexis. I also wrote the level of the student at the top of my paper so I remembered to refer my answers clearly to this level.

Paper 1 Task 3

Paper 1 Task 4a

Again, write the numbers before you look at the question to remind you of how many points to include. Leave a bit of space at the bottom so you can add an extra point if you have time at the end.

Paper 1 Task 4a

Paper 1 Tasks 4b, c, d

The exact layout of these questions depends on exactly what language and areas (e.g. form, meaning, usage, features of connected speech) you are asked to analyse.

Start a new page for each task (b, c, d) and use clear headings for each piece of language and each area. I found it easiest to divide my answers according to the piece of language, then to subdivide it by the areas I had to analyse. Put the headings in as you go along, but leave yourself a lot of space to add extra points if you think of them later. I generally had about half a page for each piece of language. There’s plenty of space in the exam booklet!

Here are some examples.

Paper 1 Task 4b

Paper 1 Task 4c

Paper 1 Task 4d

Paper 1 Task 5a

This is another one to write out before you start answering the question. By using a table and including ‘eg’ in each box, you remember to include three strengths and three weaknesses, and not get too carried away with adding extras. Don’t forget to clearly state the area you are writing about for each strength/weakness (e.g. grammar, task achievement) and to make sure you only write about areas requested in the question!

Paper 1 Task 5a

Paper 1 Task 5b

The use of the two headings ‘area to prioritise’ and ‘because’ save you a lot of words!

Paper 1 Task 5b

Paper 2 Task 1

Here you should have two pages on the go at the same time, one for ‘positive’ and one for ‘negative’. This means you can jump backwards and forwards between the two and you have plenty of space.

Paper 2 Task 1

Paper 2 Task 1

Paper 2 Task 2a

This was another task where you need plenty of space to go backwards and forwards. Write a clear title for each exercise you need to analyse from the materials, then use bullet points under each. Start each bullet point with ‘To + infinitive’ to make sure you’re focussing on the purpose of the exercises and not what the students have to do to complete them.

Paper 2 Task 2a

Paper 2 Task 2b

Using ‘A’ for Assumptions and ‘R1’/’R2’ for reasons helped me to remember to include all three parts. Write them as you go along.

Paper 2 Task 2b

Paper 2 Task 3

This one is very simple. You just have to make sure you include enough bullet points!

Paper 2 Task 3

Paper 2 Task 4

This task is complete pot-luck, as you have no idea what you’ll be asked about. As a general rule, use a different page for each section of the question. For example, if you’re asked ‘Why is homework a good thing?’ and ‘Why is homework a bad thing?’, put the answer to each part on a different page. [Totally made-up question!] I numbered the points as I wrote them on each list, to make sure I got a total of 20 points (2 marks per answer, 1-10 on each list for example).

Final tips

A lot of the preparation for Delta Module 1 is nothing to do with teaching at all (I won’t mention here how much that frustrates me, since it’s supposed to be a mark of your ability as a teacher, not as an exam-taker…). By using a clear layout and knowing the requirements of the exam inside out, you’ll help yourself a lot.

Collect key terms, test yourself on them, and include them in your answers, but only where appropriate. Don’t try to include them just for the sake of it (especially in the questions on testing!).

Use bullet points, not full sentences. The examiners are looking for content, not linguistic ability.

Use the guideline answers in the exam reports to see what the examiners do and don’t like. Don’t try and be original – just tick the boxes!

If you have time (I didn’t), try out some of the exam-style tasks on your own materials and the work you get from your students. In theory, the requirements of the exam are supposed to help you in your analysis of materials/student work in your day-to-day work as a teacher by making this kind of analysis more efficient.

Finally, good luck! Get a good night’s sleep before, and you’ll get through it!

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Comments on: "How I got a distinction in the Delta Module 1 exam*" (44)

  1. […] everything, or a starting point to plan your studies. I’ve written a post with ideas about how to lay out your answers in the exam and information on how I prepared for […]

    Like

  2. Sandy this looks like super useful resource for anyone doing module 1. I’ve forwarded it to a friend of mine who’s going to take the exam in June. I’m sure it will be useful for him. Well done on your distinction – you definitely deserve it!

    Like

  3. A lot of good test prep techniques that can be applied to any exam/ test. Will use them and teach a few to my 9 year old son as well.

    Like

  4. Great ideas Sandy! Those cards look amazing. You should list them on ebay! Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Sandy’s preparation tips: How Sandy prepared for Module 1. […]

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  6. […] *I generally try to avoid bragging, but hopefully that title will get a few more hits from search engines, and will help future Delta Module 1 candidates to find this post! There is no one way to p…  […]

    Like

  7. This is extremely helpful! I`m going to try the idea with marking the layout of an answer before writing anything. Thanks!

    Like

  8. […] at Cambridge’s site and Sandy Milin’s blog is an excellent guide to the Delta. Her exam tips were particularly useful.  A suggestion that I can’t underscore enough – work your way […]

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  9. Anastasia said:

    Sandy your blog has been a beacon of hope and support throughout this stressful journey!I finished M2 in June and now studying for M1 while also preparing for December’s M3 submission…thank you for taking the time to prepare all this, you should be paid by Cambridge, not to mention saving the trouble from all the centres that are not nearly as organised as you are yet they are making tons of money…thank you again

    Like

    • Hi Anastasia,
      Thank you so much for the comment – it makes it all worth it 🙂 I found Delta such a stressful and unenjoyable experience that anything I can do to help other people and make it more enjoyable for them is a good thing!
      Good luck with everything,
      Sandy

      Like

  10. Hi Sandy
    Your tips have been extremely valuable to me. I prepared for M1 on my own so I used all the advice I could get. I really enjoyed the experience although it wasn’t always easy to find the time to study. I got a ‘pass with distinction’ and planning to move on to M3 this year. Thank you for all the useful tips. I’ll go on following your posts.

    Like

  11. Amy Chapman said:

    Just wanted to say a big thank you for posting all the tips and links to advice about studying for the module 1 exam. They really helped me get my head around what I needed to do and helped me structure my revision.
    I just found out that I passed the June 2014 exam with distinction too!!! Thanks for taking the time to establish this website to help others.

    Amy

    Like

  12. Well done! Feel free to brag 🙂

    Like

  13. Ghada Salem said:

    Hi Sandy,
    Greetings from Egypt and thanks a million, I read your tips carefully and I am willing to follow them.
    remain blessed
    Ghada

    Like

  14. Sandy, you put everything so succinctly! This page pretty much sums up the module 1 course I’ve just done. Very useful for preparing for my mock exam today – thank you!

    Like

  15. […] rather than on the layout of our answers, which, while undoubtedly useful, is available online (Sandy Millin’s wonderfully useful blog post about Module 1).  Apparently the exam is going to change next year to become a bit clearer, a bit […]

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  16. What a fantastic thing to do for others. I have been tentatively looking at Delta yet I have only just passed my Celta. I don’t even have my first job yet. On finding your helps and tips here it makes it look a lot less scary. Well done and Happy New Year.

    Like

  17. OW! I think this post is absolutely amazing! Well done on getting a distinction! Love all of your tips and ideas! You gave me a big injection of motivation right now!

    Thanks a million! 🙂

    Like

  18. beautiful work Sandy…just as beautiful as your smile
    ….I have learnt a lot from you…priceless information…truly appreciate it

    Do you recommend the full time, part time , or distance one? I have an option to do DETLA without prior TESOL /TEFL qualification … Do you feel I should do the CELTA or equivalent first?

    Thanks for your time

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment Ali.
      I would recommend face-to-face over distance. As for full-time or part-time, that depends on what is available where you are. Many people say that while full-time is hard work, it’s also great because it means you can concentrate fully on what you’re doing.
      If you don’t have previous TESOL accreditation, taking the Delta is going to involve a lot of new concepts, and possibly a whole new way of approaching teaching, which may add a lot to an already challenging course. If you aren’t in any rush to get it and you have the chance, then taking the CELTA first could be a good stepping stone. I’d also recommend looking at my ‘Preparing for the Delta’ page – the link is on the Delta tab above.
      Good luck whatever you decide to do!
      Sandy

      Like

  19. Hi Sandy,
    Thanks for all your very insightful entries! Look, I’m supposed to be getting my Delta M1 Exam results on Friday, July 31st… Major freak-out! Anyway, I did the integrated programme and finished all three modules at around the same time. I know you didn’t, but from what you’ve heard from other Deltees, do we get the results of all three modules at the same time? Or do we only get the M1 Exam results?
    I’m really trying to calm down here… But it’s getting increasingly difficult!
    Thanks,
    Viktor

    Like

    • Hi Victor,
      I think you get all of the results at the same time. Remember there’s not a lot you can do now, so enjoy the next few days, and I hope you get the results you want to on Friday!
      Sandy

      Like

  20. […] I don’t think I could do a better job than Sandy Millin did, so I’ll just link to her blog. Using bullet points and starting each task on a new page helps tremendously both in terms of time […]

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  21. Harmail Kallar said:

    Hello Sandy, Congratulations on your MODULE ONE Distinction. I did the Delta in 2014 Sept-Dec. I unfortunately failed module ONE exam but wasn’t too disappointed at the time as I passed Module two with a better grade than I had expected and passed module 3 somehow. Not sure how? It seemed to be all over the place. Any way, since then, I have been meaning to resit module One , and didn’t manage to do this at all in 2015 because i needed to work full time. London isn’t cheap!. I am facing the same dilemma this year and just started to think about doing this in June 1st. As most of the work i will need to do will be over the weekends with perhaps an evening or two during the week if I am lucky (assuming workload from work is not too much), do you realistically think about 6 weeks is enough time. I have done absolutely no work since December 2014 exam and, unlike you I am not too good with exams> Would you advise me doing this in six weeks or wait until December 7th, 2016. I don’t really want to fail this gain, but is a pass doable in just six weeks starting from scratch again just by looking at all the past papers. I would be more than happy with a pass. Believe me, I put so much into Module 2 and 3. Module one is the only one standing in my way. To tell you the truth, I have a bit of a phobia about module one. When i look at the questions I panic due to the time constraint or have no clear idea of the task. How would you advise me to revise either short term or long term? Your help and advise will mean a great deal. You obviously have it down to a tee. Many thanks. look forward to hearing from you

    Best wishes
    Harmail

    Like

    • Hi Harmail,
      I can’t guarantee anything either way, but if you have successfully managed modules two and three, then you already have some of the terminology you need to do the exam, so that should improve your confidence. You can also increase your knowledge of terminology gradually, for example by playing some of the games on Quizlet each day: https://quizlet.com/class/379723/ You can use it offline too, so you don’t need to be connected to the internet to play.
      If writing quickly is a problem for you, practice handwriting in other ways to increase your speed, for example by keeping a journal about your daily life or your teaching. If you feel more comfortable writing by hand, that will take a little of the pressure off. Unless there is an urgent reason to do it now, I would prepare yourself more slowly and plan a revision strategy for yourself, for example by doing three or four hours every weekend instead of putting a lot of pressure on. Have a go at doing a paper under exam conditions within the time limit, then use the mark scheme to work out your weak areas and how much you need to work on. That should also help you to decide whether to do it in June or December.
      Remember that you don’t have to do the exam in London (or are you based there?) – there are many other centres all over the world which run it, and are probably cheaper.
      If you are really worried about doing the exam, consider doing a preparation course for the module if you can afford it. The support you get from the tutors should reassure you and help you to feel more confident in the exam. I believe that both International House Online Teacher Training and Bell offer six week preparation courses.
      Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
      Sandy

      Like

      • Harmail Kallar said:

        Hi Sandy,

        Many thanks for your in-depth reply. I didn’t realise doing the DELTA could make someone so wise. I guess you have always had this in your locker and probably why you got a distinction. What you say makes perfect sense, and as I have done Module 2 and 3, perhaps i know a lot more than i know. Thanks for the alternatives and practical solutions. Having weighed up what you have said, there is no rush for me to sit module 1 in June. December this year will allow me to pace myself and as i can only work weekends, it seems a practical solution. You’re not just a pretty face!!! I don’t need to pressurize myself and have sleepless nights trying frantically to to learn everything.

        Your layout advice of how to space answers in the exam booklet really makes sense! And you are right again! You can know a lot and yet if it is chaotically laid out, the examiner is unlikely to award you any marks. Getting the examiner on your side and making his life easier really hit the nail on the head. Ironic really when I consider that this is what I say to my IELTS students all the time with their writing exam. And yet, its taken someone in the same profession to point this out.

        I will look at the revision courses as well should i need extra help and tutor feedback.

        Much appreciative for all your help and advice, and support you have given me, and having the presence of mind in pointing out things I didn’t consider. You obviously care about your work in the same way I do, as 7 years ago I completely changed my career from being an accountant to TEFL, even though it happened purely by accident. Many thanks again, and for the time and trouble in replying so promptly. It’s appreciated on a different level.

        Best wishes,

        Harmail.

        Like

  22. Morad Banks said:

    Hi Sandy,

    I am currently getting ready to take the DELTA module 1 exam and I can’t say enough how useful your advice has been. I wondered if you still had your word lists on quizlet it would be very helpful if you did.

    Kind Regards

    Morad 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Morad,
      Happy to be able to help. All of the word lists are still on Quizlet. You can find all of the links on my ‘Preparing for the Delta’ post if I remember rightly!
      Good luck with the exam,
      Sandy

      Like

  23. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Sandy. I am starting Delta later this summer and am already nervous about the module 1 examination! I have already started some pre-reading but this is a very useful study guide for those of us who haven’t taken examinations since school/university.

    Best of luck to everyone starting Delta this year!

    Like

  24. Hi Sandy! I’ve commented on this post before (writing as mikeandyulia) and I just wanted to say that not only did this post help me get my own distinction, your blog as a whole inspired me to start my own blog for all things ELT. I just finished a post with some tips for Module 1 and it was tough because you give such good and specific advice. I included a link to your post and a description though because I can’t say enough how useful and helpful it is. https://yuliyasperoffblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/delta-module-1-tips/

    Like

    • Hi Yuliya,
      Thank you so much for your comment. It’s great to hear that you’ve found my blog useful and that you’ve started your own. I’m off to read it now 🙂
      Sandy

      Like

  25. Thanks Sandy for the tips. I will definitely try them out before taking the exam.

    Like

  26. […] means I still have plenty of time to study… and to forget things! I’m trying to follow Sandy’s tips, but as I already said many times, I worry that while working full time I won’t be able to […]

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  27. […] blogs that I found, which helped me summon up the courage and take the bull by the horns, were  Sandy Millin’s , Ricardo Barros’s and Sue Swift’s. In additon to these incredible blogs, I also strongly […]

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