[Everything below is for the old version of the exam, though a lot of it is still relevant. Emma Johnston has tips for the post-2015 version of the exam.]
*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;
- The same for Paper 2;
- Key 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!]
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 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 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 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 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 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 5b
The use of the two headings ‘area to prioritise’ and ‘because’ save you a lot of words!
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 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 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 3
This one is very simple. You just have to make sure you include enough bullet points!
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).
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!