The 21st of May is the moment of truth for many Spanish learners: the DELE exam. Thousands of students from all around the world are now preparing hard in order to get the cherished APTO.
Although the test differs in its exact format depending on the level, it tests the four language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. You need to get 70% in each section in order to pass the whole test, so you have to make sure all of your skills are strong. However, there are some key aspects you should take into consideration while preparing. Here I´d like to share some tricks with you that I’ve tested by personal experience!
1. Know the exam structure.
Knowing the exam structure well is 50% of success. By the exam structure, I mean the order, the type of questions and time limits. Fortunately, you can easily download sample tests from previous years in the official website of the Cervantes Institute free of charge. When preparing, set time limits for yourself. If you are given 20 minutes to complete a task, make sure to finish it in 15 while preparing. Thus, you will get extra time on your real exam.
2. Don’t panic when you don’t understand everything!
To be honest, if it turns out that you understand everything in your DELE tasks, that would mean that you are doing the wrong level. The Cervantes Institute jointly with the Salamanca University are working hard on making the tests difficult and confusing. You are not supposed to understand every single word, but understand enough information to answer the questions. Focus on that.
3. Always read the task first!
This refers to all the DELE tasks, but makes a huge difference in the reading and listening sections. When you are reading the text or listening to the recording, you should know exactly what you are you looking for. A good strategy is to underline the key words in the task, which helps to activate the selective mode in your brain. The whole point of the DELE exam is being able to filter the information and react quickly.
4. Make a list of grammar structures you are going to use!
You are expected to demonstrate a certain level of grammar, especially, if you are aiming at a DELE above B1. What an examiner give you additional points for is a correct use of complex tenses (Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto, Indefinido, Imperfecto, Condicional), verbals perefirasis (volver a hacer algo, seguir haciendo, etc.) and of course, the notorious Subjuntivo. So, make a list of grammar structures and make sure to use them all in your essay and oral performance even if it sounds unnatural to you. I remember when I was preparing for DELE, I invented my own magic phrase that blended with any context: Si yo tuviera la oportunidad de elegir. At that stage of learning Spanish, I was not so familiar with the subjunctive mood, but I kept repeating it and, by the time of the exam, I sounded as if I had been using it all my life! The interesting thing is that after the exam I really started to use the subjunctive mood!
5. Learn synonyms!
As with advanced grammar, you should demonstrate an extensive vocabulary. Forget the “Bueno / me gusta” stuff and start collecting equivalents. It will not only be helpful with speaking and writing, but also in reading and listening sections. The clue for many DELE tasks are synonyms as most tasks such as, giving headings to paragraphs, true or false statements, use rephrasing. If you have an arsenal of many diferent words with similar meanings, then your chances of success are much higher. You can use the book “Cronómentro” that trains this aspect of the language in particular.
6. Convert your weakness into a strength!
In the oral part of the exam, don’t be afraid to say that you did not understand the question. If it happens, ask the examiner to repeat. Guessing is not the best option, the examiners are good psychologists and they always see when you are trying to answer at random. Asking them to repeat a question does not mean admitting defeat, it demonstrates a normal conversational skill. It’s also an opportunity to use a preprepared sophisticated phrase that could even earn you additional points!
7. Pay attention to your orthography!
«N» and «ñ» are two different letters in Spanish, and «esta» and «está» are two different words. Don’t let simple, easily avoided mistakes bring your mark down.
Don’t cram. Do your sample tests whilst sitting comfortably with a cup of tea and some biscuits. Our body is cleverer than we sometimes give it credit for. It will learn to associate your DELE tasks with pleasant moments, and you won’t get overstressed during the real exam.
DELE is an official qualification certifying your competency in Spanish. Apart from that, it might be a university requirement, a good compliment to your CV, an opportunity for promotion or just a personal goal for this year. Whatever DELE is for you, it is just an exam that requires a certain preparation. Keep calm and get prepared. And, of course, share your own tricks with us!