My journey to distinction

The title might sound a bit conceited; however, I promise the content you are about to read is not. I have recently received my Delta Module One (M1) test results and thought the journey that led me to it might be worth sharing.

When I first started the 14-week online course, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Yes, I expected Delta to be difficult. I expected to have to put in the work. But I really did not start on the right foot: I hadn’t done my research.

I knew M1 was a knowledge test and I knew there were two papers. And, yet, for some reason, I didn’t see the preparation course as a test prep course – at least not at first. The amount of content we were expected to cover weekly was overwhelming, especially since I didn’t have time to properly digest it, bounce ideas off anyone, or even test my assumptions. It was quite a lonely process.

Two weeks in, we started having live test prep sessions. That’s when I began to fully grasp the magnitude of it all. That’s when I realized that passing the test was not a given. Still, I seemed to not have woken up to the fact that I should be preparing for the test, not simply acquiring knowledge. And, honestly, there was no way I would be able to absorb the sheer amount of information I was being presented with in meager three months.

I also fell off the wagon when a trip kind of set me back two weeks – my doing, honestly, and very irresponsible of me. Suddenly I found myself having to study twice as hard simply to cover the content – let alone make sense of any of it.

I must have seemed very out of my depth to my peers at times. And I was. I was having trouble finding my tone in the test prep and the first two mock tests resulted in disappointing performances. I felt like a fraud and began to prepare myself for having to retake the test in the following year.

Okay, I am sort of a drama queen. But halfway through the course I really was convinced it would be a mighty accomplishment to simply meet the 50% mark in order to pass the exam and be able to forget how stressful prepping for it had been.

That’s when I realized I might be doing it all wrong – or partly wrong. The first thing I did was to begin a “lexical notebook” of sorts with the terminology I would be quizzed on in Paper 1 tasks 1 and 2. In order to accomplish this, I strongly recommend reading The New A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury even before the start of the course.

Another mighty read is About Language, also by Scott Thornbury. It offers an overview of English as a language taught all over the world and how we, as teachers, approach it. Of course there is a lot more to read and these two books only scratch the surface of it. But they are, indeed, essential.

Apart from all the knowledge I needed to acquire if I wanted to pass the test, I also needed test-taking strategies. And this is, I think, what really made the difference when it came to writing the test.

Cambridge seems to be very particular regarding what they expect from a teacher at the Delta level. In order to be successful, thus, it is imperative to understand what those requirements are and how to meet them. Check all available test reports – apparently they don’t go beyond 2015, but there may be other ways of getting more recent ones (ask your tech savvy friend) – and take note of how candidates phrased their answers.

Take mock tests. Do and redo them. As a teacher, I would probably avoid having my students do the same exam practice task over and over again. As a student, that’s exactly what I did: I redid the mock tests a couple of times, at least. This helped me feel confident in phrasing my answers the way Cambridge expected. It also helped me recall terminology and recognize patterns.

Last, but not least, do your own analysis of textbooks. One of the tasks is to take a look at a chapter of a textbook and analyze purpose of the task, author’s assumptions, application to the student, reasons, and the relationship between tasks considering the level of the students. This is one of the tasks that holds most marks in Paper 2.

Finally, as in any test, the Module 1 knowledge test will focus on a fraction of all the ELT content you are required to know. So there is definitely an amount of luck involved in the sense that the test might ask the questions to which you know the answers. The more answers you have, the better your chances to perform well.

I hope this helps. And feel free to drop me a line if you think I might be able to help you in any way.

Good luck!

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