How to pass the DELE Spanish exam? Tips to prepare and succeed on your first attempt to pass the off

Many Spanish students find it useful to take an official Spanish exam as their goal in order to keep the motivation and, at the same time, to prove the level of language they have achieved. If you have been learning Spanish for six months to one year and you decide to get your Spanish level certified your first option is to go for the Spanish DELE A1 exam. Here we provide you some very useful tips to prepare it and succeed.

Once you complete the contents for the whole A1 Spanish level is time to practice with past papers. This way you will get to know the type of tasks that as a candidate you will face in each of the four parts of the exam: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, written expression and oral expression and interaction.


The material needed to prepare the exam

There are many books in the market that compile around seven to eight whole papers. But, how to choose the most appropriate book for your needs? First of all make sure the book has incorporated the changes the Instituto Cervantes (from the Spanish Ministry of Education) has recently done to the exam structure in 2020, so you practice with the most updated version of the exam.

Secondly, in order to be able to practice autonomously, get as well the solutions for the activities and the transcription of the listening exercises. Some publishing groups sell them on a separate booklet, so check this before deciding which book to buy.

Also some of the books provide exams by topic, that means all the four parts of the exam are related to the same theme, for example “People, family and their physical and character description”. This can be useful to fully develop your vocabulary on an organized way. And even some books provide a list of vocabulary before the exam exercises, so you can revise and get ready to face a particular topic-related exam.

The reading comprehension part of the exam

Once you have chosen a suitable book it’s time to practice! And here we give you some tips according to the skill of each of the parts of the exam.

Regarding to reading comprehension it is easy to practice on your own, making the conditions as similar to the real exam as possible, that is controlling the time, not using extra help like a dictionary or books, focusing as much as possible to get the most of your level of Spanish, etc. Only after filling the whole reading comprehension part you should check your answers, and yes it is time now to figure out the reason of some of your mistakes using any extra resources. This practice will help you to identify your weaknesses and to learn at the same time!

Although we will talk later about ways to work the vocabulary, and especially if you are a “list lover”, after practicing the reading part it can be also the right time to write down some new words you find useful and/or difficult to remember, better if they belong to the same topic.

Improving your listening skills and the importance of working the vocabulary

When practicing the listening comprehension part, the same tips of reading comprehension apply in order to work autonomously. In that case, apart from correcting your answers with the solutions it is particularly interesting checking the transcription of the audio files. Even you can improve your listening going through the exercises again but now reading the transcriptions at the same time. Furthermore, using the same audio files just for listening later on will let you get familiar with the vocabulary, the pronunciation and the intonation, so get ready to get the most from the audios!

Talking about listening comprehension we cannot omit the importance of knowing a wide range of vocabulary. Unfortunately, and also obviously, we cannot recognize when listening a foreign language words we have never learnt or faced before. And this is a huge source of distraction when doing a listening exercise. So force yourself to develop a wide range of vocabulary before the exam, what is helpful not only for developing your expression skills -writing and reading- but is also essential for improving your listening.

In this sense vocabulary books graded by levels, in this case graded for A1 or even for A2, are the perfect match! Those books provide exercises to learn and practice vocabulary by topics. Doing activities with the words and manipulating the vocabulary is the best way to fix it in your memory and to make yourself able to recover and remember it quickly when needed, for example when listening.

About the expression skills: writing and speaking

In relation to expression skills, written expression and oral expression and interaction, a teacher is a fundamental help. Although self-practice can be suitable for reading and listening, the feedback, corrections and explanations of a teacher are the only way to practice and improve writing and speaking. Only a teacher will identify your mistakes and give you an explanation to correct them, consequently helping you to focus on the grammar you are weak at.

The work of grammar is also important for achieving correction in order to get a high mark, so once again books and resources that provide exercises to practice the grammar rules are of good help. Luckily some publishing groups have recently developed books that gather, also around a particular topic in each chapter and graded by level, exercises that focus on a particular grammar and a specific topic. That’s a perfect a way of killing two birds with one shot: vocabulary and grammar!

The structure of the oral exam and tips for each of them

Finally we will provide some tips for the oral expression and interaction part of the exam. As you may know, the first task is always your personal presentation that you can prepare days in advance and practice with your teacher. So this shouldn’t be of particular difficulty. The second task is again a monologue or individual speech, but in that case around a topic you have chosen out of some options the examiner offers you prior to the exam. That means that you have some minutes to prepare it, but this does not mean you cannot do it as well with your teacher when preparing for the exam. The more topics you prepare with the teacher the more chances one of these topics will arise in the exam!

Along the third task you will face questions about the topic presented in the second task, so make sure you know and recognize all the question words the examiner can use. Also, Spanish useful phrases in order to ask for clarification are of special interest. They will not just help you to get a second chance to understand the questions, but also to gain time to think about a possible answer and also to make a good impression in the examiner. These type of phrases can be: No entiendo la pregunta, lo siento. ¿Puede repetir, por favor? ¿Puede hacer la pregunta más despacio, por favor? No entiendo bien pero creo que…

Lastly, and although the fourth task of the oral exam is around a picture you have never seen before, you can also get ready for this part. Most of the questions the examiner can do about the picture will ask you for a description, so remember some verbs that can help in this, mainly verbs in third person singular or plural. Some of them are verbs like to be (ser), es –singular- or son –plural, to be (estar), está or están, to have (tener), tiene or tienen, to wear (llevar), lleva or llevan, or the impersonal there is/are that in Spanish is hay. Also the conjugation of action verbs, again in third person singular or plural, are useful to describe what someone in the picture is doing: desayuna/desayunan, juega/juegan, etc.

Now it’s time to start preparing your exam! We hope this tips are useful. And of course, good luck!

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