It’s been a busy week for me as exam season is truly happening. So busy, in fact, that I didn’t check my personal email account for an entire day on Tuesday. When I finally did access it during a brief pause on Wednesday morning, I was amazed to see a message from the Instituto Cervantes with the subject Diplomas DELE. Convocatoria de abril de 2016. Publicación de calificaciones. Could this really be my result? After just six weeks? I’d been told it would be closer to six months. As I copy-pasted my código de inscripción and typed my date of birth into the linked page, I could feel my fingers trembling.
Apto. I immediately took a photo of the computer screen and sent it to novio, before emailing my two Spanish teachers (one of whom had also been my oral examiner- although I met her for the first time in the exam itself) to tell them the good news, and thank them for their efforts. I know some people self-teach at home, and get good results too, but I get infinitely more out of a class setting and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
Looking closely at the breakdown of my results, I saw that I had scored 91.35% overall, with 25/25 in my oral section. I still think they might have made a mistake there, because I really didn’t feel confident about my oral at all. But, clearly, I’m not going to contest it. My weakest part was actually my written exam- not that big a surprise maybe, because I rarely/never write in Spanish (with the exception of WhatsApps to novio), whereas I read, listen, and speak almost every day.
Around 63% of candidates at all levels who take the DELE pass it, and the mark needed to pass is 60%. While I’m most definitely happy with my result, interpreting the way points are awarded before taking the test was definitely a chore for me. There is a total of 120 marks available. Each of the four skills are worth 30 marks, and all are weighted equally. However, the test is marked in two sections: reading and writing, and speaking and listening. While you can, in theory, dip below the 60% passing grade for any one skill, you have to score an average of 60% in each of the two sections in order to pass.
I suppose my essential takeaway from this information is that it doesn’t matter if you feel weaker in one skill than in others; you will be able to compensate for it. As with any test (puts on teacher hat) the most important thing is preparation. I don’t mean crazy hours of study, I just mean understanding the quirks of how you’ll be graded and what the test is actually like. There’s no such thing as a “pure” test of your language skills, so working your way through El Cronómetro and/or Preparación DELE to get used to the test format is ideal. I remember watching a Youtube video of a guy who’d made very impressive and rapid progress in his Spanish and he said his advice was just to practice a little every single day. I’ve tried to do that myself. As most people doing the DELE will usually have other commitments alongside (like, I don’t know, a job and a partner and kids and a million things), the “a little every day” approach seems like the most workable solution.
So what’s next for me? I’m hoping to walk the Camino de Santiago with novio this summer, and we have lots of other fun trips planned, including a wedding in Poland. So it will be busy. But I’ll still be attempting to put in time to practice my Spanish before signing up to a B2 course, and then thinking about further DELE goals.