In the days (I had been going to write “weeks”, but that wouldn’t have been quite honest) leading up to my DELE B2 exam, this is pretty much what my life looked like. I took the exam yesterday, and I have to admit that I felt my language skills were being tested to the limit. It’s definitely a big step up from B1.
I took my DELE B1 six months ago, back in April, and it went pretty well. A new job, an engagement to a Spaniard, and plenty more Spanish practice followed, and I was feeling confident in my abilities. I bought some DELE B2 study books, signed up for evening Spanish classes at my local university, and began preparing for the formal exam. Having studied for two DELE exams now, I definitely recommend this series of books, and for wider reading I also found some very nice recommendations here.
So how did it go? Well…
When I did the DELE B1 felt easy-ish. Quite straightforward, nothing too tricky or designed to catch you out. The B2 involves some more obscure language, a lengthier oral, and some “integrated skills” – so on one section of the writing exam, you have to listen and understand a related recording, and use the information you’ve heard in what you write. Despite greater work commitments, I had prepared in advance – but perhaps not quite so thoroughly as last time.
So I arrived on Saturday morning at 8.40, blurry-eyed and uncaffeinated (the university coffee shop wasn’t open at that hour – gran error on my part). The DELE kicked off as usual with the reading test. There were four tasks – the first was about internet shopping, the second about Chilean musicians, the third about the Spanish translation of this book, and the final task a nice piece about the history of Argentinian colectivos. I assigned myself 17 minutes per task, and in all honesty it felt a little easier than what I’d been studying at home. If the whole exam had gone as smoothly, I think I’d have no doubts about passing.
Next came the listening. It was…tricky. The first task, in which you listen to six short conversations, was filled with unfamiliar vocabulary and there were two or three questions that I definitely struggled with. I had time to listen again at the end, but I still wasn’t sure. Next up was the couple talking (this exercise is always the same – a man and a woman, usually friends, who meet by chance in the street and start discussing a random subject). In this task the woman had just adopted a dog from the shelter and they were talking about pets before moving on to talking about the guy’s wife and the fact he’s learning Italian. Fine. Next was an interview with an Argentinian film director, and despite his Italian-infused Argentinian accent, I think I followed. Then came the task where six people talk about a subject and you have to decide who said what. They were all talking about their living situations – it didn’t present too many problems. Next was a monologue in a Colombian accent. Not simple, but I imagine I may have got about four of the six questions right.
The written part wasn’t so bad. It consisted of two tasks, and you get a choice for the second one – in this question there’s always an information/statistical analysis type question, and a more opinion-based one too. As a humanities graduate and a queen of soft skills, the opinion-based writing task was the boy for me (it was about a free arts and culture programme in Madrid). I tried to be kind of ambitious with my vocabulary and I’m glad I had enough time at the end to read through and make corrections, because I definitely needed to. Throughout the entire exam, I felt like I was racing against the clock, which really wasn’t the case last time.
The worst part for me, unquestionably, was the oral. I mean I chatted hard. I chatted like my life depended on it – the examiner kind of had to shut me up on a couple of occasions. I was just so nervous. The B1 oral felt more relaxed, kind of like a simple exchange, but in this oral I had to look at various proposals (I picked a scenario about mass tourism), evaluate them, say who they’d benefit and who they’d be detrimental to, then justify my opinions. I also had to talk about a photo – kind of invent a story around it, say who the people were and what they were doing. I didn’t ask the examiner for any clarification or repetition at any point at all – I’ve heard anecdotally that it’s kind of fatal if you do. There was just one point when the examiner -an Argentinian, incidentally- asked me something about friendships which I didn’t understand, so I just blagged it and talked about what a good friend is for me. I’m embarrassed to recall that now, but in the moment, what was I supposed to do? Generally I answered the questions as best I could and I understood pretty well what I was being asked- if I fail, it definitely won’t be because I said too little. But I know 100% I made grammatical mistakes, and there was one occasion when I should have used the imperfect subjunctive followed by a conditional, and I didn’t. But there you go. Damn imperfect subjunctives!
Last time I received my results via email in just six weeks – and I’d been told it would be more like three to six months. I’m not sure if I’ll hear so quickly (relatively speaking) again this time though- with Christmas and Reyes coming up, I expect the folks in Madrid who mark the exams are gearing up for a nice winter break. Fingers crossed for the result I want – ya veremos.