What I’ve been doing to prepare for the Delta course

I’ve been doing a lot of different things to get ready for the course. (None of it has been done as organised or as thoroughly as it might seem it does in this post – let’s just say it’s what I intended!)

Official information

I got all the official documentation from the Cambridge English Delta website that I could – this included the syllabus, the more extended handbook, and one past Module 1 exam with examiner’s report.

I read through the syllabus and handbook (the handbook also contains an example exam), annotating as I went, trying to decide what would be easiest or most difficult for me, most interesting or most useful to me, easily understood or a tad unintelligible to me. I read them several times over, actually, since they’re pretty information-packed.

I’m intending to come back to the past exam and report closer to my Module 1 exam.

Google searches and WordPress blogs

I then did a Google search for terms along the lines of “Cambridge Delta advice/tips” and came across a network of fantastic blogs from past Delta candidates with post upon post of invaluable commentary, advice, and links to even more resources. Most of these blogs were at WordPress – part of the reason why THIS blog is also WordPress.

Sandy Millin’s blog is probably the “go to” one, as she’s done a fantastic job at bringing together many other’s blogs and posts on Delta – not to mention she has also spent a lot of time and effort on producing really useful posts of her own! I think it does her justice and saves me the time and effort at repeating a lot of what she’s already done if I just highly recommend you head over there (at least, after you’ve finished reading this post!). I know I keep going back – there’re organised links to useful places all over the internet.

Full steam ahead

At this point I’d decided, without a doubt, that I was going ahead with Delta – despite some criticisms that I’d read, and how daunting the whole endeavour had begun to sound, I felt I was still going to get a lot out of it and that I could succeed (and still do feel this way!).

Reading lists, books, and actual reading

Next was finding reading lists, picking out titles, and getting my hands on them. Many lists out there have titles in common; some are more expansive than others; everyone seems to have a different preferred “if-you-only-read-one-book-then-read-this-one” book.

In the end, I grabbed these books:

  • About Language (Scott Thornbury)
  • An A-Z of ELT (Scott Thornbury)
  • How Languages are Learned (Patsy M. lightbrown & Nina Spade)
  • Sound Foundations (Adrian Underhill)
  • English Phonetics and Phonology (Peter Roach)
  • The English Verb (Michael Lewis)
  • Beyond the Sentence (Scott Thornbury)

Why these books?

Well, they’re areas of ELT that I either:

  • am most interested in knowing more about;
  • feel I know the least about; or
  • think will best support my chosen LSAs and other assignments.

My reading method

I’ve made a start on all of the above titles in some way or another.

I read the introductory chapters and then studied the contents – skimming through chapters if it wasn’t immediately clear what those chapters contained – and marked the chapters that I wanted to read first.

I have since started picking chapters and reading them each in detail. A whole chapter in one sitting, if I can. I annotate in pencil as I go. I mark words, sentences, or even whole sections as follows:

  • an asterisks (*) or star if I think something is particularly interesting or eye-opening
  • an exclamation mark (!) for something really important
  • a question mark (?) for something completely new or which I don’t yet understand

At times, I stop reading and do a Google search on a new term I’ve just come across to learn a bit more or connect a few dots in my understanding.

When I come across metalanguage or something from the ELT lexicon – something that I particularly think I should add to my active ELT vocabulary – I often go straight to Quizlet and added an entry to my slowly expanding study set(s), sometimes also filling in a short definition and example on the spot (great for consolidating understanding, since you’re now tasked with summarising the meaning of an ELT concept), or sometimes just entering the term and leaving the definition, etc. for later (not as useful, but still a point to start from).

In some cases, I get out my notebook (a traditional pen and paper one – my dreamed-of Microsoft Surface Book will have to wait…) and make summaries of particularly new or ground-breaking material.

A few general tips on reading

If there’s one thing that everyone agrees on, it’s that you don’t have time to read everything – you must be selective in the titles and chapters you take on. Everyone also agrees that just simply reading isn’t valuable use of your time: you must read in a focused and critical manner, annotating, making notes and summaries as you go. Focused means, among other things, no distractions – I had to put my smartphone on the other side of the room, vibrate off, face down.

This post is going to have to stop here (for now, at least) – it’s late and tomorrow is the first day of my course!




5 thoughts on “What I’ve been doing to prepare for the Delta course

  1. I would add 1 more book to the list. The practice of English language teaching by Jeremy Harmer. And just so you know I’m genuine about it — it’s not from Cambridge. Also, don’t discount a subscription to ELTJ! (And it’s from OUP, I’m going crazy here). Also if you need a good grammar I’ll loan you my Carter & McCarthy, but I’ll want it back (it is from Cambridge and it is excellent).


    1. Thanks for the tips Allen. Trying your best to sound unbiased, I see! Anyway, what would the main benefits of a subscription to ELTJ be? That Carter and McCarthy is a monster of a book – Gotta be one of the most comprehensive out there?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s