Officially recognised by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, the Diplomas in Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE) certify your level of competence and knowledge of the Spanish language. They open the doors to universities, but they will also close them if your level is not good enough. What do they consist of? Where to take them and how to prepare? Here are our tips.
What is the DELE exam for?
The DELE (Diplomas de español como lengua extranjera) is a certificate of language competence. It is aimed at people who do not speak Spanish as their mother tongue and who want to go to a Spanish-speaking country, whether to study at a university, do an internship or even work. It opens the doors to Spain, but also to the whole South American continent (except Brazil). We advice you to visit specialized online websites for more about DELE exam.
These diplomas are in fact the only ones that are officially recognised by the Ministerio de Educación y Cultura de España (Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports), as well as by many Spanish-speaking countries and institutions.
Which test to take?
In accordance with European standards, the DELE has 6 levels of competence, from A1 to C2. The classification is as follows:
– A = elementary level (ex Certificado Inicial de Español): can understand and use common expressions, can introduce him/herself, ask and answer simple questions.
– B = independent level (ex-Diploma Básico de Español): can understand concrete and abstract subjects, express him/herself fluently on subjects related to his/her experiences or opinions, possibly on technical subjects.
– C = experienced level (ex-Diploma Superior de Español): can understand demanding texts, can express him/herself fluently on complex subjects with fine nuances.
Each of these strata is itself divided into two sub-levels: 1 lower level / 2 upper levels. It’s up to you to see which one corresponds best to your level.
Nature of the tests
Each test consists of a written part and an oral part in front of an examiner. Its duration and degree of difficulty depend of course on the level. For example, for the A1 test, the written part lasts 90 minutes while for the B2 test it lasts 210 minutes.
Each test includes several different types of exercises to check your reading, speaking and writing skills. Test B also includes vocabulary and grammar questions.
For the B2 test, for example, there are 5 tests in the written part:
– Reading comprehension (60 minutes): the candidate answers 12 MCQ questions based on 4 texts.
– Written expression (60 minutes): the candidate must write a personal letter and a composition (between 150 and 200 words each).
– Listening comprehension (30 minutes): the candidate answers 12 MCQ questions based on 4 oral texts (opinions, news, conversations or interviews).
– Grammar and Vocabulary (60 minutes) with two types of exercises: Texts with gaps to be completed among 3 proposed solutions / multiple selections: 40 short dialogues to be completed among several proposals.
– Oral expression (10-15 minutes): the candidate has 10 minutes to prepare his or her topic which consists of a story in vignettes and a card with the description of the situation he or she will have to talk about during the interview.
How to prepare?
You need to anticipate your needs well enough to give yourself time to prepare. Indeed, even if your language level is average or even good, you can fail if you don’t know the exercises and have never trained in conditions before, i.e. on real subjects and in limited time. That’s why it is advisable to take 3 to 6 months, depending on the time you have during the week and the level of certification you are aiming for.
On the official DELE website, you will find a series of training notes for the different levels (intermediate level B2 to consult and download). Furthermore, the best way to practice your language skills is to immerse yourself in the language, through reading (newspapers, magazines, websites, novels…), listening (films, series, radio, etc) and speaking. If you don’t have any Spanish friends, sign up for courses or conversation associations, go to places frequented by Spanish speakers, or find a Spanish student with whom to exchange. The trick is to go for it and not be afraid to make mistakes (and be corrected)…
Where to take the DELE?
The DELE is organized by the Cervantes Institute. In France, it is possible to take this test in about a dozen cities and in nearly 75 different centres (look for the nearest centre).
Several sessions take place each year, between April and November. Please note that registrations are made two to three months in advance and on a first come, first served basis. This is why you should check the calendar regularly.
Exam results and marks can be downloaded from the Internet about 3 months after the exam. Each candidate receives a secret code to access the information service of the Cervantes Institute. Please note that taking one of the tests will cost you between 88€ (A1) and 160€ (C2).