Doing Delta Module One? Some Exam Tips - Part Six

If you're doing the Cambridge English Delta Module One exam, it's essential you know what the exam requirements are, and how the marks are allotted. In this series, we look at the exam task by task and discuss what you need to do to get maximum marks without wasting time. in this article we move  on to Paper Two Task 2.

This article is written by Sue Swift, who was involved with Cambridge English Diploma schemes  for nearly 50 years, both as a tutor and assessor. 

Task 2 in Paper Two asks you to analyse the methodological principles behind a set of coursebook materials. The task is divided into three parts, and it's important that you know what is required in each in order to be awarded the available marks - there are 42 available in total so it's an important part of the exam.

Each section of Task 2 specifies a number of activities from the materials. All the points you make in that section must be relevant to those activities and those activities only. Don't make reference to any others as the points won't be awarded marks and you'll just be wasting time.

Task 2 Section (a) asks you to identify the purpose of the activities specified, in relation to the stated overall aim of the materials. As an example, let's assume the stated purpose is  To teach the present perfect expressing past events with present results to pre-intermediate learners.  So as you look at the individual activities, your aim is to identify how each activity helps learners achieve that aim - and nothing else. Try the following practice activity - which of the following purposes are relevant to our stated overall aim, and which are not? (Scroll down to the end for the answers to all the practice activities in this article).

Practice Activity One

a) To provide a context for the introduction of the target structure/function - ie the present perfect expressing past events with present results
b) To stimulate interest in the topic of the listening
c) To allow learners to formulate and check hypotheses regarding the form, meaning and use of the target language.
d) To give learners the opportunity to manipulate the target language, with the primary focus on form and accuracy.
e) To provide practice in listening for gist.

Here, the form and use were stated in the first purpose, so afterwards I've been able to refer to them briefly as "target language". However, if the formulation of the overall aim is vaguer - eg to focus on lexis or to develop listening skills, make sure that you identify the specific area of lexis /subskills that are involved. Try this in the next practice activity.

Practice Activity 2

a) In previous activities the learners have listened to a text and done some gist and detailed comprehension work. The activity you are analysing is a language focus activity in which the learners are asked to listen to the recording again and to complete a gapped transcript. All the gaps focus on expressions like  have a meeting, do the accounts, or  make a profit. The stated overall aim of the materials is To teach various lexical items. What's the specific purpose of this activity?

b) The stated aim of the materials is to develop listening skills. Learners have previously listened to a recording and done a gist comprehension task. They are now doing a detailed comprehension activity which includes the question : 
3. How did they travel ? a) by train  b) by bike  c) by car  
The recording includes the following : Anyway, we thought it would be nice to go away for the weekend, so we booked into a little hotel we know at the sea, and left immediately after work on the Friday evening. But half way down the motorway we had a flat tyre...
What is the purpose of this question in the activity?

c) Later, they are asked to listen again complete a transcript where expressions such as the following have been blanked out : it can't have been him /ɪk kɑ:nə bɪn ɪm/; we hoped to see him /wɪ həʊp tə si:j ɪm/

Notice how all the purposes start To + infinitive. There are other possibilities of course, but I suggest you use this formula. If you can't express it in this way, then it's probably not a purpose and you're off track.

There are two marks available for each purpose you state and you should identify six in total to aim for the maximum 12 marks. This means of course that you may be looking for more than one purpose for each activity, depending on how many  you are asked to discuss.

Task Two section (b)  asks you to look at some further specified  activities in the materials and show how they combine with those specified in Part (a).  Again, there are twelve marks for this part of the task, two per point made. So aim to make six points for maximum marks.  Keep your points brief, but make it clear which of the part (b) activities you are discussing and which of the part (a)activities they combine with.

There are various ways in which the activities might combine. 

a) an activity may prepare for a later activity or activities.
b) an activity may extend the work being done on the target language or skills.
c) an activity may consolidate previous work
d) an activity may balance or complement other activities - eg by providing a change of focus in terms of skill or language system, a change of pace, by appealing to a different learning style etc etc

Imagine that the activities specified for Part (b) were labelled Discussion, Language Focus 2, Reading and Writing, while the Part (a) activities were Listening 1, Listening 2, Language Focus 1, Roleplay. Notice how, in the following examples, each point clearly links the task 3 activity or activities being discussed with one or more of the part (a) activities (highlighted in the following examples). The activities might combine in the following ways:
- introduces and stimulates interest in the topic of the listening, thus increasing the likelihood that learners will listen more attentively during Listening 1 and 2
- creates the gist listening task which will be the focus of Listening 1 thus providing a reason for listening.
- activates schemata on the topic of the listening which will facilitate comprehension in both Listening 1 and 2

Language Focus 2
- allows learners to check the understanding of the TL which they acquired in Language Focus 1.
- allows them to focus on producing the TL accurately and exclusively under controlled conditions before being asked to produce it spontaneously and to incorporate it with other language that they know in the Roleplay, thus increasing the likelihood that they will be able to do so..
- focuses learners on pronunciation features of the TL from the Language Focus 1 thus ensuring they not only understand it but can also produce it accurately.

- consolidates the TL introduced in LF1 by allowing the learners to see further examples in a slightly different context, thus extending their knowledge of how it might be used.

- allows learners to apply the TL introduced in LF1 to their personal experience, thus ensuring that they see its relevance to them.
- provides further free practice of the TL after that in the Roleplay thus consolidating it more.
- changes the focus of the lesson back to accuracy after the fluency focus of the Roleplay thus ensuring that any mistakes made due to the challenges of spontaneous communication in the fluency activity can be revisited without "real time" constraints. This lessens the likelihood of the erroneous forms being "learnt".

Reading and Writing
- contribute to the variety of skills in the lesson, balancing the listening and speaking focus of the previous activities (Listening 1 and 2, Roleplay, Discussion), thus ensuring Ls' receptive and productive knowledge are equally developed.

All activities 
- combine with all the activities specified in Part (a) to provide alternation between productive and receptive work and therefore a variety of pace and focus which helps prevent boredom or fatigue. 

Notice there are twelve points here. you only need to make six to gain full marks. Notice how each point focuses not just on what each activity does, but also on the effect of the combination on the learners, the "doability" of the activities, the lesson dynamic etc.

Task Two section (c) asks you to identify six assumptions about effective learning that the materials writer probably had in mind when creating the activities, and the reasons for them - in other words, you're looking at the didactic rationale behind the the activities. Again, the activities which you should discuss are specified, and  you must concentrate on these.

The assumptions can generally be phrased something like XXXX should happen because... Learners need to XXXX because... The teacher should XXXX because... It's important to XXX because.... XXX is beneficial to learning because.... 

There is one mark for each valid asumption you state, one mark for the reason and one mark for identifying the activity or activities which the assumption  relates to. 

A completed point in this section might therefore be something like : 

Assumption : Vocabulary should be taught in lexical sets 
Reason : Research shows that we store lexis in groups in the brain. If this is how it is taught, it will make it easier to retrieve and retain.
Relevant to :   Vocab Exs 1, 2 and 4

There will always be more than one possible reason for an assumption - I could also have said  :

Assumption : Vocabulary should be taught in lexical sets 
Reason : This allows the unit to be based around specific topics, which makes it easier to include the same words several times within the lesson and unit. This “massed” repetition (Nation) aids memory. 
Relevant to :   Vocab Exs 1, 2 and 4   

But don't waste time giving more than one reason - there are no extra marks for more. Better to spend the time fully explaining one reason than "mixing up" two or three unexplained points.

Notice that whether you agree with the assumption or not is irrelevant. You are not asked to evaluate the principle or give your own opinion but to show that you understand what was in the material writer's mind.

Practice Activity Three

Look at the following assumptions. Can you find a reason to support each of them?

i)  PW/GW are useful to improve students’ spoken fluency  because ...

ii)  Learners will benefit more from working out rules for themselves in a guided discovery activity than from simply being "told" by the teacher, because ...

NB :  Two example reasons are given in the answers below, but remeber that you only need to give one.

Answers to Practice Activities

1. a, c and d are relevant to the question. b and e may be valid for the activity, but do not show how the activities helps achieve the stated aim, and are therefore irrelevant to the question. If you can't refer specifically to the stated overall aim in your purpose (as a,c and d do), it's likely to be irrelevant and gain you no marks

2. a) To ensure that learners "notice" collocations with delexicalised verbs + noun phrase.
2. b) To give learners practice in the subskill of inferring non-explicitly stated meaning (top-down processing)
2. c) To give learners practice in bottom-up decoding of phrases  containing elements of connected speech such as elision, assimilation, vowel weakening, intrusive consonants etc

3. i) PW/GW are useful to improve students’ spoken fluency (Exs 3b and 4b) because : 
a) they may feel more secure speaking in PW/small groups rather than in front of the whole class or to the T. This lack of stress is conducive to fluency 
b) if only T-S interaction is used, the power difference means that the discourse will be likely to remain structured as T initiates / S responds / T evaluates, meaning that Ss will never have practice in eg initiating or negotiating topic. 

ii) Learners will benefit more from working out rules for themselves in a guided
discovery activity than from simply being "told" by the teacher, (Grammar Ex 1) 
a) cognitive processing will be at a deeper level, which will facilitate 
b) this will develop the Ss’ ability to analyse language autonomously, and
therefore to cope better when they meet new language outside the classroom. 

    Missed some of the other articles in this series? You'll find links to all of them here - just scroll down the page. But if you're preparing for the Delta Module One, don't forget that you'll find a lot more information about all the tasks in the exam, with sample questions and answers, plus advice for tackling the questions in the Handbook for Tutors and Candidates  published by Cambridge. Click on the link to download it.

And don't forget either that extracts from our Module One course are posted every Tuesday on our companion blog The Delta Course. Check it out weekly. You'll find input and activities to help you with all the activities in the exam.