Doing Delta Module One? Some Exam Tips - Part Three

In Part Three of our series on the Cambridge English Delta Module One exam, we look at the requirements of Task Four on Paper One of the written exam. If you've missed the other articles in this series, you'll find links at the end, plus a link to a quiz where you can find out if you've really understood what you should be doing in Paper One. 

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

Paper One Task Four  

Paper One, Task Four asks you to analyse the written or spoken production  of a learner, and to identify three key strengths and three key weaknesses in his/her performance. You are then ask to choose one of the weaknesses and to explain why you would choose to prioritise it in your teaching. It doesn't matter how many strengths and how many weaknesses you discuss - in the sense that it could be 2/" or 3/1 - but you must discuss at least one strengths and at least one weakness.

There are 20 marks for this, so if you're following the principle of "a mark a minute" you should aim to spend a maximum of 15-20 minutes on it.

This question can, I think, tell you an awful lot about yourself as a teacher. Some people have no difficulty seeing the strengths, but struggle to see the weaknesses. Others (and I'm afraid I'm one of them) home in on the weaknesses immediately, but have to look really hard to identify the strengths. It's the teaching equivalent of seeing the glass half full or half empty, and can serve as a good reminder that when teaching we need  to pay attention to both sides : to emphasise the positive but also to be aware of our students' problems in order to be able to provide the support and help they need - or vice versa if you're like me.

Anyway, back to the exam. The analysis of the strengths and weaknesses is not a completely free choice. A number of categories will  categories will be specified (ususally about four or five), such as :

Task achievement 
Organisation and cohesion
Style and genre
Range and accuracy of lexis
Accuracy of grammar
Complexity of grammar
Spelling and punctuation (if it's a written passage)
Pronunciation - sounds, stress, connected speech, (if it's a spoken text)

If it's a spoken text, certain words will be written in phonemic script, so that you can analyse the pronunciation. This is usually a "gift" - only certain words will be transcribed, so by looking at them and the category of pronunciation specified, you should be able to identify at least one strength or weakness immediately.

It is essential that all the strengths and weaknesses you identify "fit" one of the categories which are specified. It's not enough, however, to identify a general category as a strength or weakness - you also need to identify specific features within that category. For example:

Weakness : Pronunciation - Indic'vidual sounds sounds.  /θ/ is consistently pronounced as /s/ - eg : /sʌndə/. 

Weakness : Spelling. Consistent mispelling of words containing vowel + y before  a suffix : eg He plaies tennis.  

Strength : Range and accuracy of lexis. Good range of phrasal and prepositional verbs including "non-transparent" items : eg, He takes after his father. 

Strength : Organisation. The text is divided into paragraphs, each with a clear topic, and the topic of each paragraph leads naturally into the next. Eg Para 1 = her immediate family - describes her mother and father. Para 2 = her extended family - follows the description of her father by moving on to describe his brothers and sisters. Para 3 = an explanation of why her aunt is so special for her.

Notice the use of the word "consistent" in  some of the answers. You are asked to identify key strengths and weaknesses - ie the ones that have a significant impact on the text or the learner's ability to use English. If there is only one example of a feature, it can't be said to be "key" - it might be just a slip. Look for recurrent features.

Notice too the layout of the answer :

1. An indication of whether it is a strength or weakness and the specified category
2. Definition of the specific problem
3. An example from the text

Because your focus is on the specific items, you may find more than one item for each category, and there may be both strengths and weaknesses in the same category. For example, above we've identified the pronunciation of a specific sound as a pronunciation weakness, but if the category specified was Pronunciation: individual sounds and features of connected speech, you might also include ...

Strength: Pronunciation - connected speech. Consistent use of weak form pronunciation, using the schwa - eg, we went for /fə/ lunch  

Similarly, we might also add the following points, which again focus on the same category that we specified above as weaknesses, but on a different aspect:

Strength: Range and accuracy of lexis - good range of adjectives describing the personality of her relatives : She is the most extrovert person in our family.

Strength : Communicative success - u
se of circumlocution when she does not know a lexical item : I wanted to buy - erm,  those things you wear on your eyes when you go swimming... erm, glasses for swimming.

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.