Correction and Timing

After a discussion in the comments section of Chiew’s Dogme Diaries, I felt that my thoughts on correction in second language learning were too many to post in another comment, so I am making a first video post as part of my previously-shelved return to blogging. The task is enormous and far too much to speak about in 9 short minutes of video. For every error there seems to be a theory and a whole load of procedural knowledge to add to it, so this is very much the tip of the iceberg!

After a little thought today I have decided to add a reflection template for teachers to use during lessons to use to identify, categorise and prioritise language learners produce. I use the four boxes to note down bits of language I hear or notes on areas of difficulty. In this stage, I decide whether to provide immediate feedback or to wait and exploit the language point in later feedback; if, on the other hand, there’s no immediate need to focus on it – third person ‘s’ or misplaced stress on appreciate for example – I have a record of these still on paper for the future.


DELTA Module One Exam: Paper One

Please note: I am very grateful for all the feedback that has been kindly been left on this post. Also, best of luck to all those taking the module one exam. It would be great to include all of these changes in a new and more accurate document for everyone to use.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to make all of these and the current posts will have to remain the way they are. 

Heads met in an epic afternoon-spanning planning sessions yesterday for a module one exam seminar my colleague and I are giving for the DELTA candidates at our school. This sessions will be dealing exclusively with paper 1 of the exam, to be followed by another dedicated to paper two a few weeks after. Basically, there is a way ‘things should be done’ in the exam, which is what we would like to focus on. Obviously, you need to know your present perfect from your ZPD, your subordinating conjunctions from your coordinating, but it would be a shame to see all that knowledge ruined by sloppy exam technique.

Question 1

The most helpful thing to remember for this part is the fact that it contains six marks. Therefore, avoid spending too much time. The fact of the matter is that either you know the word or you do not. A few pointers might consist of:

  • Make sure spelling is correct
  • Have clear layout and only one answer. If you change your mind about a word, make sure it is clearly crossed out.

How many basic definitions can you make for the words in the picture?

Alternatively, if your brain works in a more ‘schematic’ way, i.e. you like learning in mind-map style clusters of information with connections between words etc, you can take a topic area such as ‘pronunciation’ and start with the most obvious definitions like ‘phoneme’ or ‘intonation’ or ‘connected speech’ and then go deeper into each topic, creating more words stems with more definitions relevant to each topic.

Question 2

The secret to this part is clear, easy-to-read layout. Last year my tutor drummed this into me and it stuck. I found the following structure helped me in my exam; it’s very clear and highlights the point made. Make sure you give a key at the top too.

(D)definition; (F)further point; (E)example

With a basic structure down, you’re already half way there. Another important point to make is the candidates often confuse the basic definition with the further point. Make your definition too wordy, for example, and the points you could gain for a further point are already made, leaving you with nothing. Also, get the definition wrong but make a good further point and the marks available for the latter will not be given.

For example:

Audiolingualism: A method of second language learning that emphasises the teaching of speaking a listening over reading and writing (definition), discourages the use of the mother tongue, uses dialogues and drills, contrastive analysis (further point).

To which of the words in the word cloud above does this example pertain? Where is the basic definition/further point/example?

A type of consonant sound that is made through a restricted but not completely blocked release of air to create a turbulent airflow. It can be voiced or unvoiced. Sibilant or labio dental, alveolar consonant sounds. /f/ /v/ /s/ /z/.

There are a few examples on quizlet of how you could write basic definition/further point/example flashcards to help your revision.

Question 3

As the tasks get more complicated, the more one needs to be careful about what information to include and how to structure it. The clock starts working against you and there’s a whole load of information you need to communicate to the examiner. It’s no surprise then that candidates start making more and more mistakes. So, we’ve made a simple list of Dos and Don’ts for this section:


  • Give one example
  • Give a wide variety of features including style, organisation, function.
  • Avoid vague expressions
  • Include very clear terminology
  • Give one feature of writing or speaking subskills that can be grouped under the same heading. E.g. speaking skills- turn taking – language to take a turn.
  • Give very specific examples to the text type.
  • Focus on what the rubric instructs you to.
  • Be very specific and narrow down your point. E.g. Present perfect question forms to talk about life experience.
  • Give a very clear and organised structure.


  • Learn lots of language features that can be given for any question
  • List lots (too many) of features pertaining to grammar and lexis
  • Spend too much time on this task (15 marks remember!)
A good dos and don’ts list of course needs to be followed by some application.

The extract for this task is a writing activity for advanced learners (CEFR C1) level learners. Identify a total of five key language features learners at this level would need in order to complete the activity successfully. Provide an example specific to this activity to support each choice.

Kenny, N., & Newbrook, J., ‘CAE Gold Plus coursebook’ Longman, 2008
A good way to practise this task is to take a variety of speaking and writing tasks and brainstorm with your colleagues as many key language features as possible. What we came up with is in the appendices. Have a look, there are both good and bad examples; try to match the examples to the points on the dos and don’ts list. We’ll have a look at a few examples below:
1. Lexis: Compound nouns related to sporting sporting activities
E.g.swimming pools would be a good addition.
  • Specific point made
  • Clear example
  • Relevant to the task
  • Not relevant to the level: Advanced.
2. Discourse: Hedging devices to give the writer’s opinion
it could be considered beneficial to include a selection of after-school activities.
  • Accurate use of terminology
  • Point is narrowed down; does not seem like pre-learned.
  • Example is relevant to the task
  • Specific to the text type (report – making recommendations – writer’s opinion).
3. learners will need to be able to use the present perfect
e.g. we have seen a drop in numbers recently at the sports centre.
  • Too generic. Not narrowed down enough; it seems pre-learned.
  • Which present perfect? Simple? Continuous? To talk about what? Life experiences? Events relevant to the present? Not enough information.
  • Good example, specific to the task.
Here are all the answers we came up with. We’ve annotated the bad examples.
Practice: take examples from the coursebooks with which you regularly teach. Make extensive lists of key items. Not only will it familiarise you with the task type, avoiding the possibility of applying pre-learned points to the exam, but also there might be knock-on effect on your teaching; you willl know what to expect students to produce in a task and consequently you will be more able to find the holes in their language skill to fill.

 Question 4

The task which contains the most marks in paper 1 (40). Let’s start with another dos and don’ts list for part 4:


  • Include as much information as possible in part B, even if it seems superflous.
  • State the obvious about language
  • Use correct terminology
  • Specify terminology e.g. pronoun  personal subject pronoun
  • Give full names to tenses e.g. present perfect  present perfect simple
  • Use the phonemic script
  •  Comment on style of the text in part A
  • Give an example of each feature
  • Have a clear way of marking connected speech
  • Use subheadings and underlining to signpost
  • Consider doing this task first if you panic or have bad time-management.
  • Spend a large proportion of your time on this task
  • Refer to the context of the language in part B.
  • Consider doing this task first if you panic or have bad time-management
  • Spend a large proportion of your time on this task
  • Use bullet points in part B


  •  Give more than 5 features of the text.
  • Use very generic features
  • Analyse everything: meaning, form, use, pronunciation; only analyse what they tell you to in the rubric
  • Stick to ONLY features of connected speech when analysing pronunciation. Mention sentence stress too!
  • Learn lots of problems students have in general and apply them to each question
Here is a task Giovanni made that resembles Task 4 paper 1.

Part A

  • The danger here is to spend too much time. Make your answers brief and relevant to the text. i.e. don’t reel off a load of generic pre-learned items like “using anaphoric references to make the text cohesive e.g. this and that”. NO.
  • Include one point on organisation or layout. You need to include a variety.
  • This question should not take up more than a page.

Part B

Let’s have a look at what makes a question receive higher marks in this section.
The left hand column represents a set of weaker answers. Can you see which dos and dont’s they include?
  • Less information throughout
  • Not stating the obvious e.g. “third person plural” or “noun, uncountable”
  • The wrong language is analysed e.g. the passive voice instead of ‘due to’.
  • No reference to the context of the language e.g. “Students might fail to recognize the cause/effect relationship between park closures and missile testing, i.e.due to+ noun (prepositional phrase)”
  • Less eloquent grasp of terminology, for example a stronger answer includes “Indicates the amount of people available in the staff (semantic field of the text); subject of the participle clause”

Here is a copy of a ‘higher marks’ answer key and a ‘lower marks’ answer key:
Higher marks
Lower marks

Quick disclaimer: Giovanni used Standard American phonemic script, which is perfectly acceptable in the module 1 exam. Also, we’re not perfect, so you may find some extra points to add to some of these answers. If you do, any feedback would be welcome. We don’t claim to have created ‘the perfect answer’ but a helpful guide to achieving it.

Practice: take a number of texts and analyse them for key features. Make sure you have a variety of genres. That way you build up experience examining texts for their features and improve on noticing the features rather than applying pre-learned features to texts. You could do as Giovanni did and make your own version of part 4, with a good key and a bad key to practice part B. Analyse language, don’t limit yourself to reading grammar books.

Question 5

In task five it’s just as likely that candidates receive a speaking text as a writing text. Make sure you feel very confident about phonology for this question, it could make the difference if it happens to be a speaking text like June 2011.

Part A

As far as organisation goes:
  • Headings for each part. Consider underlining examples.
Here is a copy of the speaking text given in the June 2010 examiner’s report.

Identify three key strengths and three key weaknesses of the text. Provide an example of each strength and each weakness. Your answer should focus on some or all of the areas listed below:

Organisation and cohesion
Accuracy of grammar
Accuracy of lexis
Accuracy of pronunciation: stress, individual sounds and sounds in connected

You may notice that:

  • A strength can also be repeated as a weakness. Look for limitations in the students’ ability.
  • Examples are given with phonemic script. Very important, this one.
  • The topic areas are narrowed down e.g, “accuracy of pronunciation – individual sounds and sounds in connected speech’
  • Only one accuracy of grammar weakness. Try to look beyond grammar and lexis and to discourse/organisation/task achievement (written) or pronunciation/organisation/speaking sub skills (spoken)
There are also four extra marks for stating how strengths and weaknesses could aid or impede the learner. I have listed those below the strengths and weaknesses for you to connect with them. In the exam, it is highly advisable to include them with the strength or weakness.
Here is an example of a set of answers that would obtain much lower marks
The general problems are:
  • Answers are too wordy. The candidate wastes time writing in prose when simple and accurate terminology would suffice.
  • Errors are incorrectly identified
  • The candidate focuses on errors that are not prevalent
  • Candidate does not use the phonemic script
  • Candidate does not give and example
  • Further points are very generic and seem pre-learned.

Part B

 This is the section in which you have to choose an area to prioritise to develop. It’s important to choose a correct area to develop (i.e. one you’re sure you got right!). This part of the exam seems to be one of the only areas in which pre-learned reasons can be applied to questions (although, be careful).
Focus on these areas:

Practice:  record your learners and analyse their language. Take their writing and do the same, prioritising weaknesses to then teach. The positive backwash of this task is that the skills you use in the exam are relevant to your teaching.
A note on validity: we have noticed that a spoken text in the form of a written text is somewhat contrived. The skills it is attempting to examine are done so effectively, as a teacher would have to listen, note down language and analyse it as they hear the learner, not with a transcription in retrospect. A recording of a student would fit the purpose much more. Testing terminology anyone?

Useful websites: 

DELTA flashcards with definition, further point, example

Module 1 examiner’s report for June 2010 and June 2011

Lots of flashcards on quizlet on terminology for module 1

Another set of flashcards