Warming Up For DELE C1 (2013)

By Slava Borisov

I feel like sharing my current Spanish project, for which I traveled to Santiago. The project is that I decided to take the DELE exam here. Cautious by nature, I am taking it at level C1.

Actually, if you ask me seriously, C1 is what I would say my real level is. To suppose that it's C2 would contradict several of my observations: that my vocabulary is still lacking, that I still make occasional grammatical blunders, and that while I rarely miss anything in news programs on TV (which are delivered in R2/R3), a rapid dialogue in a movie (usually, R1/R1*) can leave me baffled. That said, I think I could have gone for C2... with a lower chance of success, obviously. (Yet I’ve seen people who in no way impressed me have a go at it. And let’s not forget I’ve been doing this Spanish thing long enough.) But whatever. A few extra months of studying for me and some additional material for this blog, so C1 it is.

What’s the format? The exam is divided into four large areas:

  1. Comprensión de lectura y uso de la lengua (90 minutes)
  2. Comprensión auditiva y uso de la lengua (50 minutes)
  3. Comprensión auditiva y expresión y interacción escritas (80 minutes)
  4. Comprensión de lectura y expresión e interacción orales (20+20 minutes)

Each part contains several assignments–essentially, variations on the same theme. Let’s look at them part by part…

1. Comprensión de lectura y uso de la lengua

Time: 90 minutes

There are five assignments in this part. The first one is pretty straightforward: you’ll need to read a text, then answer a few multiple-choice questions. The second one is almost a fill-in-the-blanks, except what you are supposed to fill the blanks with are not individual words, but short (1-2 sentence) fragments. To make it a bit more confusing, there will be a fragment that doesn’t really fit anywhere. The third assignment is very similar to the first: you’ll have to read a text and and answer several multiple-choice questions. The fourth assignment is a bit trickier: you will be given several short texts (one paragraph each), to be matched with short statements that describe them. The tricky part in this is that one text can be legitimately chosen to represent several statements. The fifth assignment in this group has always seemed to be the most difficult to me. Here, you will read a text with blanks to be filled. The answers are multiple choice. So far so good. But the difficulty lies in the fact that the answers can be deliberately confusing and sometimes you have to choose between two near-synonyms for an answer. Another potential problem is prepositions (a, de, en, hacia, etc): you’ll need to know exactly how certain verbs and expressions are used. This can be extremely difficult if you are not sure about the exact meaning of the verb, e.g.:

Especialmente se ceba ____ niños, mujeres embarazadas y ancianos.

CORRECT ANSWER: cebarse con alguien; the verb cebarse means to be merciless (con alguien = with someone). I didn’t know this and as a result, wasn’t sure which preposition to pick.

2. Comprensión auditiva y uso de la lengua

Time: 50 minutes

As the name implies, this section involves listening to audio fragments and then answering questions about them. There are four assignments. The first one is a fill-in-the-blanks-type exercise with about 12 response options for 6 questions. Assignments two, three, and four are classic multiple choices (3 responses for each of the questions). Knowledge of common idiomatic expressions will be indispensable.

3. Comprensión auditiva y expresión y interacción escritas

Time: 80 minutes

The next section involves actual writing. From what I understand, this is the sole part of the test that will not be read by a machine but instead handed over to a grading committee for evaluation.

There are two assignments in this section. The first involves listening to a audio segment and then writing a summary of its main points. The segment, about 5 minutes in length, will be played twice. The second assignment simply gives you the choice of two topics to write about.

4. Comprensión de lectura y expresión e interacción orales

Time: 20 minutes + 20 minutes for preparation

The last section of the test involves live interaction with your examiners. I haven’t had an actual experience yet, but rumor has it that you talk to one person while another (most likely, seated behind you) is taking notes. Will report.

Anyway, there are three assignments. In the first one, you are supposed to read about one page’s worth of text and then give a short (~5 minute-long) presentation about it, highlighting the main ideas (1 minute per idea is the guideline). You will be given 20 minutes to read and prepare your speech. The second assignment is based on the same text, but the idea is to have a real conversation, not a monologue. About 5 minutes as well. Finally, the third assignment is something a tad more playful: you are supposed to choose among several options for visual materials for some project (a book cover, an advertising poster, etc) and then justify your choice by talking about the relative merits of the options given.

All in all, the test seems to be pretty thorough, but not unreasonable. My biggest concern is getting worn out by the end of this thing–my concentration usually trails off after a couple of hours.

Right now, I am taking a twice-weekly preparation course, while also working through an EDELSA book. The whole prep-course shebang may actually be unnecessary, but I figured it can’t hurt. And it gives me something to do in Santiago, which turned out to be a somewhat less exciting destination than I had imagined. But that's a topic for a totally different post.

Just registered for the 25th of May exam date. Stay tuned!

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