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Considering taking the Cambridge Assessment English Delta?


This guide is intended for anyone who is considering moving on from an initial qualification (such as CELTA) to a more advanced course in English Language Teaching.
It sets the scene and gets you thinking about what you need to know and whether you are ready for the demands of this most prestigious qualification.
Before you go on, if you have not already done so, you will be wise to read through the Delta overview so talk of Modules and so on will not be mysterious.  Click here to do that.
(Embedded links on this page open in a new tab and are repeated in the table at the end.)


Why take Delta at all?

Mastery of your profession requires more than a short course and a bit of experience.  In outline, mastery also involves:

  1. Subject knowledge: mastery of the structure, grammar, phonology, discourse features and genres of English and a knowledge of how these differ from other languages.
  2. Procedural knowledge: mastery of a range of teaching approaches and techniques.
  3. Methodological knowledge: a thorough understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of a range of approaches and methods in ELT and the ability to link this understanding to classroom practice, course design and planning as well as assessment and evaluation of learners' skills and knowledge.
  4. The ability to consider and take into account specific learner needs.
  5. The ability to consider and take into account the needs and requirements of other stakeholder (sponsors, parents, national educational authorities etc.).

(For more, see the article on what mastery involves.)

No initial course can provide you with more than a superficial understanding of these areas but if you want to call yourself a fully qualified professional you need an in-depth understanding of all of them.
Many of these will be covered on other sorts of courses such as MAs in TESOL but few will combine theoretical understanding with an assessment of the ability to put ideas into practice.  It is also worth noting that, expensive though they are, Delta courses are around one half to one quarter of the cost of a master's degree.

The other obvious reasons for taking a course include the fact that the qualification will allow you to progress professionally into academic management, teacher training, materials writing and marketing.  Without a qualification at this level, you will be hampered if your ambitions lie beyond the classroom.

Many people feel that having their initial qualification and a few years' solid experience behind them is all they need to be a competent and efficient teacher of English.  In some cases, that's true.
However, Delta is not a super CELTA – it is qualitatively different as well as requiring more of you.  The difference is:

  1. An initial training course (such as CELTA) begins from the premise that you know nothing about teaching.
    A Delta course starts from the premise that you have acquired through training and/or experience a range of essential teaching behaviours and seeks to build on that.
  2. An initial course relies on tutors modelling teaching procedures and techniques and getting the trainees to copy what they do.  Feedback on your practice comes from tutors and peers (and learners).
    A Delta course focuses on your classroom behaviour and planning skills to refine them and develop in you more alternatives and procedures.  Feedback comes from tutors, learners and from your own reflection on your practice.
  3. An initial course provides the minimum theoretical background needed for specific lessons and classroom procedures.
    A Delta course requires you to do extensive reading and research fully to master the underlying principles of what you do or plan to do in the classroom so you can operate effectively in a wide range of contexts.
  4. An initial course is incremental in building on each stage of your training in the expectation that this will lead to some professional competence by the end of the course.
    A Delta course requires you to reflect on your own teaching and seek ways to improve and develop your skills leading to mastery of the skills you need.
  5. CELTA (and one other recognised initial qualification) is at Level 5 of the Ofqual scheme in Britain, i.e., at the same level as a foundation degree or higher education diploma, and is a taught course in its entirety.
    Delta is at Level 7 of the same scheme, i.e., at the same level as a Master's degree, and requires much more independent work and study.

If you prefer a diagram:


The aims of both sorts of course are the same – professional competence – but the level and the ways of getting there differ markedly.


Understanding the three parts of Delta

This is very brief.  For details, go to the Delta overview.
There are three Modules:

Module One Understanding Language, Methodology and Resources
It is assessed by an externally marked examination (two 90-minute papers).
You do not need to follow a course for this Module.
Module Two Developing Professional Practice
It is assessed through three internally assessed teaching assignments and one which is assessed by a Cambridge-appointed and accredited assessor.
You must follow a course for this Module.
Module Three Extending Practice and ELT Specialism or English Language Teaching Management
It is assessed via a long essay marked externally by Cambridge-appointed and Cambridge-trained markers.
You do not need to follow a course for this Module.


The background

Are there minimum qualifications to take a Delta Course?

To enter for Modules One and Three of the Delta scheme, you don't need to take a course at all so there are no minimum qualifications and background experience requirements.

For Module Two:

Ideally, you should have an initial teaching qualification plus at least one year's experience, preferably in more than one setting and with a range of types of learners.  However, many course providers will bend these requirements slightly if they believe that you have other, compensating, skills and experience and a good chance of being successful.  Other providers may require more, such as a first degree.

Additionally, you are required to write, in suitable academic style, over 14,000 words during a Module Two course, not including lesson plans, so the ability to use English competently and appropriately is vital.
That applies whether you are a native or a non-native speaker of English.
Within the Delta section there is a guide to writing style for Delta (and any other course at a similar level).


Choosing a centre

Who can I trust for advice about Delta and how do I choose where to take a course?

The only Module of the Delta for which you must take some kind of course is Module Two, which includes teaching practice and needs to be overseen by a qualified tutor.
You do not have to take a course for Modules One and Three and there is a complete, free Module One course on this site (linked in the list of related guides at the end and here).  Many people do, however, opt to take courses for Modules One and Three and there are good ones (and some of the other sort).

What follows is entirely independent advice.  This site is not affiliated to any Delta centre or any organisation.

The first choice you need to make is between a face-to-face course provider and an on-line course.

face to face

Face-to-face courses

These are the most common, and the most popular, and there are centres worldwide offering various forms of face-to-face courses for some or all the Delta Modules.
Most of these will be enhanced by a form of on-line facility (often something like a Moodle site) but all assessments of teaching will be done by qualified tutors.
On most of these courses, too, you will have access to a decent ELT library and other resources.
You will also, probably, have the opportunity for face-to-face tutorials with tutors to sort out any difficulties, give you an honest evaluation of your progress and provide advice and support.
On these courses, it is the centre which arranges for an external assessor.
Face to face courses come in three sorts although there are variations:

  1. Intensive courses run full-time, typically over an 8- or 10-week period.  These courses allow you to focus on the demands of Delta without the distraction of working to support yourself.  There is usually a good camaraderie among participants.  The learners who form the teaching-practice classes are generally recruited in the same way as on initial courses such as CELTA and are often motivated and friendly volunteers.
    If you are taking a course like this away from your home base, you need to factor in the costs of subsistence and accommodation and that can be quite variable.
  2. Semi-intensive courses run typically over 16 to 20 weeks.  These courses are for people who have good time-management skills and can focus on the course as well as holding down a job to pay the bills.  Usually, you will have to commit to at least two long evening sessions every week and there will often be a number of weekend sessions as well.  On these courses, you will normally teach your own students in your own institution with the tutors travelling to you.  That's an advantage many people underestimate.
  3. Extended courses run over an academic year (at least 9 months) or longer in some cases.  On these courses, you will usually have to attend at least one evening session a week but there may be breaks in the programme.  On these courses, too, you will usually teach your own students in your own institution.  If you take a course like this, you need to be confident that you will be in a teaching job in the area for the duration of the course.

On-line courses

Preparation for Module One (which is assessed through a written examination) and for Module Three (which is assessed through an externally marked long essay) is reasonably straightforward for on-line course providers.  There are lots of paid-for online courses for those two Modules of the Delta but this site has one which is free.

At the moment, it is possible to take a course for Module Two, including all the assessed teaching assignments entirely online with no face-to-face contact.  Nobody anywhere knows how long this will be the case.
On these courses, input sessions are delivered remotely via some form of conferencing software and teaching assessments are done in three ways:

  1. With the tutor or external assessor and you in a face-to-face setting with the learners (the way it has traditionally been done)
  2. With you in a face-to-face setting with the learners and the tutor / assessor viewing the lesson remotely via a conferencing facility.  The lesson must be live.
  3. With you, the learners and the tutor/assessor all working in separate locations and connected via the conferencing facility.

Distance courses

Traditionally, only three centres offered a distance learning course for all three Delta modules.  The advent of online assessments in one form or another has meant, however, that many courses may be considered distance learning / training of some sort.
The first hurdle distance courses needed to overcome is how to assess, support and evaluate teaching practice in Module Two when no qualified tutor is available locally to observe and report on teaching assignments.
Centres running distance-learning programmes for Delta Module Two developed a variety of solutions to this issue:

  1. Local Tutors
    These sorts of courses rely on a network of local tutors who are not, for the most part, Delta accredited tutors but they are Delta qualified, or should be.
    On these courses, it is usually the candidate's responsibility to find a local tutor who will observe teaching, give feedback according to Cambridge's criteria and be able to help and advise with lesson planning, preparation and other Delta Module Two demands.
    Local tutors are, normally, trained by the main course provider but you need to bear in mind that such people are not trained, standardised or monitored by anyone else.  Quality is inevitably variable and the feedback you receive on your essays, preparation and teaching may not be fully in line with how an external assessor may apply the criteria.
    External assessors for the Delta cannot and will not take poor local-tutor advice into consideration when assessing for Module Two.  If the advice you have been given is inadequate, you may not pass despite your best efforts.
    Better centres also insist that local tutors fulfil a number of other requirements.  Check what these are before you entrust a centre with your money.  These often include but are not limited to:
    1. Holding a Delta, DTEFLA (Delta's predecessor) or an MA in Applied Linguistics or another qualification such as The Trinity Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (DipTESOL).  You should remember that claiming to hold the Delta means that you have passed all three modules which make it up.
    2. Being very experienced.  This usually means experience of teaching a wide range of levels in a variety of settings.
    3. Having previous teacher training experience.  This means working as an academic manager involved in training and supervising teachers, giving talks and seminars, leading workshops and working on teacher development programmes.  This experience will usually also mean having been extensively involved in observing and evaluating teaching.
      Be aware that having been a CELTA trainer is not usually considered enough for this role.
    4. Undertaking a training programme.  This usually means taking a fairly rigorous course often involving many hours of online work and assignment writing.  If the centre you are considering giving your money to does not run a decent training course for local tutors, think carefully.
  2. Induction courses
    Some, not all, distance-learning course providers offer the opportunity to take a one- or two-week induction course during which there will be the opportunity for your teaching to be observed by a properly qualified and experienced Delta tutor.  This may involve extra costs but has obvious benefits.
  3. Monitoring
    Good providers will, as a matter of course, carefully monitor the performance of local tutors to ensure that all written work is being fairly assessed in accordance with the criteria and that the advice and feedback you are getting is up to the standard required.  Make sure you check that this is the case.

There are fewer of these sorts of courses.  The Cambridge site where you can find a course provider lists three distance-learning courses and they differ little in how the course is delivered.  Click here to go to that site.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, ALL Delta centres may now offer fully online courses for all three modules of the Delta scheme.  If you go to the link above, and search for a Distance Delta centre (via the United Kingdom) you will only be offered the three established online centres.
This is, of course, nonsense now because many other centres, previously offering only face-to-face courses, are now offering a range of online-only options.
The temporary arrangements for online-only Delta courses are under review and serious consideration is being given to making the change a permanent one (as is already the case, incidentally, for CELTA courses).
If the centre you are considering is not listed on that site, be very careful to ensure that the standards of local tutors and monitoring are adequate.  Delta is not a cheap option.


Problems you may face

If you decide to all or part of your Delta via an on-line course provider, there are some issues to consider:

  1. On distance-learning courses you will often have to pay the expenses for an external assessor to come to you and that can be very costly in parts of the world where no assessor is locally based and an assessor may have to travel long distances to get to you.
  2. If you are working somewhere which does not have a good ELT library or in a place where no such resources are available, you also need to factor in the considerable costs of buying a range of reference materials.
  3. You will not, usually, have the opportunity to interact with people in the same position as you and bounce ideas around.
  4. You will not have face-to-face contact with someone who can advise and help.  Distance-learning tutors are not available all the time.
  5. Because there may be large distances (and time zones) separating you from the centre's staff, you may find that they are unable to appreciate the peculiarities of your setting.
  6. Your local tutor may not be adequately experienced or trained and be applying the criteria for assessment differently from the way Cambridge-appointed assessors for Module Two apply them.
  7. You have no way to know who is marking your written work or what their levels of training, expertise and experience are.

Whichever form of course you opt for, the factors to consider are the same.  You may also like to look at the guide to frequently asked questions about the Delta.


Questions to ask and centres to avoid

Regrettably, Delta has become much like any other commodity.  You get, if you are careful and fortunate, what you pay for.  There are many dedicated, well-informed and able tutors who will work hard to help you succeed and a few of the other sort, too.
Most organisations who offer Delta courses are doing it to make a profit.  If you appreciate that, you can approach the choices with a suitably sceptical attitude.
If you take your car to a workshop for repair, you do not want the mechanics to learn how to fix it by practising on your vehicle.  So it is with Delta.

  1. Is the centre up to date?
    If there's a reading list or a library list, how many of the books and references are up to date?
  2. Does the centre run a course for Module Two?
    Do not trust a centre which only offers Modules One and/or Three.  They know, and so do you now, that you don't need to do a course at all for these modules and there is no oversight from Cambridge regarding the tutors or the content of courses ostensibly preparing for Modules One or Three.  It is, however, a good way for some organisations to make a few pennies (yours, in this case).
  3. Are the tutors accredited?
    A centre that can't also offer preparation for Module Two may not have properly qualified tutors (that's why it isn't accredited to run a course for Module Two).
    This is not to say that there aren't good courses out there for Modules One and Three, just that there are more of the other sort.
  4. Are the tutors qualified and experienced?
    Delta is a Master's degree level qualification.  You will be wise to check that the tutors a centre employs are up to the demands of teaching at that level.  The main course tutor, at least, should be someone with many years of experience teaching at this level.
    Cambridge Assessment English does not have minimum qualifications for tutors and some are more able, more experienced and more qualified than others.
  5. What are the centre's pass rates?
    Be deeply sceptical of any centre that won't give you specific details about their pass rates.  Pass rates may not be a precise guide to quality but it's the best measure you have.
    Low pass rates may mean
    1. that a centre is not very concerned about pass rates and simply trying to deliver quality training to people who have a slim chance of passing but need the support and input that a Delta course can provide.  This is an entirely honourable thing to do.  Or,
    2. that a centre is so desperate to recruit people (and take their money) that they are taking people on to a course who have no realistic chance of passing or
    3. that the centre has poor, ill-informed tutors who are not giving people proper advice and not planning a course in a way that allows you the opportunity to build on and develop your knowledge and skills or
    4. both b. and c.
  6. How does the centre select candidates?
    Do not trust a centre that does not interview properly or give you a pre-interview task to complete that really tests you.  If candidates are too casually selected, you may find yourself working with people who simply don't know enough or have the right background for the course.  This will deny you the opportunity to learn from your peers.
  7. Does the centre set out its and your responsibilities clearly?
    If a centre can't give you with a proper contract setting out what the centre guarantees and what your responsibilities are, walk away.
  8. What pre-course tasks are asked of you?
    Good course providers will have a proper pre-course task and reading list.  Ask to see what they have and how they will give you feedback on it.  If the centre provides nothing or just a list of books to read, consider walking away.  Good centres will provide a lot more direction than that and may even give you a copy of what they think you should read.
  9. Is the course too cheap?
    Delta courses are expensive and you need to buy the best quality you can afford.  The cheaper a course is, the less likely the centre will be able (or willing) to invest in high quality tutors and decent reference resources and so on.  You are not buying a cheese sandwich.
  10. If you go for a distance-learning option:
    1. What training does the centre provide for local tutors?
    2. How are local tutors selected and accredited by the centre?
    3. What qualifications does the centre demand of the local tutor?
    4. Will the local tutor's advice and grading of assignments be in line with the scheme's criteria for assessment?
    5. Who is checking?


Preparing for Delta

The majority of people opt to take a full course for Delta, preparing for all three Modules at the same time.  There is no requirement to do this because you can enter independently for Modules One and Three and you can take the Modules in whatever order you like.  Only Module Two, because it involves assessment of practical teaching skills, requires you to take a course at (or at a distance from) a recognised centre with accredited tutors.
Once you have decided how you are going to do the Delta, here are some places to go on this site to prepare you in terms of language and skills analysis, methodological background, terminology and practice.
(All links open in a new page or tab, so close the page to return to this one.)

Within the indexes, you will find links to specific areas.
courses on this site an index of courses on this site which will help to bridge the gap between an initial qualification and Delta
the combined in-service index guides to language systems and skills at Delta level.  This index contains links to all guides at this level.
the combined initial plus index simpler guides to many areas.  This index contains links to all guides at this level.
The Bridge a set of guides falling midway between initial training and diploma-level training focusing on specific, important areas
the A-Z index an index of all the guides in the training sections of this site
teacher development index for some ideas of what to do before a Delta course to develop your teaching skills
glossaries here you will find links to a range of glossaries covering all aspects of a Delta course as an indication of what you'll need to know
Guides related specifically to Delta
the Delta index links to all the Delta-specific topics on this site
preparing for Module Two a short guide to the things you should be doing and what you should know before you start a course
study skills for Delta a guide concerning what will be asked of you and what cognitive demands will be made of you
the Delta overview to familiarise yourself with the components of the Delta scheme
FAQs the answers to some frequently asked questions about Delta
the Delta Module One course a free preparation course on this site for Delta Module One to prepare you for the examination
the Delta Module Three an overview of the requirements of Module Three with a suggested self-study guide
the Delta Handbook a free guide to the whole of the Delta scheme to help you before and during a course
writing style guide this is a guide to style and structure for Delta and other courses at a similar level