The Ultimate Spanish DELE Exam Guide of 2021 You Need to Bookmark
While learning Spanish for travel or relationships doesn’t need more than a desire to learn, employment in a Spanish-speaking job or entrance into a Spanish university might require proof of competency.
If you fall into this group, passing the DELE provides you with a valuable asset.
Let’s look at what the exam actually entails, what you can expect when taking it, how to best prepare, details like pricing and registration and even eight excellent study resources.
- What Is the DELE Exam?
- What Are the 6 DELE Exam Levels?
- Is the DELE Exam Difficult?
- Is the DELE Exam Worth It?
- What’s the Difference Between the DELE and SIELE?
- How Much Does the DELE Exam Cost?
- Everything You Should Expect When Taking the DELE Exam
- What You Need to Know About the DELE Exam
- 8 Delightful DELE Exam Resources to Help You Pass with Flying Colors
- Where to Find Past DELE Exams
What Is the DELE Exam?
DELE stands for diploma de español como lengua extranjera (Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language).
The tests are designed by the Universidad de Salamanca (University of Salamanca) in Salamanca, Spain. The university, located west of Madrid, also corrects and delivers a final evaluation of all exams to those who take them.
Instituto Cervantes (Cervantes Institute), located in Spain, plans the examination sessions.
Your exam scores act as certification to prove that you’ve reached a certain degree of competency in the Spanish language.
Anyone can take any of the DELE exams as long as they can prove they’re a citizen of a country where Spanish isn’t the official language, and registration is easy and can be done online.
When you pass a DELE exam, the certificate you receive never expires. So once you take a test and pass, you never need to do it again!
You can find out more about the DELE on the official website or on the Cervantes Institute website (both linked above), as well as this guide from FU International Academy Tenerife.
What Are the 6 DELE Exam Levels?
The exams are separated into six levels:
- Levels A1 and A2 test competency in the basic areas of Spanish and show an ability to communicate on general topics. Family, work, shopping and a few other common themes are part of these levels.
- Levels B1 and B2 are a bit more challenging. They deal with understanding texts and navigating situations that might occur when traveling and test your writing skills on simple subjects. They also test your ability to express thoughts and opinions.
- Levels C1 and C2 are the most difficult exams and certify that those who pass have a high level of competence in the language. They test your ability to understand intricate texts, whether your communication is fluent and your ability to write on complex subject matters.
The tests show proficiency in all facets of language learning—reading, writing, speaking and listening. The higher the level, the more challenging those exam questions will be.
In the past, reading comprehension material has been taken from Spain’s daily newspaper “El Mundo” (“The World”) so if you want to get a head start or just add on to your exam practice, check it out.
Is the DELE Exam Difficult?
Answering this question depends on several factors, such as the exam level, how long you’ve been studying Spanish and how well prepared you are.
But to give you a short answer first: No, I don’t think the DELE exam is difficult.
However, it’s very, very, very demanding.
Depending on someone’s Spanish level, the same DELE exam can be easy for you but super hard for another person.
If you’re already an advanced student, taking the A1 would be like child’s play. Likewise, if you’re an intermediate learner of Spanish, taking the C2 exam would be crazy.
If you have a look at the DELE curriculum, you’d probably have a heart attack.
There’s so much to cover it doesn’t seem to ever end. But that’s the whole thing, not your specific test.
You can click on the different sections depending on your level and get to know exactly what you’re expected to know.
Yes, it’s a lot, but this is the DELE exam.
And I have some encouraging news for you: I’ve prepared several students for different levels of the DELE and none of them has failed.
The DELE exam can be passed, but for that to happen, you need to work hard.
Is the DELE Exam Worth It?
¡Sí! Yes, the DELE exam is definitely worth taking.
There’s not a single reason why having this certification would be a bad thing. Really.
If you ask me, there are only pros when it comes to taking the exam and getting your diploma.
Here you have a few of them:
- You can use it to access schools and universities
- It’s a great asset to add to your CV/resumé
- It can land you the job of your dreams
- It’s officially recognized worldwide
- You can use it to apply for Spanish citizenship (from level A2 onwards)
- It never expires
As for personal reasons, when you pass your DELE exam:
- You’ll be super proud of yourself and feel accomplished
- You’ll be confident in knowing that you indeed have that level of Spanish (instead of just guessing)
- You’ll feel motivated to continue your language journey
So, yes, the DELE exam is totally worth it. Don’t even think about it. Go for it!
What’s the Difference Between the DELE and SIELE?
I’ve been talking about the DELE and it’s my goal with this post to set you up for a successful score. But did you know there’s another test Spanish learners can take known as the SIELE?
It’s not as common, but I feel it’s worth mentioning if we’re going to talk about the DELE exam in its entirety.
So what’s the difference?
Both the DELE and the SIELE are official exams you can take to assess your knowledge of Spanish.
Even though they have some points in common—like the fact that they focus solely on Spanish or that they give you an official certification after you pass—there are a few key differences between them.
You can read in detail about all the differences and similarities between both exams on this site. In the meantime, here you have a list of the most important points:
- The DELE certification never expires, while the SIELE is valid for only five years
- You have to take all the DELE exams for a specific level (listening, reading, writing and speaking), while the SIELE allows you to get tested on language skills individually
- The DELE diploma is officially recognized worldwide, but the SIELE is only accepted by SICELE members
- You can only take the DELE exam on specific dates, while the SIELE can be done whenever you want
- The DELE is compulsorily done on paper, while the SIELE is done electronically in an examination center
Taking one exam or the other will mainly depend on your needs.
If you need a quick way of demonstrating your Spanish language skills, the SIELE is a better option because it can be done anytime during the whole year.
The same happens if you only need a certificate stating your language level. The SIELE will give you a certificate even if you get zero points, and you’ll have a document that says your Spanish level is A1. It’s like an “Oprah exam,” everyone gets a certificate!
Another advantage the SIELE has over the DELE is that you can check your mastery of specific skills. If you only need to prove your speaking skills or your writing talent, you just have to take those parts of the exam.
On the other hand, if you need to demonstrate you have a deep knowledge of Spanish and you master every language skill, you’d have to take the DELE exam.
The DELE is much more demanding and you’ll need more time to prepare for it, but the benefits are also bigger, and having a DELE diploma can certainly improve your CV/resumé.
At the end of the day, you decide which one is the right exam for you.
Both are official, internationally recognized and accepted exams, but one (the SIELE) only tells your level of Spanish, while the other (the DELE) really tests your knowledge of Spanish and can open more doors for you.
How Much Does the DELE Exam Cost?
One of the downsides of the DELE exam is its price.
The exams for each level have to be paid separately, and normally the prices grow as the level goes up. And it’s important to note that prices might vary depending on the country you leave and the center where you’re planning on taking the exam.
For reference, the price of the A1 exam in 2021 in Spain is 108 euro, while the C2 exam is 220 euro.
The good news is that you don’t have to pass all the previous levels to get a C2 diploma. You can take an exam for any level you want if you feel ready.
What I do with my students is to first assess the Spanish level they have according to this level test, (or this one, if they want an easier one), and then aim for one level higher while they get ready to take the exam.
Everything You Should Expect When Taking the DELE Exam
How Long Is the DELE exam?
The DELE exam can take between two and a half and five hours approximately (including breaks), depending on the level.
For instance, the A1 exam includes four tests:
- Reading comprehension (45 minutes)
- Listening comprehension (25 minutes)
- Written expression and interaction (25 minutes)
- Oral expression and interaction (10 minutes + 10 minutes to prepare)
The C2 exam only includes three tests. However, they’re much longer:
- Use of language, reading and listening comprehension (105 minutes)
- Integrated skills: Listening and reading comprehension, and written expression and interaction (150 minutes)
- Integrated skills: Reading comprehension and oral expression and interaction (20 minutes + 30 minutes to prepare)
How Long Does It Take to Receive My DELE Exam Results?
After you finish your exam, you’ll have to wait around three months to get your results.
You’ll first get notified via e-mail. You’ll get to know if you’ve passed and, if so, you’ll be able to access your digital certificate (the digital certificate can be used as proof of your Spanish knowledge while you wait for the actual diploma).
Later on, you’ll receive your diploma through postal mail. You can also go to the center where you took the exam and pick it up personally.
How Do I Pass the DELE Exam?
To pass the test, you’ll need to get an overall score of 60% out of a total of 100 possible points.
However, the DELE exam is prepared to make sure you’ve mastered all the language skills, so you need to get 60% on each test to actually pass it.
For instance, if you get 100% in three tests but 55% in one, you won’t pass, so you need to practice all four major language skills plus grammar and vocabulary at the appropriate level before taking it.
The final grade will be either PASS or FAIL, according to the criteria I’ve just described.
If you fail your exam or don’t agree with your grade, you can ask for a revision. But bear in mind that your original score can be lowered if the person revising the exam finds any additional mistakes or thinks you deserve fewer points on a specific question.
Do DELE Scores Expire?
The greatest thing about the DELE scores is that they never expire.
You can try to pass the DELE exam for a different level if you so wish, but once you’ve passed a level, that score will always and forever be valid.
What You Need to Know About the DELE Exam
How to Know Which DELE Exam to Take
The level of the exam you want to take will ultimately depend on you and your Spanish knowledge.
But sometimes, you need a second opinion to confirm your estimate!
If you’re learning with a teacher, they should have enough information about your Spanish skills to give you an answer that fits you personally.
Generally speaking, I always advise my students to go for one level higher than the one they have when they start preparing for the exam.
Obviously, there are exceptions—like a person who starts learning Spanish from scratch and decides to wait till they reach the B1 level to take the exam, or an advanced student who’s already reached the C2 level “in theory” but wants to make it official.
Whatever you decide, it’s crucial that you choose a specific level before you start preparing for the exam, because the curriculum for each level is very different. The last thing you want to do is waste your time on unnecessary topics or ignore anything important.
If you don’t have a Spanish teacher, you can also try taking a proficiency test or two, like the ones I linked to earlier.
Where to Take the DELE Exam
The DELE exam can be taken at an Instituto Cervantes or an examination center—and there are plenty out there. 1,000 places in 100 countries, to be exact.
To find one near you, you can use the Instituto Cervantes center search engine (in Spanish).
When Can You Take the DELE Exam
The DELE exams can only be taken on specific official dates, and all the centers around the world have their exams on the same days.
It’s important to remember two things when deciding the date of your exam:
- Not all levels are offered on all the dates
- You have to register for a specific date before the registration period ends
You can have a look at all the available dates for 2021 on the dele.org site.
How to Sign Up for the DELE Exam
You can sign up for the DELE exam online (if you’re going to take the exam in Spain) or personally in the center where you’re planning to take it.
If you’re going to take the exam in Spain, you can start your registration process by creating a user account on the Instituto Cervantes website. You’ll be able to register for the exam through your account.
If you’re going to take the exam outside of Spain, you’ll have to go to the center you’ve selected and bring:
- Two copies of the application form
- Original and photocopy of a photo ID
- A document accrediting the payment of the registration fee (you’ll need to contact your center first to get further details on this)
Sounds like a lot of trouble to register for an exam, but believe me when I say it’ll be worth it.
After all this red tape has been done, your next step will be getting ready for the actual test.
To help you with that, I’ve created a list of the best eight resources to prepare for the DELE available at the moment.
All of them are amazing, so feel free to choose one, two, three or all of them!
8 Delightful DELE Exam Resources to Help You Pass with Flying Colors
Since most of the resources I listed below have coursework or materials for each level of the exam, they’re all suitable for anyone who’s preparing to take one. And if one doesn’t, I’ve left a note about it.
The materials covered are basically the same for each course.
The exams are standardized, so the coursework is fairly standard, as well.
It’s just a matter of choosing a resource or course that suits your scheduling and financial needs.
Choosing an in-home method of preparing is a flexible option and certainly less costly than attending structured classes in Spain. But whatever your time or budget, there’s a course that’ll work for you!
It’s also important to note that, while preparing specifically for the DELE will help you pass the test, studying Spanish as a whole will not only help you gain confidence in your Spanish skills but will also have you strolling into the testing center feeling much more secure. And, it might help to reduce burnout.
That’s why I recommend that you use more complete learning programs in addition to the DELE preparation materials that I’m about to introduce to you.
FluentU’s language learning platform, for example, has compiled authentic media clips and turned them into bite-sized study sessions. You can take the information that you learn from the DELE resources, then see them in action in real native videos like movie clips, inspirational talks, music videos, news segments and other media that Spanish speakers around the world actually watch.
Videos on FluentU have interactive subtitles, quizzes based on vocabulary from the videos you watched, flashcards with corresponding exercises that change based on your previous answers and more.
Using the resources below and your favorite general Spanish learning tool is the recipe for acing the DELE.
“Preparación DELE” (“DELE Preparation”)
“Preparación DELE” is a series that covers the six exam levels. There are two books for each level.
This book and CD are targeted toward Exam B2—the upper-intermediate level—but its format is consistent with that of the other books in the series.
If you plan to take higher-level exams, you can get a taste of how this prep material works with this set. And you’ll be refreshing your memory for intermediate materials, as well!
The books provide several practice exams, guidelines for the exams and tips for taking them.
As some reviewers note, you can use this book even if you aren’t planning to take the test as a way to track and test your learning progress.
“El cronómetro A2: Manual de Preparation del DELE” (“The Stopwatch A2: Manual for DELE Preparation”)
This book is strictly exam preparation, meaning it covers only question types that you’re likely to find on the exam.
The manual is a series of exams that are intended to prepare you to take the DELE. There’s also an appendix section with advice on how to best study.
The book linked above is intended for level A2, but there are books for the other levels as well.
The book’s practice exams provide examples of just what to expect on the actual exams. And perhaps the best part is that there are answer keys so it’s possible to check on—and work on—potential problem areas.
Global Exam provides online training for all six levels of the DELE exam.
The website offers extensive resources, including training modules, thousands of practice questions, study sheets and strategies for doing well on the tests.
They’re so confident in their ability to help you pass the exams that they guarantee an 88% success rate after training with them for a month.
Additionally, there’s a free trial option to help you decide whether this is the best course for you or not.
This DELE preparation website covers only levels B1, B2, C1 and C2.
The courses are taught through video lessons and every learner can access the first lesson for free (registration is required but you don’t have to enter any payment information to check it out).
Web Spanish’s five-hour course called “Discovering the DELE” helps you decide which level to prepare for.
It also helps you determine your own strengths and weaknesses so that you can tailor your exam preparation to address any points that might need strengthening.
Video courses are taught by experienced teachers who’ll help you hone in on weak areas and strengthen them through instruction. As for pricing, you can pay in bulk for a certain number of hours, choosing the time package that works for you.
Instituto Cervantes (Cervantes Institute)
Instituto Cervantes is the same institution that plans the examination courses.
The DELE preparation courses they offer are intense, to say the least. There are six individual ones, one for every exam level.
The courses take place in Malaga, Spain and consist of 20 lessons each.
The maximum number of students per course is five, so there are lots of opportunities for individualized attention, and anyone 14 or older can enroll.
If going to Spain isn’t an option for you, you can instead choose to take lessons via Skype.
Españolé is a Spanish school located in Valencia, Spain that stresses culture learning as well as language learning at the school.
Their DELE exam preparation courses cover all six levels and have starting dates five times annually.
The courses are made up of 30 weekly lessons spread over four weeks each.
Similar to the previous course, the number of students in a class is limited. With Españolé, classes enroll a maximum of 10 students, but actually only contain four on average!
The Taronja School is an official DELE exam center that offers intensive exam preparation courses in Valencia, Spain.
However, they don’t offer courses for A1 or A2 because they feel that those exams are relatively easy for anyone with basic Spanish knowledge to pass.
Additionally, they don’t offer C2 coursework because they believe you need individualized preparation at that level. For those exams, they suggest taking private lessons with them.
They do offer exam preparation courses for levels B1, B2 and C1 though.
Courses begin five times per year and are 20 lessons weekly, running for four weeks total, and end right in time for the next scheduled DELE exam date.
That means once the course is complete, you can take the DELE exam right there in the school!
FU International Academy Tenerife
This Spanish school in Tenerife offers classes as well as private lessons for all levels of the DELE exam.
Their courses typically have three to eight students per course and the school will assess each students’ proficiency before advising on the exam they’re best suited to take.
Coursework helps you become familiar with the way the exams are structured, improves conversational fluency and helps you master the vocabulary for any particular exam level.
This school not only offers preparation courses but (like Taronja) also administers the DELE exams, so it’s possible to go through the process all in one place!
Where to Find Past DELE Exams
These eight resources include a lot of past exams and exam models for you to practice for hundreds of hours, but if you want more, you can get additional DELE fun on the official Instituto Cervantes website.
At the bottom of the page, just click the link “Modelo de Examen.” There are also a couple more old exams in the section.
Additionally, if you do a quick Google search, you’ll find millions of results for “past DELE exams,” which are usually the PDF files of the exams from the official site.
My personal recommendation is that you buy any of the books referred to in this post or choose another one from the official list of publications.
Whatever your reason is for learning Spanish, the future can hold anything.
That includes living or working in a Spanish-speaking country.
With solid credentials, you can go anywhere, anytime and do anything! The possibilities are endless.