Last May, I took the Dele B2 exam in Utrecht (Netherlands) and in August (these things take a while) I learned that I had passed. To achieve this goal, I had of course been learning Spanish for quite some time. Also, I had prepared specifically for the exam with the help of some websites. This has helped me a lot. Knowing what to expect at the exam is very useful. For example, I had experienced beforehand that it’s not wise to try and read the answers to the multiple choice questions for the comprensión auditiva while listening to the audio. Semi-listening may work for me in Dutch, but in Spanish I need to concentrate on the audio 100% and read the answers before (preferably) or afterwards. You don’t want to find that out during the exam.
To be of help to future students who’d like to pass the Dele B2, I’m writing this blog.
I had been learning Spanish for years, using some of these resources (page is in Dutch) and, realizing that talking was my weakest skill, I took a group conversation course. Some of the other participants mentioned that they were going to do the B2 exam. I had never thought of this, but figured it would help me study more seriously if I set myself such a goal. So in January (New Year’s Resolution) I registered for the exam.
To prepare, I started googling and found, among others, this amusing blog with advice on how to prepare for the exam. I didn’t quite use her method, but I definitely like her style. One thing I did adopt from her was reading books in Spanish. I had been hesitant to do that, but after reading her blog I thought let’s just jump in. I’ve also, like this woman, listened to a massive amount of podcasts and I’m sure this has been very helpful.
I also decided to do this preparation course and this was also very useful, if only because it’s completely in Spanish. And it shows you what to expect at the exam, and teaches you (parts of) sentences that are needed at the prueba escrita.
One thing you definitely need to do is download the model exam and take it, setting a timer for yourself. For the comprensión de lectura, the answers are provided and doing this ’tryout’ exam gave me some confidence that B2 was not out of my league. On YouTube you can find examples of the comprensión auditiva, with answers. It’s also useful to practice the espresión escrita, even if (like me) you don’t have anyone who can correct it for you. Practising helped me realize that 80 minutes pass by very quickly when trying to write two assignments in Spanish. Also, it’s very important to practise active Spanish (writing, speaking), not just passive (reading, listening).
For me, the big mystery was the prueba oral. I had no idea at what level my speaking skills were and wasn’t very confident. So I made sure to practice the comprension auditiva very well, as you can (to a certain extent) compensate a lower oral score with a higher auditive score (and a lower reading score with a higher writing score, and vice versa). Make sure you know how the exam is scored beforehand, the abovementioned blog gives a good explanation.
So how did it go? It turns out I passed all four pruebas independently, no compensation needed. Yes, even the prueba oral. During that prueba I chattered like crazy, paying no attention at all to grammar, masculine and feminine, singular and plural. I must have made a ton of mistakes, BUT the examiner and I were having a pretty fluent conversation and I’m guessing that’s what mainly counts for level B2. I scored 17,54 (max is 25) and you need at least 15 or you’ll need to compensate.
So hopefully this helps readers who aren’t very confident about their oral skills. My advice would be to make sure you have a fluent conversation, and don’t pause for long times thinking about the right verbal tense or whether something is masculine or feminine. If you realize you’ve just used a masculine adjective with a feminine word, I’m guessing it helps if you correct it immediately, showing that you know what the correct formula is. But don’t pause your conversation for long times thinking “uhhhh, should this be a preterito or an imperfecto? Just say something. You have 20 minutes and you can’t let a big part of those be silence.
My experience in the other three pruebas (prueba de lectura, prueba auditiva, prueba escrita) was mainly: TIME GOES SO FAST! I needed every second. I managed to write the two assignments, completely, with an introduction, arguments and a signoff, but had no time left for revision. (My score: 17.81). Same goes for the reading exam: I had time to read and answer all the questions, but in all the cases where I had marked “I think it’s C but might be A” I had no time to check and just wrote C. (My score: 20.83).
In the listening exam I knew I shouldn’t allow my thoughts to drift away while listening to the audio, and for 95% of the exam I managed to do that. They play the audio two times, and I couldn’t answer all the questions during the first play, so I needed the second round to fill in the blanks. During one of these second rounds, I did get distracted and completely missed a part of the audio. So there I had to guess some answers. Luckily, this was during a prueba where there were only three possibilities (“was it Miguel, was it Paula, or neither?”) so a 33% chance of taking the right guess. I scored 21.67, which means that this prueba was my strongest and this matches the amount of time I had dedicated to it while studying: hours and hours of Spanish podcasts while driving to work. Ted en Español. El Mundo al Día. And many many more.
So, my advice to you:
- get informed about the exam and the way it is scored. You need to know what to expect and you need to have strategies (like my “don’t read the answers while listening to the audio” and also: “write your letter on the hoja de respuestas immediately, as you won’t have time to copy your draft to the hoja de respuestas“. Practise with the model exams that you can find on the internet.
- Immerse yourself in Spanish. Read your morning news in Spanish. Read books in Spanish (Don’t look up every word, looking up every word is the quickest way to lose all motivation.). Read magazines. Listen to podcasts. Watch Netflix series. Movies. Listen to songs. Start a Twitter account and write in Spanish. Set Spanish as the language on your laptop and mobile phone, so that you’ll see ‘marcadores’ instead of ‘bookmarks’ and ‘descargar’ instead of ‘download’ many times a day and never forget those words again. Watch television shows. Watch YouTube clips. One of my best discoveries is that watching YouTube tutorials in Spanish is perfect: while explaining something, people use a very clear Spanish and don’t speak so fast.
I wish you the best of luck!