So far, Spanish was the only language I made a proficiency test. I decided to attempt the C1 level and I got the diploma.
How I learned Spanish
I learned Spanish in a language school when I was 13. My parents wanted me to take English classes, but as I had a great passion for Spain at that age, it was my dreamland; I managed to convince them to let me do the Spanish course. As I was so interested in Spain, learning the language was something that came very natural to me; in addition, the similarities between Portuguese and Spanish helped me a lot.
I attended the course for one year and stopped at the intermediate level, after that, I only had contact with the language again at the age of 21, when I went to US – yes, the United States – and met a lot of Hispanic speakers. So, I had the opportunity to practice a little of what I had learned years before.
Then, I practice again occasionally at age 23 while working with foreigners. When I was 24 I spent a week in Peru and with 26 years I spent 10 days in Spain. At 27, I finally decided to take the proficiency test, but as you can see my contact with the language was not constant and definitely, it wasn’t fresh in my head, so I decided to take intensive classes.
So, I spent three weeks’ vacation studying in Arequipa, Peru. That was about 4 hours per day. The classes were focused on grammar and conversation; and a little writing. Basically, the book we used in class was “Preparacion DELE. C1. Libro + CD (Spanish Edition)”, as mentioned in this post.
The book simulates the exercises of the exam, but I found them a little easier than the real exam. My vacation was in September, the test was only in November, so I continued to study at home using books, as grammar books and the “Preparación al Diploma de Español” book- but the C2 level, to get something more challenging. I also heard podcasts in Spanish and read the newspaper “El País”.
The C1 level
According to the Instituto Cervantes website of the C1 diploma level certifies that:
1. Understand a wide variety of long, quite demanding texts, as well as recognise implicit meanings in them.
2. Express themselves fluently and spontaneously, without any obvious effort to find the right words.
3. Use the language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.
4. And be able to produce clear, well-structured, detailed texts on topics having a certain level of complexity, with correct use of mechanisms for organising and articulating a cohesive text.
The exam lasted two days. On the first day, the evaluation was oral.
First, they gave me the option to choose between two themes, I don’t remember the theme I’ve chosen, but I had 20 minutes to read the text and take notes. After a few minutes, the evaluation started. First, the evaluator introduced herself and we started the conversation. She asked me to make a summary of the text and my opinion on the matter. The whole time there was another person evaluating the conversation.
After, she showed me a hypothetical situation with some possibilities. My theme was raising money for graduation students. I do not remember very well the options, but if I remember correctly, two of them were making T-shirts or to organize a party. When choosing your option, you have to justify the reason of your choice. The evaluator makes some interventions and gives some opinions. The oral evaluation lasts 20 minutes.
I did not do very well in the oral test, because I was very nervous. It was my worst skill and I while leaving the Instituto Cervantes I was feeling very discouraged. I thought I had finished with my chances of getting the diploma.
The second day of exam was much longer. We started by the reading comprehension test.
Reading comprehension test
1. We had two long texts and we had to answer questions about them, some about the text itself, others about grammar.
2. In the second exercise, we had to put in order disorderly excerpts from a text. Yet, there is a false extract between them, so one had to be careful when doing this exercise, which was my favorite.
Model of the exam
3. In this exercise we had to relate numerous reviews with phrases about them. Some reviews have more than one sentence to describe them.
4. The last exercise is a bit more focused on grammar. It is a basic fill the gaps, for each gap there are three options.
The reading comprehension test lasts 90 minutes
Then we did the listening comprehension test. The exercises were also basic and before we start doing them, we had one minute to read the texts. All audios are repeated twice.
1. In the first exercise we heard an audio and we had to fill blank gaps in a text. They give 12 options to fill these gaps, but there are only 6 gaps.
2. In the second test we heard several small dialogues without pause. And in the text we have to answer what the person did or wished.
3. After that, we heard an interview and we had to choose the correct answers about the interview. For me, this was the hardest exercise.
4. The last exercise is the most interesting. We heard dialogues of few seconds with idioms and we have to select the correct option about it.
The listening comprehension test lasts 50 minutes.
Listening comprehension and written expression and interaction test
In the written part of the test we had two exercises.
1. In the first exercise, we heard an audio on some subject and we had to do a little text with our opinion on the matter.
2. In the second part, we had to produce a text and we are presented with two options. We can write a letter or an argumentative essay. In my case, I choose to do a report to a magazine about child nutrition. The written test lasts 80 minutes. It seems like a great amount of time, but in the end I had to write super-fast in the official test sheet, that is, at this stage you need to plan your time well.
At the end of the second day I left very optimistic about the exam, despite the pain in the neck (literally, for sitting hours in a non-ergonomic chair), I knew that I had done well in this part of the exam and I was right. I almost aced the reading comprehension test, with an average of 24.38 points of 25.
After waiting for a few months, I was able to see the test results online. And, after almost a year I got my diploma at the Instituto Cervantes.
My final result was APTO, the minimum number of points to be considered APTO is 60, I made 75.34 points out of 100. It wasn’t a great result, but good enough to be approved.
Everything I did helped me in the exam, especially taking private classes. But the book “Preparacion DELE. C1. Libro + CD (Spanish Edition)” and hearing podcasts were also essential and without these resources, I don’t think I would have succeeded in the exam.
For more information and to better understand how the test works you can access the website of the Instituto Cervantes and see examination samples.
And you? Did you take the exam? How it was for you?