This blog post brings together links to the best Spanish exam prep resources, to help you prepare for the DELE, SIELE or OPIc. We have selected for you, the top free online sites for practicing with relevant exercises graded per level, for doing model exams and for expanding your lexis with digital flashcards, based on appropriate reading, viewing and listening.
In preparing for the DELE exam ( “el examen DELE”), or for its online twin the SIELE, or the American equivalent OPIc, one needs a much wider range of resources than just a good Spanish grammar handbook. This is due to the special nature of these communicative exams, such as the DELE diploma. It tests your ability to communicate in Spanish – that is, to understand and to make yourself understood – rather than simply testing your knowledge of the rules of Spanish verb conjugation.
It is particularly important for one’s understanding of Spanish (i.e., for the reading and listening comprehension portions of the exam) to have a broad reference framework of Hispanic culture, history, traditions and lifestyle, against the backdrop of which you can contextualize what you read or hear. You also have to get your ear attuned to different Spanish accents. Similarly, your eye/mind must get accustomed to fast-reading Spanish text. At a more specifically exam-orientated level, you need to familiarize yourself with the exam format, and practice the skills it will require of you.
In years past, assembling the necessary DELE / SIELE / OPIc resources for self-study would have entailed frequent trips to the library, or costly subscriptions and book purchases. Fortunately, in today’s modern world of the internet, candidates for exams of Spanish have instant access to some truly excellent online resources, of which practically all are available gratis.
We have assembled a list of links to the best Spanish exam prep resources – websites that we use every day at DELEhelp.org with our own students. Even though we have written an ample set of in-house workbooks (which we make available free to our students) the reality is that preparing for the DELE exam is 1/3 tutoring and 2/3 self-study. For the latter, the resources we list here are as empowering as they are easy to access. The importance of active self-study, accompanied by passively immersing yourself in a Hispanic culture and the sound of Spanish at every opportunity, cannot be over-stressed.
FIRST AND FOREMOST: DOING MODEL EXAMS
To get a true sense of what these very different kind of exams entail, it is critically important to start doing model exams as early as possible. Doing these exams also serve as the most reliable diagnostic tool for assessing the current status of your Spanish competency, which initial diagnostic (we do it FREE) will enable your tutor and yourself to identify and address your weaknesses.
The only model exams available for preparing for the Spanish exams, are those for the DELE (simply because the SIELE and OPIc are online, computer-based exams for which the question configuration varies constantly, although the formats remain the same). However, since all three exams are based on the CEFR (the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) using the DELE model exams are excellent and very relevant practice for all three exams, for all four the skill sets tested (reading & listening comprehension plus Written and oral expression).
The particular DELE model exams we use and recommend, are available as e-books. This ensures quick availability (most of the other model exam books exist only in print and are often difficult to obtain via Amazon, needing to be ordered from the publisher in Spain, taking time to reach you). Of the list of resources that we will provide today, this is the only one that isn’t entirely free (however, the e-books we recommend are much cheaper than the print books, being only €9.90 each, which includes its audio tracks and answer keys – for the print books you usually have to buy the answer keys additionally, and pay postage).
We recommend the Nuevo Examen Dele e-books by our collaborator Dr. David Giménez Folqués, which you can order online via this link.
Being e-books they are up-to-date, easy to use, affordable and available immediately for download.
There is also a Facebook group for these model exam books, which you can join via this link.
PRACTICE SPANISH WITH THE EXAM ADMINISTRATORS
The Instituto Cervantes (which oversees the DELE and SIELE exams on behalf of the Spanish ministry of education) runs a marvelously useful joint effort with the Spanish news agency EFE. It is called Practicaespañol, and it has as objective to provide daily practice to learners of Spanish, based on the news actualities of the day. The exercises are graded in terms of the different DELE levels and contain all the elements tested in the DELE / SIELE, including audio and reading comprehension, grammar tips and vocabulary lists – all with English translation in parallel. One can subscribe to the site, which is entirely free, to receive daily e-mail feeds with exercises and news articles. This truly great resource can be accessed via this link.
Another initiative of the Instituto Cervantes is the Cervantesvirtual online library and video collection. It is a magnificent resource for books in Spanish, and also has a YouTube channel where videos with interviews and cultural excerpts are regularly carried. These resemble the type of audio material used in the exams for listening comprehension and therefore form a valuable resource for practicing this aspect of the exam. You can access the Cervantes YouTube channel via this link:
PRESS AND LITERATURE
Very often the Reading Comprehension texts in the DELE exams are taken from the two leading Spanish daily newspapers, El Mundo and El País. These both have free online editions. This is the El Mundo link.
Remember to not only read the front page actualities, but also the specialized sections on education, art & culture, science and the like. El País has got an edition for the Americas, which can be reached via this link.
There’s a wide range of free e-books in Spanish available today, both from Amazon Kindle and from Free e-Books.net. As part of your passive learning, reading Spanish books for pleasure is a good way of expanding vocabulary, getting a feel for spelling, and learning about Spanish society’s values and norms.
Free e-Books.net’s Spanish section can be reached via this link.
The free Spanish e-book section on Kindle can be reached via this link.
RADIO AND FILM / YOUTUBE
An important segment of our links to best Spanish exam prep resources, relate to video and radio – because in these exams of communicative competency, the proven most difficult skills are the listening comprehension and oral expression.
An excellent free resource for attuning your ear, expanding your lexis and mastering the most frequent grammar patterns, is the award-winning 11-part video series “Mi Vida Loca” produced by the Spanish section of the educational division of the BBC. This resembles a telenovela (which makes it interesting to watch), but it is in fact a very well-designed multi-function audiovisual tutorial, well worth watching.
To really immerse yourself in the sound of Spanish, there’s no better way than keeping Spanish talk radio on in the background. We selected one channel each from Spain, Argentina and Mexico, which have live streaming via the internet. These channels will give you opportunity to attune your ear to different accents, and have the advantage that they are spread through different time zones. Listening to them will also keep you abreast of current affairs in the Hispanic world, as well as giving you an insight into the Hispanic outlook on life.
SPAIN: RNE Radio5 todo noticias (http://www.rtve.es/radio/radio5/)
MEXICO: Metropoli 1470am (http://www.radioformula.com.mx/) select “radio en vivo”
ARGENTINA: Radio Mitre (http://player.cienradios.com/Mitre_AM790)
Listening to the radio in the background is a largely passive learning exercise. More active listening and viewing can be achieved by looking at Spanish film and soap operas. Netflix has a wide range of material in Spanish, from children’s programmes (which would suit the beginner levels) through comedy to serious drama. It is often possible to view these with English subtitles. If you aren’t subscribed to Netflix, many Spanish-language soapies are available free on YouTube.
One of the best telenovelas for more advanced students, is “la Reina del Sur”, based on the acclaimed novel by top Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This series provides good exercise in following different accents (such as the Mexican/Sinaloan, North African, Andalusian and Galician).
EXPANDING YOUR LEXIS (VOCABULARY & EXPRESSIONS)
One of the main purposes of listening to radio / TV and reading books and the news media, is to expand your lexis: your vocabulary, link phrases, collocations and expressions. It is impossible to express yourself properly without an ample lexis, and equally impossible to comprehend fully what you read or hear, if you do not possess a substantial “knowledge of words and of the world”. This latter phrase was stated as the key to succeeding in comprehension tests, by one of the leading experts in the field (see our blog post with tips for acing the reading comprehension portion of the DELE exam, for more on the critical importance of an ample lexis).
Probably the greatest tool for researching the meaning and correct use of the new words that you encounter in your reading and listening, is the world’s largest online dictionary: Farlex-theFreeDictionary. It helps you identify words that you may not have the exact spelling for, and gives the meaning and uses of words in Spanish, as well as giving it in English. You can also listen to a correct pronunciation. The Free Dictionary by Farlex can be accessed via this link.
Once you have clarified the meaning and use of a new word, it is essential to memorize it. The best means of doing so is by using flashcards – either the old-fashioned cardboard ones, or (preferably) the new digital versions. You can download flashcard software, such as ANKI.com or Quizlet (paid). Or you can access free online flashcard repositories that already have thousands of sets of Spanish words available, such as Cram.com (you can also create your own sets on Cram, which has a very nice selection of flashcard games with which you can learn your words while playing, rather than having to rote learn them and bore yourself to close to death).
Anki can be downloaded via this link.
Cram.com’s existing Spanish word flashcard sets can be accessed via this link.
The links we have provided above are all for your PC/laptop; these sites also have apps, which you can download on your mobile device.
ONE OF THE TOP LINKS TO BEST SPANISH EXAM PREP RESOURCES: OUR FREE DELEhelp WORKBOOK:
At DELEhelp we have created in-house Workbooks to supplement the public resources such as the above, filling gaps in the latter’s scope with regard to students’ needs. These workbooks are available free to our registered students. Some of them are also available free to the readers of this blog (see image above). You can ask for the download link to our 95-page Workbook #9.2: DELE /SIELE Exam Orientation and Acing Tips, free and without obligation to register for classes – simply click on the image to access our easy contact form.
This free sample e-book is the only DELE/SIELE exam preparation book to explain in detail, in English, the DELE/SIELE’s exam goals, structure, curriculum inventory and scoring criteria. You can unsubscribe at any time, so why not give it a try and receive this valuable resource as a free gift.
So, there you have our curated links to the best Spanish exam prep resources. To learn more about our personalized DELEhelp online exam prep coaching services, please access our page on the website of our mother institution, Excellentia Didactica, by clicking on the image below. With us, you can study in the comfort of your own home (which is both convenient and cost effective), with your own personalized study plan based on our comprehensive initial diagnostic (which is free), enjoying the experienced and expert guidance of your 1-on-1 coach – all at the unbeatably low rates that our being based in low-cost Guatemala makes possible.
Gracias por su atención
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- The best DELE exam prep is expanding your lexis