In the flurry of preparation for the DELE C1 Spanish exam, about the time those doubts set in and I started wondering why on earth I’d signed up, I ended up buying a second book, the aptly named Preparación al Diploma de Español Nivel C1, published by Edelsa. This was in addition to El Cronómetro which I had been hoping would get me through.
I had managed to book myself ten private sessions of an hour each to practise the Oral, and although the teacher told me I was at the right level for the exam, she also reminded me that the mark only shows how good you are on the day. And to be honest, most days I really didn’t feel the right level. The teacher also pushed for me to do model listening exams during my sessions but there was no way I was going to waste 20 euros on a practice listening test when I could buy six of them for 25 euros, along with the rest of the six model exams that are found in Preparación. So I did just that. I had worked my way through most of El Cronómetro (you can read my review of the Cronómetro B2 version here), and I figured that the extra practice I’d get from the listening exams in a second book was a good compromise between what I needed most and what I could feasibly fit into my schedule around the kids. I didn’t cover all of Preparación. I have plenty left to do in case I fail! But I did use parts and especially the Listening. So here is a brief comparison of both exam prep books side by side:
- There are six model exams, compared to four in El Crono.
- The answer booklet (sold separately) highlights why the answer is correct, and sometimes why the other options are wrong. It also includes transcriptions, which for El Crono are found online.
- At least with a separate booklet, you cannot see the answers accidentally. In one or two places I found the Crono answers placed too close to the questions.
- Each exam focuses on one theme – mundo laboral, bienestar y salud, educación y formación, etc. This isn’t realistic as of course they are mixed in real life, but each starts with a page of vocab for that theme, so I suppose that could help you to master a wide range in a consistent way.
- The Listening exams were too easy. This was my main complaint. First of all, the audio felt markedly shorter and slower. In the Chronómetro audios, you had longer texts to listen to, making it harder to unearth the correct answers. Secondly, in Tarea 1, where you have to fill in gaps choosing from ten expressions to complete several sentences about the conference talk, the Preparación talk actually contained the same expressions which were the right answers. In El Cronómetro they used synonyms, which meant you had to understand the sense of the sentences.
- It had no strong Latin American accents unlike the Argentine accent in El Crono only quite easy ones. You really do need some practice with these …as I found out in the actual exam (post coming).
- From a practical perspective, the way the recording is organised does not reflect the exam. For one thing, you have to play each track twice manually rather than the CD having them recorded twice in the first place. This is fiddly when you are supposed to be filling in the answer sheet. Also, the tracks do not include the reading of the instructions, and at no time is there any time included to read the text before the audio begins, whereas the official website includes this. So you have to guess how long to leave yourself. I tried to underestimate to be on the safe side and managed to complete the 50mn test in just 32mn while scoring 29 out of 30. Having done the actual exam, I’m pretty sure my score was a far cry from that!
- The answer book comes separately, that is, costs more. About 5 euros on top of the 20 for the book, but this is comparable to the 24 euros I paid for El Crono. Possibly you could consult one owned by a friend or your language school.
El Cronómetro Pros:
- It has a lot more exercises all the way through. I only got it four months before the exam but I could have done with more time for the exercises.
- Working mostly on my own with very little feedback from teachers, I appreciated having a place to record your progress and compare your results from each section of the exam over time.
- Listening audios are recorded in a very similar way to the official exams, so you can learn to judge approximately how much time you have to read ahead.
- An Argentine accent represented in each listening test, albeit only one poor guy they dragged in each time.
- It contains answer sheets at the back which you can photocopy and get used to filling in the little boxes with a pencil if you so desire.
- It has several pages of idioms with a multiple choice definition quiz plus the answers.
- It also has several pages of contenidos gramaticales, one of those things that looks really useful to go through as a checklist of learned skills, but somehow never made it into my top priority tray.
All in all, if I had to pick, I would definitely go with El Crono. I think it’s crucial to get the listening prep right because along with the oral, it’s one where if you get completely lost in Question 1 you could be thrown off course for the whole rest of the test from sheer nerves. So that weighs heavily in my consideration. In addition, it would be misleading to think that the level in Preparación is sufficient for the listening test, even though the other parts seemed in line with El Crono, and the actual exam. Either way, you will need back-up to correct writing pieces and give feedback on your oral practice.