We’ve mentioned before on this blog how the exciting news in the Spanish instruction community is the implementation this year of the new SIELE exam. The initials stand for “Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española” and the test will join the DELE “Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera “ as an international certification of Spanish language ability. Both of these exams will give schools, universities and employers an objective evaluation of a candidates knowledge Spanish. According to Víctor García de la Concha, the director of the Cervantes Institute (an institution with a leadership roles in both of these exams) the SIELE is not mean to replace the DELE, but rather to complement it, but this begs the question: what is the difference between the SIELE and the DELE, and which exam is best for you?
Let’s take a look at some of the main differences between the two systems of Spanish evaluation.
One Exam or Several? The DELE is in fact a series of tests, and you choose to take the one most suited to your level. If you pass, you get certified for that level. If you do not pass, you don’t get a thing. On the other hand, the SIELE is a one-size-fits-all test where you try to score as many points as you can. There is no pass or fail, just a score based on a scale of 0 to 1000.
Levels With the DELE, you can test up to the C2 level (a measurement within the so-called Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFRL). The C2 level corresponds to mastery, where one can easily understand any kind of spoken language and express him/herself with correctly and with ease. On the other hand, the SIELE measures only to the C1 level, which is an advanced, operational level of proficiency.
Certifying Body A DELE certificate is a recognition from the Government of Spain. The SIELE on the other hand is backed by the creators: the Cervantes Institute and three reputable universities. For practical purposes though, both the DELE and SIELE certificates are very authoritative credentials.
Time Valid The SIELE Certificate is valid for 2 years, whereas the DELE certification lasts a lifetime. Have you ever heard the expression “use it or lose it”? Well, just as languages are learned, they can also be forgotten, so having a time-sensitive certification like the SIELE makes very good sense.
International Recognition The DELE already has very good name recognition, particularly in Europe, but I suspect that the SIELE will soon become better known for two reasons: the point system makes it an easier exam to understand by third parties, and the projections for the numbers of people who will eventually take the SIELE (700,000 by 2021), far outstrips the number of people who are now sitting the DELE (approx. 70,000 per year).
Eligible Candidates The SIELE is meant for all ages and it is being promoted as an exam for non-native and native-Spanish speakers to measure their Spanish level. Strangely though, the SIELE exam only measures up to the C1 level, which is not full-fluency. The DELE has a separate battery to test young learners, and they also have a version that tests up to a C2 level.
Exam Centers The DELE exam can already be taken all over the world at more than 900 locations, but the SIELE – thanks to the fact that it is administered online – will eventually outpace the DELE in terms of locations. Just this year, 120 centers are planned for Brazil, 100 in the USA and 60 in China. Thanks to the push by the promoter Telefónica, we can expect the expansion to be explosive. So, for now, it is still more convenient to take the DELE, but expect this to change in the near future.
Integration of Spanish Variants The Cervantes Institute is a firm believer that all variants of Spanish have validity, and in collaboration with their international partners, they have included regional accents and vocabulary in the SIELE. While the DELE includes variants, especially at the higher level, every we can expect and even more pan-Hispanic focus with the SIELE exam.
Type of Certificate Emitted If you pass the DELE, you receive a certificate that accredits your ability at the level you tested. Since the SIELE is not pass/fail, you receive a certificate showing your score. Interestingly, with the SIELE, you have the option to sit the exam in parts, in which case you receive a report, not a certificate, describing the level in the tested area.
All in all, the SIELE seems to be a more flexible test and I imagine that over time it will likely take much of the DELE’s market share, however, it is still too early to make a clear call. A lot will depend on the commitment of Telefónica to provide and promote the exam worldwide.
Without a doubt, an exam like the SIELE was long overdue, so thanks and recognition need to go out to the Instituto Cervantes, the Universidad Autónoma de México, and the Universidad de Salamanca and the Universidad de Buenos Aires. It took three years of very arduous labor to create the exam and to prepare the groundwork, but thanks to the vision and combined hard work of this collective, we have a new, agile exam that will be a boon to Spanish learners all over the world.
Want to prepare for the SIELE? Web Spanish can help. Our course follows the learning path laid out by the Common European Framework for Languages.