If you are learning Spanish at some point you may need an official certificate to evidence your Spanish level; for example, it could be a requirement to attend university, to receive a scholarship or to begin a new job.
In the Hispanic world there are 2 main exams which you can use to certify your Spanish level: DELE and SIELE. Whilst the first is perhaps more well-known, the SIELE has its own characteristics which make it preferable for some circumstances.
1. The main differences between DELE and SIELE
The SIELE exam is promoted by the Cervantes Institute, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the University of Salamanca and the University of Buenos Aires, as the main institutions, which guarantee quality standards and good practices, in the creation of the exams as well as in the communication of results. Furthermore, it also has the support of international organizations such as CRUE (Spanish acronym for Conferencia de Rectores de las Universidades Españolas), ACLES (Spanish acronym for Asociación de Centros de Lenguas en la Enseñanza Superior), the American Seal of Biliteracy, the Education Office of Hungary, the French National Board of Professional Certificates, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in the Czech Republic…
DELE is the classic way of certifying your level in a language, same as the Cambridge exams for English or the DELF/DALF for French. Following the guidelines of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), DELE is divided into 6 exams based on and structured by the different levels that go from A1 up to C2. The DELE certificate is awarded by the Cervantes Institute and comes with both international recognition and great prestige, reasons which mean it is accepted by many public organizations and academic organizations. It is an exam which may only be taken on a specific date in authorized examination centres, the certificate does not expire and it takes approximately 3 months to receive your results.
The SIELE (Spanish acronym for Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española) is a more modern type of Spanish certificate. It is done electronically via a computer, either in an exam centre or remotely, and consists of a single exam for all levels – also structured according to the CEFR – with points ranging from the level A1 to C1. In contrast to the DELE, the results only have a validity of 5 years. The fact it is an entirely digital exam means that the SIELE has certain advantages over the DELE which, according to the necessities of the student, can be very beneficial, and you can see these advantages below.
2. Advantages of SIELE
One of the main advantages of SIELE is the flexibility of dates on which you can do the exam. In contrast to the traditional certificates, set and completed on fixed (and unchangeable) days, the SIELE can be adapted to your availability; you can book your exam on any day you would like and this can be done up to 48h before the exam takes place.
Furthermore, the fact that it consists of only one exam for all levels means that you will always get a level of at least A1 or higher, without having to reach a minimum level of Spanish before taking the exam. The SIELE is marked on a scale of 0 to 1000 points, which reflects your knowledge of Spanish without having to reach the specific levels of the CEFR e.g. A2, B1, C1 … In other words, you can neither pass nor fail the SIELE: it certifies your Spanish level the moment in which you take the exam.
As it is a digital exam, the time taken to receive results is much less: a maximum of 3 weeks. Therefore, considering also how easy it is to make a reservation, the SIELE appears the ideal exam if you need to certify your Spanish level quickly, for cases such as university admissions or job applications, etc.
3. How is the SIELE exam?
The SIELE exam certifies your competency of the Spanish language via 4 exams which assess different skills: Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Writing, and Speaking.
There are 6 different types of SIELE exam but all the certificates have a validity period of 5 years. They are the following:
- SIELE Global: is the most ‘complete’ exam, it assesses all 4 of the previously mentioned skills. The price to take this exam is 155 euros and it allows you to obtain the SIELE certificate, a document with international recognition. The certificate level is calculated by the total of points from 0 to 1000, this being a sum of the points earned in each of the 4 exams and related to the levels of the CEFR.
As well as the SIELE Global there are 5 other types of exam, each being different combinations of the above assessed skills. They allow you to obtain a SIELE Report and the qualifications again relate to the levels of the CEFR.
- S1: includes the Reading and Listening Comprehension exams. It costs 55 euros and is scored out of 500 for the 2 exams.
- S2: includes the Reading Comprehension and Writing exams. It costs 75 euros and is also scored out of 500.
- S3: includes the Listening Comprehension and Speaking exams. This costs 100 euros and like before is also scored out of 500.
- S4: consists of only the Speaking exam. This costs 75 euros and is scored out of 250 points.
- S5: consists of the Writing and Speaking exams. It costs 100 euros and is scored out of 500 points.
The duration of the exam will depend on which type of exam you choose. Next, you will be able to see the duration of each of the exams, as well as the number of questions and tasks that you will have to do:
- Reading Comprehension: lasts 60 minutes and includes 5 tasks with a total of 38 questions.
- Listening Comprehension: lasts 55 minutes and includes 6 tasks with a total of 38 questions.
- Writing: lasts 50 minutes and includes 2 tasks.
- Speaking: lasts between 15 and 20 minutes and includes 5 tasks.
If you complete all the exams for the SIELE Global certificate, the duration of the exam will be 3 horas. Also, in the case of SIELE Global you will have 15 minutes break after the first 2 exams (Reading and Listening Comprehension), before returning to the same assigned spot to finish the final 2 exams (Writing and Speaking).
4. Advice on how to prepare for the SIELE exam
One of the best ways to prepare for the exam and to get the best result is to do some of the online SIELE courses, available on their website. It is a series of courses designed specifically to obtain the best result from the exam, and it includes videos, interactive activities, and tests in the same style as the exam…
As previously mentioned there are 6 types of SIELE exam, and there are 6 corresponding preparation courses online, each focusing on the different necessary skills so the preparation is personalized for each type of exam. The courses vary by price and duration, as you see here:
- SIELE Global: 50 euros, duration of 35-40 hours
- S1: 35 euros, duration of 15-20 hours
- S2: 35 euros, duration of 15-20 hours
- S3: 35 euros, duration of 15-20 hours
- S4: 25 euros, duration of 8-10 hours
- S5: 35 euros, duration of 15-20 hours
Finally, it is possible to do the online courses for only 1 of the skills that make up the SIELE. With a price of 25 euros and up to 10 hours of content, they are ideal for reviewing certain skills, e.g. reading comprehension, which you think you need to focus on before the exam.
The structure of these online courses is simple: there are 2 modules for each exam. The first, composed of videos and interactive activities, explains how the exam functions and gives some advice and strategies on how to pass it. The second is a practice module, where it is possible to do the exam in identical conditions to that of the day of the exam.
With the online SIELE courses you can familiarize yourself with the structure of the exam, acquire useful skills and strategies to get the best Spanish level you can and do identical tests to those in the real exam. Without a doubt it is a very efficient way to prepare for the SIELE.
Also, in this link you can do a free demo of the SIELE Global with which you can have a first look at the exam, as well as seeing the way in which the questions are formed, and in what way the type of answers change according to the type of questions e.g. multiple choice or essay-type answers. The variety in the type of SIELE exercises is wide-ranged, therefore it is recommended to do the demo to feel confident in the exam. Below you have some example questions from the different SIELE exams, so you can get a first impression of the exam.
Below you have an example of a Written Exam question.
Finally in the following image you can see questions from the Listening Comprehension and the Speaking Exam.
To finish, don´t forget that the SIELE certifies your Spanish level in the moment you take the exam. Therefore, you can take Spanish courses to advance your Spanish level before taking the SIELE exam. Our qualified faculty, accredited by the Cervantes Institute, is the best tool you can use to pass the exam: in our courses you can practice and improve your Spanish in a way that not only means you get the best SIELE result, but also that you truly see the result of your hard work through the daily use of the language. If you have your exam soon, our intensive courses of Spanish will be ideal for you to develop more confidence with the language so that on the day of the exam, you can demonstrate your skills and knowledge to the best of your ability.
5. How to enroll for the SIELE
It is very easy to enroll for the SIELE exam and you can pay in 2 different ways.
If you are already in Madrid, you can contact us and we can help you with any questions that you may have, or you can visit us at the school. You can pay for the exam at the school, e.g. 155 euros for the SIELE Global; we will then give you a coupon with a code so when