Learning a foreign language is widely seen as an invaluable skill. Whether this is having a conversational level in order to speak to the locals whilst on holiday, or improving your proficiency so that you are near fluency in order to move abroad.
And when it comes to moving abroad, there aren't many languages that open more doors than Spanish.
The Spanish language is spoken in by 440 million native speakers in 20 different countries. A number of international organisations use Spanish as an official language, including the EU, the WTO, and the UN.
The widespread use of Spanish means that if you are looking for a change of job or a shift in career, this could be the language for you. However, it is very likely that in doing so, you will need to take a Spanish language proficiency test to prove your level to any prospective employer.
After all, before offering you a job, they will need to know that your language skills, including your vocabulary and grammar, are up to the task of speaking Spanish everyday in a professional environment in order to be able to carry out the duties of you job.
So which is the best test to prove your Spanish speaking ability? There are a number of options, but in this article we are going to focus on one of the new ones which is administered by the Instituto de Cervantes. It is called the SIELE, and it could be exactly what you are looking for!
What is the SIELE Spanish Certificate?
The Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española (SIELE) is an electronic proficiency test which assesses how well you can communicate in Spanish as a second language. It is an exam which is aimed at students and professionals, and thus it is of great use education and business.
This means that you can use it as proof of your Spanish level in order to study abroad, or as a certificate to show a prospective employer that your Spanish is up to the test of being used in a professional environment. This is possible because the SIELE is recognised by a number of international organisations around the world, such as the Conference of Spanish University Rectors, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and the National Directory of Professional Certifications, but to name a few.
The SIELE guarantees high standards through its partnership between the Instituto Cervantes, the Universidad Autónoma de México, the Universidad de Salamanca, and the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
The geographic distribution of these organisations means that the different varieties of the language that are found across the Spanish speaking world are taken into account, making the SIELE a very well rounded certificate to have when looking at it from the perspective of there being some difference in the Spanish language that is spoken in different countries.
Like the majority of Spanish language proficiency tests, the SIELE uses the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as its baseline to award the certificate, meaning that the result is more applicable beyond the world of Spanish.
You can opt to take a full exam that assess all aspects of language learning, or you can take a partial test which focuses only on certain aspects, thus giving you more control and flexibility when it comes to your language certificate.
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The Importance of the Format of any Spanish Test
No matter which Spanish proficiency test you take, you will need to be aware of the format. If you want to take Argentina's CELU Spanish language proficiency test, it will different from the SIELE in both style and how you prepare.
Don't think that just by studying Spanish in your Spanish course or your Spanish classes you will be prepared to take the SIELE on the day of the exam.
Yes your language courses will help any learner speak Spanish, and they will be invaluable to improving all aspects of language learning, but you will need to go beyond the classroom of your language school in order to really excel when it comes to the SIELE.
If you are taking Spanish lessons in secondary school, sitting Spanish GCSEs will be an excellent springboard into this more official exam...
It is largely irrelevant if you are a beginner, or of an intermediate level. Either way, you will need to practise the format of the exam so that you know how to tackle it, and you will need to know what they are trying to test so that you can make sure you meet the criteria that the exam is looking for.
The Format of the SIELE
The SIELE is unique as it is an electronic exam, and it offers you the chance to tailor your language certificate. There are 5 different exams which are adapted to each candidates specific requirements.
The first option is to take the SIELE Global, which has a time limit of 3 hours with a 15 minute break. This works in the same way as if you were going to take a DELE test, another language proficiency test which is administered by the Instituto de Cervantes. Both options test the four core competencies of language learning; speaking, listening, reading and writing.
In the SIELE Global, the four components are framed as:
- Reading comprehension (5 tasks with a total of 38 questions and a time limit of 60 minutes)
- Listening Comprehension (6 tasks with a total of 38 questions and a time limit of 55 minutes)
- Written Expression and Interaction (2 tasks in 50 minutes)
- Spoken Expression and Interaction (5 tasks in 50 minutes)
This certificate will give you complete coverage in terms of you proving your all round linguistic ability to a prospective employer.
The second option relates to taking a selection of four modalities which are based on a combination of the tests which you have to take for the SIELE Global, and therefore the number of tasks, questions, and time limit stay the same as the information stated above. The options are as follows:
- S1 - Reading Comprehension + Listening Comprehension
- S2 - Reading Comprehension + Written Expression and Interaction
- S3 - Listening Comprehension + Spoken Expression and Interaction
- S4 - Spoken Expression and Interaction
The opportunity to choose your modalities could make your language certificate even more applicable to the job or sector that you want to work or study in. For example, a job in tourism might rely more on the spoken language, and therefore you will want to show how fluent you are, and that your pronunciation is up to scratch.
In such a case, the S4 modality will be perfect for you to demonstrate this as intensive parts of the grammar will be of less use to you. Obviously some grammar points will be required, such as your knowledge of the conjugation of verbs, but this will be assessed as part your ability to communicate verbally and hold a conversation.
How is it Scored?
Each of the four parts is worth 250 points. This means that the SIELE Global is out of a total of 1000, and each of the four modalities are out of a total of 500 (if they contain two of the SIELE Global tests) or 250 for S4 which only contains the Spoken Expression and Interaction.
The Reading Comprehension and Listening Comprehension are all multiple choice answers, and therefore the marking is done automatically by the computer. The other two parts are marked by SIELE Linguistic Experts.
As we mentioned before, the SIELE gives you an overall mark based on the CEFR. This is important because it makes the mark you receive usable worldwide, from Spain to Latin America. In fact, all Spanish speaking countries, and any Hispanic company, will be able to understand the result given according to the CEFR due to its international use.
The SIELE offers results ranging from A1-C1 on the CEFR scale. However, each of the four modalities has a slightly different threshold in terms of where the boundaries between each of the levels are drawn. The SIELE website has all of the cut off points for all of the different levels.
Where and When Can you Take this Spanish Language Test?
You can take the SIELE at designated test centres in over 70 different countries worldwide, including:
- United Kingdom
The number of options means that you could opt for an immersion course in one of these countries prior to taking the test. Whilst you are learning Spanish on the streets of Madrid, Buenos Aires, or Bogotá, you could also find some Spanish lessons or Spanish courses that could help you prepare specifically for the SIELE itself. If in the UK, you could find spanish courses london or across the country.
There aren't any global test days as there are with the DELE, and therefore each test centre offers slightly different dates when you can take the test. You should use the SIELE website to find your local test centre, and find out what dates they are offering.
Similarities and Differences between the SIELE and the DELE
The Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) is one of the most widely know and recognised Spanish proficiency tests in the world. We can compare the similarities and differences that the SIELE and the DELE have, not only to see where the SIELE ranks in terms of being a global Spanish language proficiency test, but also because both tests are administered by the Instituto de Cervantes.
International recognition of both of these exams is ensured through high level partnerships that the Instituto de Cervantes has with different institutions throughout the world.
Both use the CEFR format for testing, meaning that the mark that you get is internationally recognised. They both also examine the four key components of language learning; speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
As you might expect, the differences between the DELE and the SIELE are more numerous than the similarities.
For starters, the DELE goes up to C2 level on the CEFR, where as the SIELE stops at C1. This is the difference between being an advanced Spanish speaker, and being a proficient Spanish speaker.
The two also have differing periods of validity. The DELE has no expiration date, but the SIELE is only valid for 5 years from the moment you get your results.
In terms of the exam itself, there are some big differences. There are 6 DELE exams; one for each level (A1-C2), and the candidate has to decide beforehand which level they want to sit. This also makes the outcome of each DELE exam a simple pass or fail.
On the other hand, there is only one SIELE exam. The result is not a simple pass or fail, and the score you get will put you into one of the aforementioned CEFR levels (A1-C1). The SIELE is also electronic based, and it offers more opportunities to take the exam as there aren't fixed dates throughout the year when the exam is taken worldwide, as is the case with the DELE.
As such, each of the 700 test centres throughout the world can decide their own test dates, meaning that there are more options available to the candidate.
The SIELE also offers its candidates the opportunity to tailor their language certificate, as we have described above with the SIELE Global and the four different modalities. This is not possible with the DELE, and there is one common exam that is taken in each exam period all around the world.
Crucially, just like you need to know what the SIELE entails before you take it, you'll need to know what the DELE Spanish test consists of before you take that, too.
Why Choose the SIELE Spanish Test
The SIELE Spanish exam is a proficiency exam is a test that is right out of the modern, technological era.
Whereas with other Spanish tests you have to do them with pen and paper, the SIELE is an electronic test and therefore you do it whilst sat at a computer. One of the advantages of this is the short turn around time for you to get your results back.
With the DELE exam you have to wait around 3 months for your results, with the SIELE you only have to wait three weeks. This means that if you are on a tight time scale and you need your results quickly, the SIELE could be the option for you.
Another advantage is that there are no exact dates and times. This flexibility allows more opportunities to sit the SIELE exam when compared to other Spanish proficiency tests with tend to have 4 or 5 fixed global dates around the world. Often with other tests you might have to wait several months to take them, with the SIELE it is often a matter of days or weeks.
The SIELE can also boast being flexible and widely applicable. The ability to choose to do the SIELE Global or one of four different combinations means that you can find something that suits you and your needs. Additionally, the partnership between universities in Spain, Argentina, and Mexico, as well as the Instituto de Cervantes, ensures that the language and culture used is a combination of what you find in Europe and Latin America.
All of these reasons coupled together provide a strong case as to why you should take a SIELE exam. However, as is often the case when it comes to language proficiency tests, you should find one that suits you and your needs.