How to get a distinction in your Delta module 2 Background Essays

I suppose the title could be considered clickbait, but the idea is to try to help you to do well during Delta module 2. I got a distinction in my first three Background Essays, and imagine LSA4 (which is externally assessed) was up to the same standard. You can do it too, and I think the following tips and reading suggestions will help.

There are two things that I think can help you do well at the Background Essays. The first of them is to read widely. I tried to use at least ten books for each BE, and in some cases a little more. Naturally, in many cases you end up reading specific chapters rather than whole books, but a variety of sources (especially if authors disagree) is invaluable.

It was also recommended to me that I should use articles in the bibliography. However, articles can be more expensive than books if you live in Brazil like me, so there may be a limit to how many you will be able to get your hands on. Books can also be expensive, so it may be worth it to ask around and see if your friends might be able to lend you some. One of my workmates took the Delta with me, so we were able to share some core books, and that saved us quite a bit of money.

The second thing is related to the writing. Using headings and subheadings is key. Having a lay-out that is easy to read is key. If you aren’t used to using word to write long texts (in the case of BEs, around 2000 words long), I’d suggest having a look at section three here.

Finally, I didn’t study English at university, so all my academic work was done in Portuguese. Finding the right balance in terms of formality for the Delta can be challenging. If you need help in this regard, have a look at these useful sentences for academic writing.

Below you will find the bibliography for each BE I wrote, which may be useful if you choose to work with the same Skills and Systems I did.

LSA1 – Grammar

Essay title: ‘Helping higher level learners expand their use of comparative structures’


Bieber, D et al (1999) Longman Grammar of spoken and Written English. Longman

Greenbaun, S (1996) The Oxford English Grammar. OUP

Hancock, M (1995) Pronunciation Games. CUP

Lee, J (2001) ‘Korean Speakers’ in Swan and Smith (eds.)

Leech, G and Svartvik, J (1994) A Communicative Grammar of English. Pearson

Parrott, M (2010) Grammar for English Language teachers. CUP

Quirk, R and Greenbaum, S (1976) A University Grammar of English. Longman

Quirk, R et al (1985) A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Longman

Scrivener, J (2010) Teaching English Grammar. Macmillan

Shepherd, D (2001) ‘Portuguese Speakers’ in Swan and Smith (eds.)

Swan, M and Smith, B (eds.) (2001) Learner English. CUP

Thornbury, S (1997) About Language. CUP

Thornbury, S (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Macmillan

Tops, G et al (2001) ‘Dutch Speakers’ in Swan and Smith (eds.)

Wjnrayb, R (1995) Grammar Dictation. OUP


Richards, J (2005) Interchange 3 Teacher’s Edition. Cambridge

Redston, C and Cunningham, G (2007) Face 2 Face Upper Intermediate Student’s Book. Cambridge University Press

LSA2 – Listening

Essay Title: ‘Helping higher level learners develop their listening sub-skills in the listening paper, part 2 of the Cambridge FCE exam’

Anderson, A. and Lynch, T. (1988) Listening. Oxford University Press

Bowen, T. and Marks, J. (1994) Inside teaching. Heinemann

Burgess, S and Head, K (2005) How to teach for exams. Pearson Longman

Cambridge ESOL (2010) FCE Examination Report. UCLES

Cambridge ESOL (2011) FCE Examination Report. UCLES

Flowerdew, J and Miller, L (2005) Second language listening: theory and practice. CUP.

Kelly, G (2000) How to teach pronunciation. Pearson Longman.

Thornbury, S (2006) A-Z of ELT. Macmillan.

Richards, J (1990) The Language Teaching Matrix. CUP.

Swan, M. and Smith, B. (2001) Learner English. CUP

Ur, P. (1984) Teaching listening comprehension. CUP.

White, G (1998) Listening. Oxford University Press

Wilson, J (2008) How to teach listening. Pearson Longman


Field, J (1998) Skills and strategies: towards a new methodology for listening. ELT Journal Volume 52/2. Oxford University Press.

Field, J (1999) Key concepts in ELT: bottom up and top down. ELT Journal Volume 53/4. Oxford University Press.

Field, J (2003) Promoting perception: lexical segmentation in L2 listening. ELT Journal Volume 57/4. Oxford University Press.


Hancock, M (2013) Pronunciation for listeners: making sense of connected speech. Available from [5 May 2013]

LSA3 – Speaking

Essay title: ‘Helping Intermediate level learners with strategies to take part in informal conversations’


Bygate, M. (1987) Speaking. OUP

Cook, G. (1989) Discourse. OUP

Hedge, T (2000) Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. OUP

McCarthy, M. (1991) Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. CUP

Nolasco, R. and Arthur, L. (1987) Conversation. OUP

Nunan, D. (1989) Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom. CUP

Richards, J. (1990) The Language Teaching Matrix. CUP

Swan, M. and Smith, B. (2001) Learner English. CUP

Thornbury, S. (2005a) Beyond the Sentence: Introducing Discourse Analysis. Macmillan

Thornbury, S. (2005b) How to Teach Speaking. Pearson Longman

Ur, P. (1996) A Course in Language Teaching. CUP


Dornyei, Z. & Thurrell, S. (1991) Strategic Competence and how to Teach it. In ELT Journal Volume 45/1. OUP

Dornyei, Z. & Thurrell, S. (1994) Teaching Conversational Skills Intensively: course content and rationale. In ELT Journal Volume 48/1. OUP

Sayer, P. (2005) An intensive approach to building conversation skills. In ELT Journal Volume 59/1. OUP


Richards, J. (2005) Interchange 3 Teacher’s Edition. Cambridge


Turn-taking (2010) Available from [16 June 2013]

LSA4 – Lexis

Essay title: ‘Helping advanced learners use multi-word verbs in everyday conversation’


Bieber, D et al (1999) Longman Grammar of spoken and Written English. Longman

McCarthy, M (1990) Vocabulary. OUP

Gairns and Redman (1986) Working with Words. CUP

Kelly, G (2000) How to teach pronunciation. Longman

Laufer, B (1997) What’s in a word that makes it hard or easy? In: Schmitt, N and McCarthy, M (eds.)

Lee, J (2001) ‘Korean Speakers’ in Swan and Smith (eds.)

Lewis, M (1993) The Lexical Approach. LTP

Lewis, M (1997) Implementing the Lexical Approach. Heinle Cengage Learning

Moon, R (1997) Vocabulary connections: multi-word items in English. In: Schmitt, N and McCarthy, M (eds.)

Parrott, M (2010) Grammar for English Language teachers. CUP

Schmitt, N (2000) Vocabulary in Language Teaching. CUP

Schmitt, N and McCarthy, M (eds.) (1997) Vocabulary: description, acquisition and pedagogy. CUP

Swan, M (1997) The influence of mother tongue on second language vocabulary acquisition and use. In: Schmitt, N and McCarthy, M (eds.)

Swan, M and Smith, B (eds.) (2001) Learner English. CUP

Thornbury, S (2002) How to teach vocabulary. Longman

Willis, D (2003) Rules, Patterns and Words. CUP


Underhill, A (2005) Pronunciation and phrasal verbs. In: MED Magazine Issue 34, October 2005. Available from:


McCarthy, M (2013) What are the best ways to memorise new vocabulary? Cambridge University Press ELT. Available from:

15 thoughts on “How to get a distinction in your Delta module 2 Background Essays

  1. Pingback: New Words | ricardo barros elt

  2. Pingback: Useful links for Delta | Sandy Millin

  3. Hi to all,

    Cambridge Delta seems to be a thrilling journey with lots of hidden treasures. I have recently completed Module 2 and I’m sublimely happy to have scored a “Pass with Distinction” grade. Delta opened up a whole new perspective to me regarding Second Language Acquisition. To start with, I read more than 20 books cover to cover throughout my course which made me more aware of some of the basic principles underlying language learning and teaching. In addition to that, I was exposed to different teaching approaches that I was unfamiliar with. The magic moment of discovering things you didn’t know is FANTASTIC!! Furthermore, It was awesome that I was given the opportunity to exlore topics of my professional interest in my LSAs offering key insights where I could. During my course, I also learnt how to write realistic, meaningful and comprehensive lesson plans helping my learners achieve their full potential. Lesson planning increased my belief that we have to cater to our learners’ linguistic and social needs being sensitive to them. With regards to the PDA – Part A, I quickly became aware of how to notice my strengths and weaknesses making a thorough action plan to improve the latter. Part A of the PDA increased my self-awareness as a teacher and helped me reflect on my teaching practices. The EP (Experimental Practice) gave me the chance to experiment with something I was utterly unaware of (“teaching rhythm to young learners through music and songs”). I endeavour to place a great emphasis on phonology ever since.

    Overall, it was an unrivalled experience that should I had the chance, I would like to repeat.

    Now I’m working on Module 3 with the aim of submitting my research paper in June 2016. Hope for the best result.

    Best regards,

    Konstantinos Kemparis


  4. Pingback: How to get a distinction in your Delta module 2 Background Essays – part 2 | ricardo barros elt

    • Something to keep in mind, Thiago, is that I didn’t read all of the books in my reference cover to cover. In many cases you end up reading a chapter or two that is relevant to your background essay.


  5. Well done to all of you who have aced such tough courses. Blogs like this one are not just helpful but inspiring and make us feel that everything is possible 🙂


  6. Thank you for all this useful information, Ricardo. I was wondering whether you’d be willing to share your LSA3 or any of them, really. I am preparing for M2 and need all the help I can get. It all seems overwhelming at the moment.


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