DELE vs SIELE: What are the differences?

If you need to prove your Spanish fluency to an employer or to an university, then you’ll most likely need to undertake an exam. This exam will either be DELE or SIELE, both monitored by Instituto Cervantes and both accepted worldwide. Although they have the same official status, there is one key difference between them: one follows old school methods, with pen and paper, while the other is done online. Do you know which is which?

The first one is DELE. It’s written on paper, limited to a few dates per year and a few test centers around the world. Chances are that you don’t have a center near you or, if you have, this year’s dates might not be in time for what you need. In that case, you should definitely sign up for the more convenient SIELE. But what else is different? How do the SIELE and DELE exams compare?



Step 1: scheduling your SIELE exam vs. DELE

Being online, you can take the SIELE basically any time you want. You need to register at least 48 hours in advance and that’s about it. You choose your exam date, which of the modules you want to do in that particular day (more on that later), and you’re settled. With DELE, you need to reach out to local centers, ask when the next exam is and then wait it out until you can sit the exam. Who knows how long that will be: weeks, months?


What are the modules?

The SIELE is divided in 4 parts:reading & listening comprehension, reading comprehension & written expression, listening comprehension & oral expression and interaction. You can mix and match them to decide which modules you want to test in any single day. Alternatively, you can take SIELE Global and sit all four, which takes around 3 hours. This last version is very, very similar to the DELE exam.


SIELE is risk-free, you can’t fail

One of the great things about SIELE (other than being online and available all year round, that is) is that you don’t have to register for a particular level. Instead you take the exam and, according to your score, you’ll achieve either the A1, A2, B1, B2 or C1 level. You can’t possibly fail - you can only, you know, not get certified in the level you were expecting. In a way, it’s quite similar to how English language exams, like the IELTS, work.


On the other hand, the DELE has different exams for different levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 (this last one, which is ‘mastery or proficiency’ doesn’t exist in SIELE). So, if you fail your exam, you’ll have wasted a lot of time and money into something that just didn’t come through. Apart from that, DELE tests the same skills and competences as the SIELE.


Are the questions different?

As we explained above, the combination of the different SIELE modules is very similar to the DELE exam. The questions are alike in both exams, with the same type of exercises and difficulty. You can use DELE exercise books to prepare for SIELE and SIELE examples to prepare for the DELE - trust us!


Getting your certification

After you take your exam, you need to wait 2 to 3 months until your DELE results are known. The diploma takes a while longer to arrive in the mail. So, if you need to have your Spanish level certified pronto, then it’s probably not the best way to do it. SIELE is a much better option for those in a hurry: you get the results within three weeks (maximum). In some parts of the world, it might take only a week.


How long is the certificate valid for?

This is one of the biggest differences between DELE and SIELE, but in the end it all varies according to your goal. The DELE diploma, as issued by the Spanish ministry of education, is valid for the rest of your life. The SIELE certificate, which is issued by 5 partners throughout Spanish speaking countries, has a validity of five years. This is modeled after other foreign-language exams that take into account that proficiency might decrease over time if the language is not used - which is why you need to prove your fluency again after a while.


Finally: is the DELE better than the SIELE?

All and all, we can’t choose one. Both attest your Spanish proficiency level with accuracy and are accepted worldwide. Ultimately, it all comes down to what is most practical for you and why you are taking the exam in the first place. We hope this short guide helped you to make a more informed decision on whether to take the DELE or the SIELE exams.


Spanish Gurus has DELE-preparation courses and SIELE-preparation courses with native teachers. All of our teachers are academically trained in teaching Spanish as a foreign language and are ready to help you reach your goals!