Frequently asked CELTA questions

What is TEFL and TESOL?

TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It is also referred to as ELT (English Language Teaching)

It is slightly different from TESOL which stands for Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages.

If you are doing TEFL/ELT you will probably be working abroad or in a private language school in the UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand/South Africa. You will be working with students who want to learn English in order to enhance their job prospects, travel, because their job requires using English or to those who just have an interest in learning the language. In most countries, nowadays, you are only considered educated if you speak some of English.

If you are teaching ESOL you will probably be working in the UK in a Further Education (FE) College, teaching those who have come to live in England and need the language in order to become integrated get a job and start a new life here. These courses are funded largely by the Government and the funding can vary according to the current policies.

There are many other acronyms, the one you are most likely to see in job adverts is:

EAP: English for Academic Purposes. These are usually “pre-sessional” Courses run by and at UK Universities that equip students with the English language skills they need to follow an academic course.

What qualifications do I need to teach in this field?

There are many courses advertised ranging from face-to-face to online but there many that are not recognised by school directors and will not get you a job, though may offer useful initial guidance.

There are only two initial training courses that are internationally recognised:

The Cambridge CELTA Course (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) which leads to a Certificate from Cambridge University.

The Trinity Cert TESOL which leads to a Certificate from Trinity College London.

At Saxoncourt we offer the Cambridge CELTA Course.

The Course is very practical and will give you the basic skills and knowledge to go in to a classroom, either overseas or in the UK, and teach.

Once you have the CELTA certificate and have gained 2-4 years’ experience in teaching you could consider completing the Cambridge DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) Or Trinity DipTESOL. Those who complete the diploma course will tend to go on to become teacher trainers or Director of Studies (DoS) and can consider themselves to be a fully professional language teacher.

What qualifications do I need to do a CELTA course?

You must have a qualification at least equivalent to A-Levels, that would allow entry into higher education. In some cases a candidate may be considered if they have considerable other useful experience but no A levels.

It is possible to do the CELTA Course without a degree but you should be aware that in many countries it is necessary to have a degree in order to get a work permit. Most schools will only employ teachers who hold a degree.

NB: you don’t need a degree to do the course but you may need one to get a job afterwards!

What does doing a CELTA involve?

Many people think that because they can speak English they can teach it. This isn’t usually the case. To teach we need to understand what it is to be a language learner, to understand the language from learners’ point of view, to be able to break the language down in to bite size pieces. To learn English is very different to the learner than to a native English speaker.

A native speaker will instinctively know that “I am in London since last June” is not right and will correct it to “I have been in London since last June” but may not be able to explain why. There are many tenses in English that most native speakers aren’t aware of but the students will be. Which of the statements is Present Simple and which is Present Perfect?

In addition all English Language Teaching is done entirely in English (there’s not much alternative if your students all speak different languages!). If your students speak very little English you will need to develop some very specific communication skills.

These are the sorts of things that the CELTA Course addresses.

The actual syllabus is set by Cambridge ESOL and also the criteria for assessment, though each Centre is able to design and deliver their own Course. An external Assessor from Cambridge visits the course to ensure the course is being run in accordance with the requirements and the Course Tutors are assessing work correctly.

I’ve heard CELTA is really tough. Is it?

It depends on how you do it, but Yes! It is hard work but tremendously rewarding. Trainees are always drained by the experience but absolutely astonished by how much they have learnt.
You can opt to do the Course as a Part Time Course over 12 weeks, working on two evenings a week and Saturdays. This gives more time to absorb the range of new ideas, skills and knowledge that the Course covers, though of course you may well be working full time as well, so not able to give the Course your full attention.

The other option is to do it intensively over four weeks. For these four weeks the Course will take over your life. You should not have any other commitments during the Course and should be reasonably sound in both body and mind before you start. You don’t have time to be ill as missing even one morning of the Course can seriously jeopardise your chances of passing.

The Course involves 120 hours of study and teaching practice in the school as well as four written assignments.

The day is divided into two parts. The mornings will be taken up with input sessions when the Tutors will run sessions to help you make language clear to students and develop their language skills. In the afternoons you will implement what you have learnt in Teaching Practice.

You will be required to do six hours of assessed teaching practice and will probably find yourself teaching on the second day of the Course. Teaching will be based on modern, typical ELT course books and Tutors will guide you as to what to teach in each lesson. The classes will be specially arranged “guinea pig” students who do not pay a fee for the course. Class sizes will be typically 8 – 12 and students will be multinational and multilingual, mostly of young/youngish adults. (As the Course is designed for teaching adults there will be nobody under 17 in the class).

On the Part Time Course the first few sessions will be Tutor led input and then there will be a block of Teaching Practice for several sessions. Teaching Practice will take place on the weekday evenings only with input sessions taking place on Saturdays.

How am I assessed and graded?

You are assessed in two ways:

1: 4 written assignments. Most of these are between 750 – 1000 words long. They cover different aspects of Language, Teaching, Materials and your experience on the course. You have two opportunities to submit an assignment; it can pass on first submission, or if you hand one in and it is not quite what we are looking for, we will hand it back to you and ask you to resubmit it. If it then comes back to us in better shape it will pass in the same way as if it passed the first time. If it is still not what we are looking for, the assignment will be graded a Fail. You can fail 1 assignment and still pass the course overall.

2: Teaching Practice. Nearly all the lessons you teach will be observed and assessed by your tutors – we have to assess 6 hours of your teaching. They will decide whether you have achieved your Lesson Aims and if your lesson passes, or not. The lesson aims are generally made clear for you and discussed with your tutor prior to your lesson. The process here is one of Continual Assessment – as the course progresses we expect to see your teaching develop. We can also expect to see some hiccups along the way – if that happens, it’s not the end of the world, as long as you can put things right quickly and effectively. Lessons can be marked Below Standard, To Standard or Above Standard at the given stage of the course.

Are there any exams at the end?

No – see above question.

Will I get guidance and advice?

There are 4 grades:

Fail, Pass, Pass B and Pass A. You don’t want to fail, obviously, and we will do all we can to help you avoid it. It does happen though, occasionally and unfortunately. As for passing, if you do that, you should be happy enough. Most people get a Pass. Anything above is best left to destiny – you’re under enough pressure on the course without piling on extra of your own. If you’re going to get a B or an A, it will come through anyway. Just do the very best you can!

How many people are on each course?

At Saxoncourt we usually run course with 12 trainees, though this may vary depending on demand. Maximum Course size is 18 and we always ensure a maximum trainee:tutor ratio of 6:1. At quieter time this may be 5:1 or even 4:1.

Who are the tutors?

All CELTA Tutors have to be approved by Cambridge to run CELTA Courses. They will all hold the Cambridge DELTA and have many years of both teaching and training experience.

Can I do the course online?

It will soon be possible to do the CELTA online. However, we believe that having daily, face to face contact, support and feedback with tutors and fellow trainees is indispensable therefore will lead to a much richer experience and a much higher chance of a successful outcome. We will not be offering the Course online in the immediate future.

Where do I go from here?

Complete the application form:  Apply Now

We will have a look at it and, assuming we feel you are an appropriate candidate we will contact you and arrange an interview. All Candidates have to be vetted and interviewed (Cambridge regulations) to ensure they have a realistic chance of Passing the Course.

What are the CELTA Entry Requirements?

CELTA Course Entry Requirements:

  • You should be 20 at the start of the course, exceptionally 18 years is accepted.
  • You must have qualifications that allow you to access Higher Education courses.
  • You must have an awareness of language and competence in English, both written and oral.
  • You must have a minimum C2 level on the Common European Reference for Language, if English is not your first language.
  • The potential to develop the necessary skills to become an effective teacher.
  • You must be able to complete written assignments and teaching practice successfully.
  • A degree, whilst not essential, is required to teach in certain countries.


Where and when are they held?

Face to face interviews are normally held on Wednesday mornings starting at 9.00 at the central London school. Occasionally interviews can be arranged for other times. For people living a long way from London it is possible to do a phone/skype interview. Face to face interviews are always preferable. Apart from anything else it gives you a chance to get a feel for the school.

Interviews are normally done in a group with a maximum of four always held by one of the Tutors in the school.

How long are they?

You should expect to be in the school for about 1.5 – 2 hours.

You will start by doing a task which will take about 30 minutes and then the interview will be held, based partly on the task. It will usually involve discussing things with other candidates as well as the tutor.

What is the interviewer looking for?

Three main things:

  • Your ability to engage with and interact with others,
  • Your ability to see language from the students’ point of view,
  • Your ability to communicate clearly and simply.

You will not be expected to know all the English grammar but you will need to show an awareness of the sorts of problems students will have with it and a potential for dealing with these.

Can I prepare for the interview?

It would be very sensible to; if you are able to show some awareness of language at the interview you are more likely to be accepted onto the Course

Grammar for English Language Teachers by Martin Parrott

Will help you see the sorts of problems students have with language.

English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy

Is very popular with students and beginner teachers also like it

Practical English Usage by Michael Swan

Is a seminal grammar reference work.

Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener

Is a sound book on methodology.

Scott Thornbury writes prolifically on ELT. Any book by him will be very accessible, informative and even entertaining, though maybe be aimed at more experienced teachers.

Deadline for interviews

Deadline for Interviews is the Wednesday before the Course starts. We can not accept applications after this date. However, you can apply for the next course.

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