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CELTA Application Tips


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No SPAM. Just helpful advice for new teachers.

First of all, congratulations on taking the first step to becoming CELTA qualified. You will learn so much about yourself and others on the CELTA course, and make a real difference in the lives of those you teach. Essentially, the CELTA course actually starts at the application stage – the grammar and written fluency matters just as much as the accuracy of your answers.

The application process is designed do 3 things:

  1. Identify and reject applicants who are clearly not suitable for the CELTA course. This keeps pass rates high and guarantees a decent level of student in each class. It’s harsh but fair, both to fellow CELTA trainees and to future English language students.
  2. Help successful candidates to identify areas of weakness before the course starts, and offer recommendations on how to improve beforehand.
  3. Give the tutors an idea of the candidates’ abilities, and provide them with ample time to ensure the course meets the needs of everyone on-board.

I’ve broken down the CELTA course application process below, so you can plan ahead and give yourself every chance of passing the CELTA.

Find a CELTA Centre

Read the big guide on choosing the best CELTA centre for your needs.

Apply to a CELTA Centre

Any reputable CELTA centre will have a website that leads you through their particular flavour of the initial application. Typically, you’ll be asked for:

  • Personal details (name, address etc.)
  • Nationality and country of residence
  • Native language and other languages
  • Qualifications
  • Present occupation and work experience

If you get any of the above wrong, there’s no hope for you! Next, however, comes the first wave of grammar and teaching questions. They will vary across CELTA centres, but in general you can expect:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of verb tenses
    • e.g. present/past/future
    • perfect/imperfect
    • simple/continuous
  • Identifying grammatical functions
    • instruction
    • threat
    • request etc.
  • Spotting some spelling mistakes
  • Free-form questions e.g.
    • What would you say were the qualities of a good teacher?
    • What would you hope to achieve in the first lesson, and how would you organise it?

I recommend you take extra care to check your own spelling and grammar before you send the application, as you’re being tested on your ability to communicate just as much as the accuracy of your answers.

Most applicants are accepted past this level so don’t stress too much, and you will be invited to an interview, either at the centre or over the phone/Skype if you are living far away. The CELTA centre may send you a sample timetable to discuss if you are doing your interview on the phone, or print and hand them out if you attend an interview in the centre itself.

You will also be sent a CELTA interview task to complete beforehand.

Complete the Interview Task

I’ll upload a few older examples of various CELTA interview tasks soon, but here’s the gist of what they include:

  • Free-form questions, e.g.
    • Do you have any transferable skills (personal, technical, communication) from previous employment?
    • What travel or foreign language experience do you have?
  • Re-write a horribly grammar-mangled paragraph, complete with spelling mistakes, to its pristine form.
  • Identify nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, articles, conjunctions and prepositions.
  • Explain the subtle difference in meaning between closely related sentences, e.g.
    • “I’ll take the bus tomorrow”
    • “I’m going to take the bus tomorrow”
    • “I’m taking the bus tomorrow”
  • Offer suggestions on why language learners may struggle with certain pronunciations, e.g.
    • luggage
    • row
    • answer
    • etc.

If you are doing the interview via phone or Skype, I recommend emailing the completed task at least the day before to give the interviewer time to read through. Don’t underestimate your communication outside the application process; CELTA interviewers are human too and they’ll probably appreciate the consideration.

The Interview

Phone/Skype interviews typically last around 40 minutes, so I found a glass of water at hand to be a great comfort for keeping the stress out of my voice. My CELTA interview was actually a lot of fun and far less stressful than the grammar grilling I had created in my head. My advice to you is to take your time, ask the interviewer to repeat questions you’re not sure you understand, and above all be honest.

Now I’m going to give you some inside information and lead you through a typical CELTA interview.

Expect to be asked about yourself and why you are interested in doing the CELTA. Be honest and take the opportunity to get to know your interviewer a bit. They’re usually pretty decent people 🙂

You’ll also be asked some questions about basic grammar e.g.

  • Explain what a noun is.
  • What types of noun exist and what are the differences?
  • What is a verb?
  • What is the difference between these two sentences:
    • Alice walks to work
    • Alice is walking to work

Most of this is just to make sure you didn’t completely fake your interview task and they are talking to the same person. Then it’s time to go through your interview task answers.

Be honest. Research is expected so don’t be afraid of saying something like…

“I found this part quite challenging and had to look up prepositions” etc.

You’re not trying to smooth talk your way into a job; in fact, your interviewer will recommend invaluable areas of study/revision that will help you before you start the CELTA.

You will probably be asked to explain some of your answers. This is not necessarily because you got the question wrong, but a way to test your ability to re-frame and communicate concepts in different ways. Think about it like this, students often approach a teacher and say

“I didn’t quite understand the difference between “will” and “shall”. Can you please explain it a different way?”

At some point during the interview, your interviewer will be able to tell you more about the school and what the CELTA course involves – the written assignments, grading system, assessment criteria, teaching practice, Cambridge regulation etc. You’ll also go through a sample timetable and it’s at this point that it will probably hit you just how intensive the practical teaching is, and that there will be no let-up as you plan, discuss, teach, review, plan, discuss, teach, review.

After the interview, you will be given opportunity to ask questions.

Some suggestions:

  • Do you provide a final graduate report along with the CELTA certificate?
  • Do you offer references for your graduates when they are looking for work?
  • Do you offer any resources for finding TEFL work?
  • What reading (books/websites etc.) do you recommend before the course?

What Happens After the Interview?

If you’ve made it this far, you will probably have a good idea of how suitable the CELTA is for you. Perhaps not though, as there remains around 5-8% that fail to complete the course, either failing it or dropping out.

If you are accepted you will be sent – via email or post – an official offer to join the CELTA course, some legal terms and conditions, lots more information on what to expect about your chosen centre, and of course an invoice. Most centres accept a deposit to reserve your seat (usually around £250) with the remainder due closer to the course start.

And Then?

Wow, this is like the CELTA application guide that just keeps on giving 🙂

To prepare for the CELTA course, you should read some recommended CELTA books, brush up on your areas that need improvement, splash out on some sensible stationery and enjoy your last remaining weeks of being social with friends.

Good luck!