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Passing the CELTA Course

Updated on July 7, 2012

Tips to achieve a Pass for the CELTA (Certificate in English Language teaching to Adults)

The CELTA course, when searched in google, displays many results; Horror stories, criticisms, warnings, a lot of complaining and overall, paints a bad picture of it. Even in some forums the CELTA course is exaggerated to almost mythological status. Well I am here to tell you, as a recent student achieving a pass grade, IT IS NOT SOMETHING TO BE SCARED OF. Follow these general guidelines and not only will your anxious mind be tamed somewhat, your chances of passing will be heightened.

My colleagues, students and tutors. May 2012
My colleagues, students and tutors. May 2012

1. Be Prepared -

The course requires you to complete a pre-course task. Do it. This at least will give you some idea of what you are in for. Do it, and take note of the background reading. At least browsing through a few of the books, if not taking notes and revising, will stand you in greater stead for what you are about to learn.

2. Do not panic if you cannot grasp the concept of grammar before the course starts

Whilst it does help to have some knowledge of the basics, Nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, articles and prepositions, all of these and all the more daunting grammatical terms (past perfect, past participle etc) will get taught throughout the course and you will gradually gain understanding as you are required to use and or teach these terms. Besides, if you have done the pre-course task and some background reading you will already have some knowledge of the terms.

3. Be organised

As a general rule of thumb for everyday life, this is never more true than when taking the CELTA course. This course is, as it says, an intensive course, and so to organise your notes (and there will be a lot of paperwork) day by day for quick reference makes the whole process a lot smoother. I adopted the technique of having a bound notebook for daily notes and a ring binder with sleeves for all the paperwork handed out. This made it incredibly easy to cross reference and pick out the things I needed for lessons and assignments.

4. Do not be naïve to the amount of effort needed

As stated above, it is an intensive course. The study period is around 6 hours (split up between two hour and a half tutor-student lessons, 3hrs lesson planning/evaluating time) then a further 2 hours of teaching practice in the evening (either teaching or observing). An hours lunch and a break in between the tutor time and lesson planning time make up the rest of the day. Whilst this seems like your average day, I can assure you, you will need every hour before the day starts and a good few hours after the day has finished, to either complete assignments, organise notes, complete observation tasks, lesson plan or complete a self evaluation of your own lessons. So long as you make the most of your time and organise it well, you will get tired, you may get stressed but you will also be on top of everything and in control. Always ensure you are in control!

5. Be open, friendly and enthusiastic

These parts of your personality you may already posess and if you do, use them to great effect. The other students on the course are in the same position as yourself. Assignments are much easier with everyone clubbing together to complete them, lessons run smoother if you know what your colleague is teaching before you, and the times when you are able to wind down and forget about the course for a few hours are better experienced, cherished and truly relaxing when you are in the company of people you are comfortable with. The same goes for the tutors. Get to know them. By doing so the door to their office becomes open to you and they are much more willing to help you with anything you are struggling with. Ask their advice, they are there to help, and they will. If there is something you don't understand, don't stress yourself out with it, point it out to the tutors. Chances are they will be more than willing to run through it again with you.

6. Accept criticism with an open mind

This, is the part of the course where most fall short. Where most of the horror stories come from on the internet. These stories generally come from those unwilling to change, to adapt, to accept the criticism of students and teachers alike as constructive. Use this criticism to your advantage. It is your greatest gift from the course. The feedback sessions are ones that will mould you as a teacher and improve the technique, efficiency and effectiveness of your lessons. Any criticism you receive should be used to your advantage, to plan your next lesson addressing the negative points received and erasing them.

7. Do not give up or be downhearted if you receive 'Not to standard' marks

These are inevitable during the course. Not all students will receive them, some will only be given them for parts of their lessons, others for the whole lesson. Do not fret. Be assured that the tutors do not want to fail you, they are being assessed themselves and want to show that they are able to get a good pass rate from their students. The main thing the tutors look for is progression. If you follow the above point, you should have no problem with this. So long as you show that you have progressed throughout the course and by week four have addressed your weak points and can teach a good strong lesson, previous 'not to standard' lessons will generally be overlooked. For the assignments, a 'not to standard' will require a re-submission. You can resubmit each assignment twice, the tutors will give you advice on what to change/include to ensure the second submission is a pass.

8. Find time to relax

One of the single most important points in this list. Your head will be buzzing with everything you have been taught through the day, everything you have taught, what you will teach in two days time, the assignment you must complete, terminology to learn etc. With all this racing through your mind at 100 miles an hour, it makes it incredibly difficult to shut off. Find something to relax yourself with, a massage, a film, a glass of whiskey, a book, sex, meditation, exercise, writing a blog, anything to take your mind away from what it wants to focus on. If your mind is still buzzing as your head hits the pillow, your sleep will be half chance, erratic and completely pointless, as you will wake the next day more tired than you went to sleep. This is a common problem on the CELTA course, and tutors say that by week 3 the students are noticeably tired and unfocused. Persevere. It is four weeks of your life. If you are tired, make it your goal to complete all the work you can that day so you have more time to relax in the evening.

And finally . . .


I have taken this course, I know what it entails. You can read my article here on my experience. It was hard work, stressful at times, infuriating at others, but most of all, incredibly rewarding. The day you walk out with the CELTA certificate in hand with a big fat PASS plastered over the front of it, you will have learned more about yourself and teaching than you ever thought possible.

Good Luck

Good Grammar books for background reading


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