The CELTA Experience (1)

I found out about CELTA through a fellow English teacher, though I should say, she’s THE teacher that got me into English language teaching to begin with. I basically owe her my entire career because not only did she get me started, but she also believed in me from the very beginning even when I had my doubts. Her support and encouragement has meant so much to me during this whole process and I can’t thank her enough.

I began by doing research on what the course would entail so that I could have some idea of what to expect and how to prepare for it. The Cambridge website is really the best place to start because all the information is there–about the course, FAQs, and most importantly, all the accredited centres that offer the course around the world.

Once I had satisfied all my questions, the next step was to choose a centre. Since my own country doesn’t offer the course, it was inevitable that I would have to go abroad. I started by choosing the possible countries that I could consider within a reasonable and realistic criteria. Reasonable being, “can I afford to go there?” and realistic being, “can I afford to go there?” because I would have loved to have taken the course in England, being the Anglophile that I am, but that was neither reasonable nor realistic (each individual’s criteria will vary). So my choices were down to my closest neighboring countries. I took note of each centre’s important information–website, address, phone number, email address, and person to contact for enquiries–then proceeded to send each one an email requesting for more details about the course. When I received all the replies, I was able to compare pros and cons for each, such as cost of the course (this will vary per centre), cost of living in that country for a month, and services that the centre offers (visa assistance, accommodation assistance, airport pick up, etc.). After seeing all the information, I made my choice–Apollo Education and Training in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I chose this centre because it was affordable and they offered assistance with nearly all arrangements. Additionally, I chose Apollo because it’s affiliated with International House, which is a pretty big name in ELT as far as I know, so that was a big deciding factor as well.

After choosing a centre comes the pre-interview task.  The pre-interview task basically tests your knowledge of the English language, so think grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and the like. It’s a fairly short task consisting of only five sections, and a list of reference materials is provided for help in completing the task should you need it. I probably procrastinated at this step the longest because I wasn’t confident enough that I would pass. Although I consider English to be my first language, my knowledge of grammar wasn’t that high, which is usually the case for people whose first language is English. I could tell you if a sentence was correct or not just by reading it or hearing it, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you why it was right or why it was wrong. So I did know grammar, but not in the way that an English teacher was supposed to know grammar. If I remember correctly, I think I took about two weeks to complete the task and find enough courage to submit it.

Once the pre-interview task is submitted, the final step in the application process is the interview. There will be a set date and time for when this will take place, usually over Skype for international interviews, as was the case with me. I was so nervous on the day of my interview that I had butterflies in my stomach and I was literally sweating through my shirt even though it was a relatively cool day. The person conducting the interview is normally the CELTA tutor who will be running the course, and the aim of the interview is for the tutor to assess a candidate’s skills and likelihood of being successful in the course. Candidates are also advised to have a copy of their answers to the pre-interview task handy as this will be discussed during the interview. Despite my nervousness, the interview went quite smoothly and I remember that the tutor was really nice and also that he sounded a lot like John Malkovich, which I thought was really cool. After that, candidates wait for an email informing them of their acceptance to (or rejection from) the course.

If you’ve successfully been accepted, then there’s a pre-course task to complete that will help for course preparation. I was accepted into the November 2012 course around the beginning of August, which gave me roughly three months to prepare. My preparation included investing in ELT reference books (Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener, and How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer) and taking a free online Grammar for Teachers course at Cambridge English Teacher (which was advertised as a five hour course, but I’m pretty sure I took about twenty hours to finish it). Of course, everybody will have different ways of preparing, mine just happened to be full-on nerd mode, because that is how I learn best.

It’s also important to remember that if you’ve been accepted into the course, it means that tutors see you as capable of passing and they will offer the necessary support that you need in order to make sure that you don’t fail–you, on the other hand, just need to put in the work and the effort required to make the grade.


2 thoughts on “The CELTA Experience (1)

  1. Hi Pensive,

    I recently submitted my pre interview task and was invited to interview. I got some help and support for the grammar section of the task and while I have some basic knowledge of that section I really did need to google hard and have a relative assist me in tidying up my mistakes. I feel like if I were to be grilled on the grammar I wouldn’t be able to do it off the top of my head now without that support. Based on your interview experience do you think this would hamper me and be very badly looked upon? I didn’t do it with the intention of cheating, more just a desire not to mess up and get to the next stage, fully intending to sharpen up a lot further in the time before the course starts should i be successful.

    Cheers in advance for any advice you can give me 🙂


    • Hi Al,

      Congratulations on getting through to the interview! I definitely felt the same as you did about the grammar section and had to check and double check all my answers before sending it in. I’m not sure how it went with you, but I was given a list of resources to help me complete the task, so it isn’t cheating to look it up. The grammar section did come up in the interview, but if I’m not mistaken, it was only very basic grammar that didn’t burst any brain cells.

      It might help to remember that you’re not expected to know everything–otherwise, you wouldn’t need to be taking the course. I think what’s important is that you know where to look and find the answers in order to be able to plan your lessons and teach it effectively to your learners.

      The book that got me through CELTA is Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. Another excellent book is Teaching English Grammar by Jim Scrivener. I also took the free online course at called Grammar for Teachers: Language Awareness which was a huge help in preparing for CELTA.

      Best of luck on your interview. 🙂


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