CELTA/TEFL: What to expect from your interview and pre-interview task

So you’ve decided to apply for a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course, and you’ve been asked to come to interview. Daunting! Worse, they’ve probably asked you to complete “a pre-interview task”. What should you expect?

If you like, you can read about my experience with the CELTA interview at this post here.

 

The pre-interview task

My experience with the task was not too terrifying. I don’t believe my English BA and MA were much advantage in this case. My task testing my knowledge of:

  •  tense and verb forms, i.e. “past continuous” or “future perfect”
  •  word meanings connotations, i.e. “fat” and “plump”
  •  modal verbs, i.e. “You must” expresses obligation
  •  pronunciation theory, i.e. “How many syllables are in the world ‘telephone’ and on which syllable is the main stress placed?”

It also questioned:

  •  how I would explain the meaning of certain phrases to a class, i.e. “Would you mind if I opened the window”? How do I get across the point that this is a polite question?
  •  what, from experience, makes a good learning experience

The questions were fairly clear (even if the answers weren’t!) and there were examples to help. Needless to say that you are free to use Google to help find answers, however presumably that’s not the point. My task from the University of Sheffield in England had a front sheet with useful resources, which I will list later in this post.

You will probably be asked to bring the completed task with you to the interview. Expect to go through your answers with the interviewer.

 

The interview

At my interview, the interviewer went over how the next hour would go. He warned me that although it might seem that he would be “prodding a bit”, it was only to assess my knowledge and reactions, and not to grill me. Retrospectively I can’t see much of a difference, but it reassured me at the time!

We went through my answers to the pre-interview task. As expected, I fluffed a few definitions for terms like “future perfect continuous tense” – something that school never prepared me for, and that the average person probably wouldn’t need.

Despite this I was told my understanding was “above average” and that most people starting the CELTA wouldn’t know any better than I did. Gradually it dawned on me that I was being tested more for how I responded to apparent failure and my own willingness to learn, as well as capacity for understanding, than I was for simple correct answers on the page.

it might help you to bear that in mind: even though you might have given wrong answers, this is not necessarily going to stop you getting a place – but arguing or showing an unwillingness to develop will.

 

The at-interview task

At my interview I was surprised by a second assessment, and asked to complete this during the interview at a separate table. My heart did a little twist. A test!? With no access to Google!? How dependent I am on instant access to data!

I needn’t have worried. The first part of the task was to correct the spelling and punctuation in a paragraph littered with typos. This I did easily (although I was told off for correcting the “writer” for redundant words and clarity – oops!) and I don’t think many people would really struggle. Mainly it was misspelled words and a bit of clumsy phrasing.

If you get a similar task, just take your time and, once you’ve finished, re-read the whole thing again to be sure you haven’t missed anything. Nerves won’t help you with this one, so allow yourself to relax, take a sip of water, and pretend you’re just proof reading an e-mail before you send it to a friend.

The second part of the task was to write a page on a given topic. I was offered a few choices, which were all simple questions on the theme of teaching. This isn’t an assessment of your answer, i.e. the content of what you write – rather, it’s testing your ability to write off the cuff, like you might have to in class, without the aid of a spell-checker or time to proof-read a dozen times. It’s also testing your handwriting – being the son of a doctor, I’m surprised my writing is legible at all!

 

In summary

  •  Don’t worry! Neither the interview or the task is scary
  •  You don’t have to be a grammar expert…
  •  …But a little knowledge will impress the interviewer – see resources below
  •  Brush up on your general spelling and punctuation
  •  Show a willingness to develop – that’s what the course is for!
  •  Display your enthusiasm for teaching

 

Resources

 

If anyone has any experiences of a CELTA or TEFL course interview and tasks, please post your comments here! I’d love to hear about everybody’s individual experiences, and make this page more useful to people about to undertake their TEFL qualification.

— db

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18 thoughts on “CELTA/TEFL: What to expect from your interview and pre-interview task

  1. Dear Mr.Brooks!

    I’m set to attend a CELTA interview in less than a month, I believe it will be quite similar to yours I received a “pre-assessment” in the post.

    Thank you kindly for all the information!

    Khu sai wu.

    Like

    • No problem, I hope it helps! Good luck with your pre-assessment – it might feel tricky in places, but my impression is that it’s more of an indication of your current knowledge and enthusiasm rather than a ‘test’. Try your best, show how much you want it, and I’m sure you will get your place on the course! The course is dead fun so I know you’ll have a great time!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi!

    Great post!I submitted my pre interview task at Teaching House about 3 days ago and haven’t heard from them yet. How much time does it usually take for them to assess the pre- interview task?

    Regards,
    Avanti

    Like

    • Thanks Avanti! I’m really glad that it was useful. In terms of assessing the PI task, in my case the task was arranged at the same time as the interview, and I was told that we’d run through it once I arrived. In practice, it was more of a ready-made conversation starter than a real examination, and a good way for the interviewer to have an idea of where you are with your grammar knowledge.

      A useful thing to bear in mind is that I got the impression the interview was to assess how keen you were to undertake the course, not how much existing knowledge you already had. If you show a strong interest in teaching and language and show at least a basic knowledge of working English, I’m sure you’ll be fine!

      I’m planning to do more TEFL course articles very soon, so if you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me!

      Thanks for reading and good luck with your interview! DB

      Like

  3. Hi David,

    Thanks for taking the time to write about your experiences, I’m going for my interview this afternoon and your post really set my nerves at rest! Glad to hear that knowledge of the pesky future perfect continuous tense isn’t a make or break…

    Best,
    Anna

    Like

    • Hi Anna, thanks for reading! I’m glad the post eased your nerves a bit, and hopefully your interview went well? I can be a bit daunting but the main objective of the interview seemed to be that you have the drive and stamina to make it through an intensive course. How did it go?

      Like

  4. Hi David,

    Thanks for this! I sent in my CELTA Pre-Interview Task yesterday – haven’t heard anything back yet. I’m a bundle of nerves – this helped! I’m even (hopefully) sort of looking forward to the interview, now that I know what to expect.

    So thanks so much for sharing it!

    Allison

    Like

  5. Hi David,

    Thanks David your experience is very helpful.

    I sent my CELTA pre interview sometime back. Got the response immediately, and have been asked to re submit the task with a few corrections. I am really worried now and very scared to resubmit. I have heard that if I don’t get the answers right the second time, I will not get my admission to the course.This course is my dream.

    Like

    • Hi Kosha! Thanks for reading!

      I wouldn’t worry too much about having re submit. Remember that the course leaders WANT you to be accepted onto their course – it’s a business after all – and because it’s a course where you will learn a lot about teaching English, they don’t expect you to know everything before the course. They mainly just want to see that you have a basic aptitude and the will to stick it out, as it’s a demanding couple of weeks. If you show a desire to take part, I got the impression that this is just as important as your resubmission. Follow the guidance given to you for the corrections, doing a little Googling to be sure you’re on the right track, and I also suggest expressing how much you want to take part in the course, and how hard you intend to work, in a brief cover letter/email.

      Best of luck and let me know how it goes! David.

      Like

  6. Hi David,

    I have the CELTA face to face interview tomorrow and was worried about the written task in the Interview. Your post has saved me from my anxiousness. Thanks a lot. I hope the interview goes well.

    Like

    • Thanks Vardi, I’m glad to hear it! Best of luck with your interview, just show your enthusiasm and I’m sure you’ll do great!

      I’m considering writing more CELTA related posts in the future so if you have any questions etc then let me know!

      D

      Like

  7. Hi David, I have my face to face interview on Tuesday. My interview is 2 hours long, 1 of which is spent writing I’m worried now as I did not have to complete a pre task assessment! Do you think that my interview includes the pre task bit?

    ash

    Like

    • Hi Ash, thanks for reading!

      Things could have changed since I did my CELTA interview, so it’s possible the pre-task assessment isn’t part of the interview process anymore. I expect that if you have a longer interview and it includes writing, that the assessments are included together (or as a single written piece, rather). I can only guess, though! Either way, I’m sure you’ll do great! Good luck!

      Like

      • I have downloaded so many celta pre tasks at this stage that at least one has to come up. Lol how there is one part that has gone so far over my head I will never understand what they are asking of me.. 🤔🤔🤔🤔

        Like

    • Hi there, thanks for reading! I expect that the specifics will have changed in the last two years since I did my interview. I believe at the time I was simply asked to write about why I would like to do the course (including, for example, love of language/reading/writing/travel etc., whatever it is that attracted you to do the course). I don’t think there will be much preparation you could do for the writing segment, except brush up on your written grammar if you have any trouble with anything like punctuation or run on sentences. Best of luck!

      Like

  8. Pingback: How difficult is the CELTA course pre-interview task?

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