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.
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!
- 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
- Swan, Michael Practical English Usage, (OUP)
- Parrott, Martin Grammar for English language Teachers (CUP)
- Harmer, Jeremy How to Teach English, (Longman)
- Scrivener, Jim Learning Teaching, (Heineman)
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.