Introduction: Survive the CELTA Course

About: Travel blogger/vlogger. Youtuber. ESL Teacher. Jesus Freak. Adrenaline Junkie. Taco Bell Enthusiast. Currently located in Hong Kong but 2015 will also find me in Thailand, Macau, Mongolia, USA, and North Korea…

I have created a 5 part series on the elusive, Cambridge CELTA Certification Course. Thousands of people take this class and all agree on it being very, very “intense.” You then try to google how to prepare for this course and there is surprisingly little information available on what to expect and, even more importantly, how to prepare your mind and body for the trials that await you. I’m making it sound much more insane than it actually is, but there is no doubt that the CELTA is no walk in the park.

I created this series to walk you through each step of the process and harvest some tips and tricks to help you pass with flying colors! Each section has a video and a short breakdown that you can refer back to easily. I hope they will give you helpful information to get you through the wild ride and, as always, please don’t hesitate to ask any questions! Comment down below on your experience with CELTA!

Step 1: Introduction - What Are You Getting Yourself Into?


  • CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
  • TESOL certification course
  • The program is through Cambridge University in England
  • International Teaching House – 16 locations in US alone, many more abroad
  • Gold standard and world renowned in TESOL certification – all schools accept and covet teachers with this certificate
  • 4 week intensive & Part time & Online options available
  • Con – Expensive ($2,500 USD)
  • Designed for students that have no teaching experience.
  • All ages and backgrounds welcome.
  • 4 week intensive: 4 weeks, 5 days a week, 7.5 hours a day
  • No time to work a job during course!

Step 2: The Web & Phone Interview


  • Fill out web interview – Contact informations, general questions (experience, why CELTA, etc.)
  • Designed for brand new teachers
  • Set up phone interview & pre-interview task email
  • Pre-interview task (grammar questions)
  • Couple days to fill out (can use google or grammar books) then email back
  • Make corrections on PIT and set up time for phone interview
  • Call into center
  • Interview: Get to know you, go over task & situational questions, course overview, your personal questions
  • Sample questions: Why do you want to take the CELTA? What’s your teaching experience? Where would you like to work?
  • You may get offered a slot right then! Think through whether you really want this because it’d be advisable if you can put down your deposit ASAP! You might get an email a few days later offering a spot if not over the phone.
  • The $200 deposit saves you a spot in your chosen course dates.
  • A pre-course task is sent to you over email. Not required but recommended to prepare you for the course.
  • Later email gives you information specific to your course and payment deadlines.

Find a CELTA center


  • Have Pre-interview task printed out and by your side during interview!!! It WILL be gone over during the interview!
  • Research CELTA so you can impress them with your knowledge! Show them you’ve put a lot of time and thought into the course. It shows them that you know what you’re getting yourself into!
  • Have a couple questions ready! It shows that you’re dedicated.

Step 3: The First 2 Weeks

We’ve finally made it into the actually classroom! Now down to the important stuff! Once the first half of the course begins I can guarantee you will be overwhelmed and probably think “What the heck was I thinking?!” In this post, however, I break down what you can expect in the first few days and a couple tips to help you along on the CELTA struggle bus. Leave me any questions you might have!


  • Get a notebook (spiral is what I used)
  • Write everything your trainers say! There is A LOT to keep track of!
  • Bring a large three ring binder for the CELTA workbook and all the handouts & copies.
  • Ask lots of questions about the schedule if confused and study it the first night.
  • 12 students & 2 trainers
  • Two groups of 6 students for each practice teaching classes.
  • Input sessions: Trainers teaching you (2 sessions a day)
  • Free work time (1 hour) finish up your lessons/assignments
  • Two levels of english learners for practice teaching classes (spend 2 weeks with each group)
  • Teaching every other day! Three students in your group teach each night.
  • 1st lesson: 20 mins. (You teach one part of a six part lesson)
  • 2nd-8th lesson: 40 mins.
  • 9th lesson: 60 min.
  • First night observe trainers teaching (take LOTS of notes! DON’T ZONE OUT!!!)
  • Each lesson you teach you are given less and less information to work off of.
  • Lessons are graded: Below Expectations, At Expectations, or Above Expectations
  • 4 writing assignments (1 due a week)
  • You can resubmit your assignments once for each one if you don’t pass it the first time.
  • You can fail ONE assignment (fail after resubmission)
  • The day after you teach you have a review with your group and trainer to go over your lesson (strengths, weaknesses, what you’re proud of etc.)
  • Final grades: Pass (85% of students), Pass B (10% of students), Pass A (5% of students)
  • If you aren’t doing well and think you might not pass your trainers will work with you – they want you to succeed!! They will meet with you to tell you what you need to work on in order to pass.

Step 4: The Final 2 Weeks

We’ve made it to the home stretch, people! Once you make it through those first two weeks it’s almost (almost) a breeze. This video focuses on how your fellow trainees can help you in your journey and preparing for the future. If you are lucky enough to have a great group and trainers then wrapping up the CELTA is actually a bittersweet event. By the time you can smell that finish line you are beginning to see what a truly unique experience you are having and can finally see that everything will get done in its time.


  • The final two weeks are easier because you know what is expected of you and how to manage your time.
  • If you make friends with your fellow trainees it will make your life so much better!
  • More down time towards the end!
  • Meet with your trainer(s) for advice on your future or to look over your resume.
  • Lesson types: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Grammar, Vocabulary, Functions
  • The last three are generally more difficult to teach
  • Second two weeks you switch practice teaching groups – switch trainers, new level of English learners
  • Hurtle: figure out what your new trainer is looking for in grading.
  • Representative from Cambridge University observes for a day. Private Q&A with rep without trainers.
  • You have to be more creative with your lessons as time goes by.
  • Final two lessons you teach (40 min & 60 min) are totally your creations
  • One can be used from your first writing assignment
  • Grading doesn’t get harder- trainers look to see if you are working on what is brought up in feedback sessions.
  • One day you will also get to observe a professional ESL teacher teach classes

Step 5: My Advice & Tips

Well, we’ve made it ladies and gents! The unexpected journey is coming to a close. I hope these videos have been helpful for you with this last one being filled with tips I wish I knew and items I painstakingly learned through the process. Let me know what your own bits of advice are for other future Celties and let me know if there are any other videos on this subject that you’d like to see!


  • Do the Pre-Course Task! It’s a pain in the butt but (!) oh so worth it! It prepares your mind to get back in the academic mindset.
  • Read Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener. It will prepare you for all terms/techniques that you’ll learn during the course. You can also use it as a reference for your writing assignments.
  • Stay organized!! You’ll receive so many handouts that you’ll need to refer back to so keep them handy in your binder.
  • Be prepared for an academic challenge. This course is through Cambridge University, they ain’t playing around, people.
  • Don’t procrastinate! Keep check lists. Just do it.
  • Stay humble and be open to new teaching techniques. Whether you have twenty years of experience or none there is still more to learn and you can’t rely on past successes. Teaching ESL is totally different from teaching any other subject so just swallow that pride and drink it up like a newbie.
  • Jump in! You’ll be nervous if you’ve never taught before and it’s always scary being thrown into a new environment but just toss out your inhibitions and go for it! Ask questions, give answers and thoughts, show you care.
  • Ask questions! You’ll be confused every second of every day during the course – don’t be!
  • Keep things in perspective! It’s only four weeks of your life. Even though it seems impossible I promise you that there will be time to get everything done! Thousands have done it before you, and even more will do it after you. Keep your eyes on the goal and the stuff will get done!