CELTA, CertTESOL Pre-interview Task Preparation Tips and Answers

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If you are thinking of taking an internationally accredited qualification in TESOL, the first thing you will have to do as part of your enrollment is to prepare for the interview.

Although courses like the Trinity CertTESOL and Cambridge CELTA do not require any previous teaching experience, you will have to demonstrate that you are a fit candidate for the course in a formal meeting with the course director or a course trainer prior to acceptance.

This article will guide you through with information, and the kind of questions asked with tips to answer and how to prepare.

Understanding the range of requirements for the course

The first thing you should think about when preparing for the admissions interview is what exactly the training center is looking for in a trainee.

Three main areas make a successful course candidate:

  • Motivation to enter the teaching profession
  • Language awareness, and
  • Academic potential

Again, you do not have to be an expert linguist or an experienced educator. You will need to show that you are on your way to beginning your journey as a teacher in these three areas, with a demonstrated interest in language and learning.

All CertTESOL and CELTA centres are required to give new trainees a pre-interview task, which covers the main areas of the interview, and the key skills which you will develop during the course itself.

As you complete this pack, think about how you will discuss these areas and how you will present the information you include with a course trainer face to face.

Motivation to become a teacher

The first question typically asked at a pre-course interview is:

Why did you apply for the course?

and/or

What made you want to start teaching?

These are different ways of asking the same basic question:

What are your motivations for wanting to enter the field of English language teaching?

There is no correct answer to this, as people come from all walks of life to become language educators.

Common reasons/answers include:

  • Wanting a change of career
  • Wanting to travel and experience different cultures
  • Wanting to put something back into life
  • Developing an existing interest in languages, and many more

All of these reasons can be well stated or put in a way that will give an interviewer pause, so be ready to answer this question positively and with detail about your own background. This will demonstrate that you are a suitable candidate for the job in general.

Another question which can inform the interviewer about how you are engaged with your development as a teacher is in answer to another common question asked at this kind of interview:

Outline a learning experience where you succeeded (or failed) in improving your knowledge or skill in a specific area, and why you succeeded (or failed)?

This question is asking you to outline a teaching method that you have experienced as a learner and why that method worked (or not).

Again, there is no right answer to this question, but being ready with a specific example of a learning experience can help you to talk about teaching and learning in your own words.

Don’t worry too much about pedagogical terminology at this point. Still, it may be worth looking up a couple of teaching approaches and applying them to your own experience, along with any positive or negative aspects associated with them.

You will probably also be asked if you have any teaching experience?

This question is perhaps broader than it seems. One major challenge that initial trainees often have to overcome is simply standing up in front of a room of people and speaking with confidence.

So if you have experience leading any kind of training, induction, mentoring or presentations from previous positions, mention these. It will show that you have some experience with being at the front of the room and managing a group of people.

Language Awareness

Another aspect of the course which trainers look for at an interview will be your existing awareness of language.

The pre-interview task will include some technical questions about language, and you will probably be asked to name and analyze some different language items.

This will require some research on your part, and that’s fine. In fact, saying that you looked up the types of structure on the task shows that you are prepared to research content for the course actively, and that you have already started your development process as a language expert.

You will probably have to take the interviewer through some of your answers orally during the meeting, so it’s best to make a note of key linguistic and teaching terminology that you need to describe these items.

Identifying different language forms is the first step to good language awareness, but a strong candidate will also be able to analyze why these forms appear as they do.

Be ready to talk about other, similar examples of grammar or vocabulary, to compare and contrast different forms and to work with substitution, changing sentences to mean different things, and describing the necessary structures as you do so.

Familiarity with the tenses of English, common verb forms, and types of word (word classes or parts of speech) will help here.

Academic Potential

Finally, you will need to show that you are a suitable candidate for the course in terms of how you work to deadlines, keep on top of the workload, and present academically sound assignment work.

These courses are, as I’m sure you’ve heard, very intense and academically rigorous (the ‘level 5’ in the qualification titles of both the CertTESOL and CELTA qualifications represents the same level of study as an entire second year of an undergraduate degree, taken in just 4 weeks full time).

For this reason, successful trainees must have excellent time management skills, the ability to write with clarity and precision to a deadline.

They must be able to prioritize tasks appropriately and collaborate with their peers on the course, including the compromises that entail when working in a high-stress environment such as exists on these courses.

Be prepared to talk about previous experience with this kind of work (from university or professional experience) to demonstrate that you are ready for the workload which is coming your way.

A final consideration which many trainees overlook is time management, which they will be required to implement outside of course hours.

As I mentioned above, the course is very intense, and a lot of assignment work, lesson preparation, and the creation of teaching materials must be done outside of the course’s timetabled hours.

This means that for the month (or longer, if you are opting for a part-time course), you will be eating, sleeping and dreaming TESOL.

You should let your family and friends know that you may well not be available for events or appointments for the period of the course, and having a clear diary for the course period is a definite plus point to bring up at the interview.

This shows that you are already thinking ahead to the busy times, which will give you the headspace to focus on the course duties and achieve to a higher degree.

Conclusion: The pre-course interview is not as daunting as you may think, but it does require some preparation, a little research, and some consideration of the topics you will need to discuss with the center staff. Be prepared for some tricky questions, but don’t be afraid to self-correct and show that you can change your thoughts on specific points about language or teaching – that’s what the course is all about!

Finally, good luck and with these points in mind, you should ace your interview and get the place on the course you are going for!

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Posted On: May 20, 2020.

Author: Tom Garside

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