CELTA Application and Interview

I already talked a bit about the CELTA program that I plan to do this summer, and now I will talk about the application and interview process. This is a long post in three parts – CELTA requirements, the application process and the interview. I will summarize the most important points first, then read on for more details if you want them. Please feel free to email me  at “seth.lovingworker@gmail.com” if you have any further questions.

Take away points

  • Take the application and interview process seriously.
  • CELTA does not have many official requirements, but the centers can be very selective.
  • The application includes a “pre-interview task,” which is a mini-language test. Take time to do this thoroughly, it will make you look better and the questions on it will be used in the interview. I personally took three days after work to finish it.
  • They do not expect you to be a teaching expert or a language expert before the course. They are looking for your potential and your ability to use references to find answers to questions you don’t yet know.
  • They recommend several books for before and during the course. Get one for each major subject (grammar, pronunciation/phonetics, and teaching methodology) and use them well.

The Requirements

The requirements for the CELTA are actually pretty open

  • You don’t need teaching experience, the program is designed to accomodate dedicated beginners. (Update: After taking the course, I think you will get a lot more out of it if you have SOME teaching experience, of any kind, even tutoring. Your own experience makes the course lessons more relevant – everyone out of 12 trainees in my group had some teaching experience.)
  • You don’t necessarily even need a degree  Anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent can apply. However they are looking for college level English skills, and they design the application and interview to weed out those who can’t hack it.
  • You don’t need to be a native English speaker. (Update: In fact, most of the people in my program were not native English speakers. In some ways their knowledge was better than the many native speakers.)
  • They recommend you be age 20 or over, but even that is negotiable.

But don’t mistake this openness for lack of rigor. They allow anyone to apply and interview, but spaces are limited, and there is stiff competition for many of the training centers – especially in places like Thailand.

The Application

If you are considering applying for the CELTA, it is very important to get an early start on your application. Really, take a look now – IH Bangkok application page. As I mentioned before, it includes a mini-test called the “pre-interview task.” I personally took 3 days after work to finish the task – 2 days to answer the questions and write my personal statement and a third day to check and revise my answers.

The application starts with the standard personal background questions, and then dives right into the task. The task includes your knowledge of the CELTA program and methods, grammar, pronunciation (phonetics), vocabulary and teaching methods. Take the application process seriously and don’t be tempted to copy answers off the internet  (they are out there) – the interviewers will likely use questions directly from the application in the interview, so doing the hard work yourself will pay off later. Let me be clear, they DO NOT expect you to be an expert at any of this, most trainees are not – all they are looking for is your potential to learn and your ABILITY TO USE REFERENCES.

On the pre-interview task sheet itself they recommend books that will help you with grammar, pronunciation and teaching methods. I strongly recommend getting these before the course and using them to complete your application and prepare for the interview. The books I used were: Grammar for English Language Teachers – Martin Parrott, Sound Foundations – Adrian Underhill (Pronunciation/phonology), and Learning Teaching– Jim Scrivener (avoid the first edition of this book, even though it is cheaper – I learned the hard way, later editions of this book have A LOT more content than the first edition.)

Here are some sample questions from the pre-interview task:

  • Having read all the information on this site (and on other Internet websites), what would you expect your strengths and weaknesses to be on the CELTA course?
  • Identify the name of the following  underlined verb phrases (or tenses) and analyse their  form
    • I’ll be leaving here on Friday. = Future progressive – Subject + will/shall/going to + be + ‘ing’
  • How would you explain the difference between the following pairs of words
    • Overweight vs Fat …Win vs Beat …”She’s at the school” vs  “She’s at school”
    •  (Don’t give definitions, actually think about how you could explain the differences between these words/phrases to a confused student – verbal definitions are not always necessary. Think how you could use pictures, drawings, or even miming – be brief but creative in your answer.
  • Mark the words that are stressed in the following sentence . Ex:
    • “Do you want to buy the green one?”
    • “No, I want to rent it.”

Lastly, they give you a sample reading text with a mixed up outline of a lesson plan based on the reading – you must then put the steps of the lesson plan in order and explain your reasoning.

The interview

Let me start by saying the interview can vary widely based on who happens to interview you. I will talk about my personal experience, but some other trainees I talked to had very different interviews, so your mileage may vary.

The interview took place over the phone, I was in Korea and the interviewer in Thailand – I tried to use Skype, but it was being unreliable that day in my apartment so I called him using a phone card. All told it took 45 minutes – 1 hour.

I was shocked by how quickly my interviewer got down to business. Every other job or internship interview I’ve had involved some sort of pleasantries at the beginning. My interviewer said hello, and then got straight to asking questions. First he asked me to explain why I thought I would be a good candidate for the program. I don’t think he was looking for honest strengths or weaknesses, I think he was trying to make sure I had actually done my research on the program and could talk about my expectations using specific examples.

Next he dived right into questions from the pre-interview task. . This is why you should take the application seriously – he not only asked me to repeat my answers, but to elaborate on them. Two of my answers were blatantly wrong – he asked me to look at the questions again on the spot and see if I could explain why they were wrong. I was able to correct one of my answers quickly, but had to give up on the second one – I hadn’t researched that grammar point well enough.

Finally, he gave me several classroom scenarios which were similar but not the same as the scenarios presented in the pre-interview task. The hardest one by far was the final question

Imagine you have a class of adult intermediate students. They have requested a lesson on using adjectives of appearance – that is, adjectives that are used to describe how people look. Take a minute and think how you could design a one hour lesson to help them.

There was no way to prepare for that question, nothing like it on the application. I had to think up a lesson plan on the spot. I forget the details, as my heart was in my throat at the time, but I based my answer on my experience with students in my own classroom.

I would choose some key vocabulary to cover for the lesson, then bring in pictures of some local celebrities that demonstrate that vocabulary. I would also ask students to bring in pictures of their favorite celebrities – or look them up online. I would start with a class discussion about some of the most popular people, to see what words they may already know.  I forget what I thought of for the middle part of the lesson. I ended the lesson with a game of “Guess Who” – each student would have a set of hidden pictures and would need to use adjectives to describe their pictures while the other person guessed who they were talking about, then they would switch.

I felt quite stressed as I stumbled through explaining this lesson, but he seemed satisfied. At the end he said

Thank you Seth, I see no reason why you shouldn’t participate in this course.

And that was that. I then wired my money, got my acceptance and eventually took the course.

That’s all I can think of for the moment. Again, feel free to email me at “seth.lovingworker@gmail.com” with any questions or comments about the application or interview process for the CELTA. I will talk more about the actual course in future posts.

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44 Responses to CELTA Application and Interview

  1. Lauren says:

    Thanks heaps for this!!! I just received my ‘pass’ for the pretask and am now stressing about the interview. All the parts of speech questions in the pretask totally threw me!! I haven’t had to know any of those bits for a loooong time. I scoured every internet site I could find trying to figure out the answers ( and even found some ‘answers’ that were posted were wrong wrong wrong) . How strict were they on grammar knowledge??? My phone interview is next week and I am furiously restudying grammar rules!!!

    Thanks heaps for you post!!

    • workislove says:

      Congratulations! Yeah, the interview can be stressful – I was pacing around my apartment and cramming grammar into my head all morning before my interview, but it wasn’t that bad.

      I’ll start with an important question – do you have experience teaching yet? If you do, then that will likely be the key to success in the interview. They don’t expect everyone to be perfect grammar robots – in fact most of the native speakers in the program struggled with grammar a lot. That’s because native speakers just say what “sounds right” instead of remembering rules.

      What I think they are really looking for is your ability to think through problems. Less than 1/3 of my interview related directly to grammar – most of the questions were about classroom scenarios (how to handle a misbehaving child, how to handle a conflict with a coworker, how to keep a lesson balanced with high level and low level students, how to teach a concept like adjectives of appearance, etc…)

      And if you know you are weak in one area – grammar, classroom management, lesson planning, lecturing – and the interviewer asks you a question about your weak area – don’t try to BS. Be honest about your weakness, and explain to them specific ways you plan to improve your weakness.

      As for the grammar portion

      You should at least study the specific points covered in the pre-interview exercise – in my interview he asked grammar questions based on those questions directly – I think one was actually the same exact question as the exercise. He was had my exercise sheet printed out and I think was comparing my spoken answer to my written answer.

      But, as I said, I got two of his grammar questions completely wrong in the interview, and still easily passed. The reason is that on the first mistake, I was able to look in the recommended grammar book on the spot and correct myself, and on the second mistake I was able to explain HOW I would go about researching the answer. I was just honest and said “I have no idea what the answer is, but here’s how I’d find it…”

      The key, for me, was to think about every question they asked in the context of teaching an actual class. Imagine a student asked you a tricky grammar question that you didn’t know the answer to – do you lie? Do you make something up? Do you give them a half-hearted explanation? No – just be honest and say “I can’t answer your question right now, how about we talk more after class?” Then explain to the interviewer what steps or sources you would use to get the right answer. Would you look in a grammar book, search a specific website, ask another teacher, etc…

      Good luck with your interview, let me know how it goes!

  2. Justina says:

    Thank you for the sharing. It helps a lot. I just sent my application today. How long does it take to know if I pass my pre interview task?

    • workislove says:

      Glad I could help a little. Sadly, I honestly can’t remember how long it took. Good luck, though!

  3. Justina says:

    I got into the course! Will be doing it in summer 🙂 can’t wait! Thanks again for your tips.

    • workislove says:

      Awesome! I wish you the best of luck – you’ll have an intense summer then 🙂

    • workislove says:

      Awesome! It sounds like your summer will be intense, then 🙂 – I wish you the best of luck.

      • POR7LAND says:

        I think this sounds and looks better, “Awesome! It sounds like your summer will be intense – I wish you the best of luck.” I find, in this case, using the conjunctive adverb ‘then’ sounds weird; it sounds unecessary. What do you think?

    • Matthew says:

      So how long did you end up waiting? I just submitted mine today. =D

  4. Alicia says:

    Hi! Thanks for posting such great information! I’ve been researching this for almost a week now and there’s little information from actual students who have taken the course. I was wondering which school or program you went through? I’ve seen a lot of stuff about scams, and not really worth it programs. I’ve got a million questions but that is currently the main one.

    • workislove says:

      Glad I could help a little. I went through the International House program in Bangkok, Thailand – which was perfect, because it was (relatively) cheap and I had a Thai vacation planned anyway.

      There are many TESOL scams, but I believe any program officially called CELTA (by Cambridge University) must meet certain standards. For example there was a training center near me in California that lost its’ certification after failing to meet Cambridge standards.

      IH Bangkok was an excellent place to take the course. IH has a good reputation for both English teaching and teacher training, and has centers all around the world, including two more in Thailand.

      Here are some links to find teacher training centers
      CELTA website – search for CELTA programs
      International house Bangkok
      International House worldwide

  5. Rabia says:

    Dear Mr. Seth,
    Your write up on CELTA is really very informative.I am really interested in doing CELTA.My English is quite good but don’t have the confidence(as I am not a native speaker) .Can you please guide me how to prepare for Celta (to get admitted in the course)?
    I really don’t want to leave anything onn chance!

  6. amisha says:

    hi dear
    i am very glad i found this blog..
    thanks for your tips…i am preparing to get admission in celta course.
    well lets see how can i perform
    i was not very hopeful that i could get accepted on this course but your material on the site is very helpful…

    • workislove says:

      Great! I’m glad I could help in some way. I wish you the best of luck in the course.

  7. alesh says:

    You’ve written a great blog to help people trying to do the CELTA course.
    I have just submitted my application and language tasks.
    I wanted ask you if they send any reply to acknowledge that they have received the filled application form.
    They didn;t reply me and im worrying about it.
    Also when do they let you know if you have been short-listed for the interview?

    • workislove says:

      I don’t remember exactly, but I believe I received an acknowledgement of my application within 1 week of applying. If you’re worried about it and tey aren’t replying, keep trying to contact them to double check – I don’t think it can hurt. As for the interview, I really don’t remember how long the process took from start to finish – sorry I can’t be helpful on this one.

  8. shirin says:

    I have an M.phil and masters degree in English and and wish to work in a univerisity here in Oman. Here they do prefer taking teachers who have Celta to their credit but at the same time they do select teachers otherwise aswell. My problem is that the interview questions will be mainly on celta and other english language teaching. Pls tell me how and from where i can find these question types in order to do my interview well.



    • workislove says:

      I’m not sure what types of “CELTA questions” you’ll get in the interview, but I can tell you where to get a lot of the information covered by the CELTA program. You can’t get everything about CELTA from books alone – the main experience is the teaching practices, where you try to apply different methods to actual students and get critiqued by the instructors and peers. However, the books by themselves are pretty good, and cover the methods that you would employ in the CELTA classrooms.

      The main book on methodology is Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener (Avoid the first edition of this book, only get later/more recent editions). Some CELTA centers also use The Practice of English Teaching by Jeremy Harmer. Both these books have information on how to approach students, practical ways to break down different common language problems, how to plan a lesson, etc…

      Another similar book is Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. It mostly covers grammar points, but also includes ideas about how to teach vocabulary and idioms – called “the bible of TEFL” by many people.

      Grammar for English Language Teachers by Martin Parrott is a great grammar reference, it has almost every possible tense, grammar concept and syntax laid out in a neat reference book. It’s just a reference, not the type of thing you read cover-to-cover, but it’s great for brushing up on weak points in grammar and getting ideas about how to explain / diagram difficult grammar concepts.

      One last book that was required by my CELTA center is Sound Foundations by Adrian Underhill. It covers details about pronunciation / phonology. It has a lot of good information, HOWEVER it is very dense and technical, breaking up English sounds into phonemes and covering the phonetic alphabet. I couldn’t have REALLY understood a lot of the ideas in here without some guidance – I think we spent 2-3 days covering this information in class, and that was a very useful introduction which allowed me to get a lot more from a book like this.

      Finally, a BIG takeaway from the CELTA program is the importance of interactive teaching for a healthy classrooms. Many places, especially universities, focus on having a teacher lecture for hours with students quietly taking notes and only asking a few questions. This is the opposite of the methods recommended by CELTA – as covered in the methodology books mentioned above, they stress it is very important to give students lots of activities and chances to talk in class and practice whatever information is being covered in class. Lots of “TTT” (Teacher Talking Time) is considered negative – teachers should only talk as much as is necessary to get across information, then spend the rest of the time guiding students through practical activities that will reinforce theses short lectures.

    • Mokhidil says:

      hi everyone! Please, Everyone Help Me!
      I’m uzbek and non native speaker. But I wanna do the celta course. I have already done application and pre-interview tasks, and in March 11, 2015 I will have interview. What kind of of questions can be asked from me as I am a non-native speaker? thnx a lot

  9. Dilusha says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience.It was really useful to me.

  10. Marsh says:

    Thank you so much for this. I just wanted to ask you right, i’m 20 years old and I want to do the CELTA course do you think that’ll be a problem for me because of my age? I have already completed the pre-interview task all I need to do is send it off.

    • workislove says:

      Your age shouldn’t be a problem – we had people in my course that were 21/22 and people that were 50+. Your level of previous experience could be a bigger issue. Have you spent any time teaching? Tutoring? Leading kids at summer camp? I was teaching middle schoolers in an after-school English program just before I took CELTA, and I know that my experience working with them helped me A LOT through the course. You can do the program even if you don’t have that experience, I just think people understand more of the lesson if they’ve been in a similar position beforehand.

  11. schoudhury says:

    Thanks so much for all your information. I am trying to be a New Jersey state certified ESL teacher, and I am stuck at the level of CE. With the CERTIFICATE OF ELIGIBILITY my next step is to find a job in a NJ Public school, and then go ahead for the next steps. I can’t find any job, since all schools want standard certificate holder, not a trainee like me. So I am wondering if a CELTA certificate can help. Please advise with any tips, or suggestions. Thanks so much.

    • workislove says:

      I wish I could help with that question, but I really have no idea. I got my CELTA purely for teaching in Asia, so I really haven’t explored how it’s received in the US.

  12. Madhuri says:

    I have a pure technical background and currently I’m working with a reputed company. English has somehow fascinated me from childhood and at this point of my career I feel I should chase my dreams !! So my doubts are
    1. Will my application be considered given my technical background and no English teaching experience ? Yes, I do have a good command over the language
    2. Will I get job opportunities in India after the course completion or I should go abroad ?
    Thanks in advance

  13. Iris says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience. One question I would like to know is that there’re two centres in Korea that offer CELTA programme (one in British Council, another at International Graduate School of English). Is there any reason you choose to take it in Thailand instead of Seoul? Because I also want to apply CELTA and I wonder if it is a good choice to study in Korea. As I know who the tutors are in the centre is also important for students…

    • workislove says:

      I have nothing to say one way or the other about the programs in Korea. I chose Thailand because I had a 1 month vacation planned there at the end of my teaching contract, and also compared to Seoul, it was A LOT cheaper to support myself for without working to complete the program. Also, being at home in Korea, and having friends there, I suspect I would have been more tempted by distractions. During the program the only people I interacted with were others in the program, and most in my group were pretty studious, so we helped keep each other on track.

  14. sousou says:

    Thank you so much for these great tips and information.
    Could you please give me details about the four written assignments.
    Thanks a lot

  15. Carlos says:

    Hi Seth! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and I must say: what a great person you are! You’ve taken the time to describe all your experience about the CELTA so that us -mortals- could know what’s about to come about it. So, thanks a lot for it!

    I’ve been teaching english only for two years, but I’ve got the chance to do it with adults, and teenangers, not kids yet (luckily I guess). I thought about doing some course to learn something else about teaching and when I was searching for it google showed me your blow and so I got interested on doing the CELTA.

    After having read your inputs and posts I began to search it and found that the one in IH Prague seemed about right and close to where I’m at right now (Spain). So, I applied for it on May 20th 2015, but I think I had been thinking about my possible answer on the pretask for about a week… A week from which I really worked on it 2 days. One day writing the two written tasks and the other about the grammar (after having taught those lessons for two years I had already memorized them).

    Anyway they sent me an e-mail the following day to set a date for the interview. As I had read that you called them and that it was expensive I asked them if I could do it on skype and they agreed. We scheluded it for the folllowing week, and so we did.

    Unlike your experience, mine was very down to earth and not stressful at all. The girl who called me had an amazing british accent despite being czech. She asked me if I was in a comfortable place with comfortable things and if we wouldn’t be disturbed, of course I said that no and so we began.

    She asked me first about why I wanted to go to Prague and why had I chosen CELTA. I told her that I had already been to Prague and as I was searching to go outside Spain but not too far and as I had read that their organisation was serious and seemed very organised it was settled. She laughed and thanked me.

    She began letting me know that she would ask me grammar things and so she began: she asked what was the difference between: You could have told me, You must have told me, You should have told me and You couldn’t have told me. Basically Modals of Speculation in the Past. I was very lucky as I had taugt that class a few hours before, so I kind of explained everything but she stopped me in one of them telling me that the idea was good but that my explanation was too complicated for someone who hadn’t seen english before to understand. So, I just thanked her and told her that I would remind it for when I’m in the course if I’m accepted.

    Then, she asked me to explain how would I teach the conditionals to an intermediate level class. I could do it without problems, but didn’t say the exact accurate word of third conditional ‘hypothetical’, but said ‘regret in the past’, so she said that it was also ok but that I should say the correct idea and term.

    And then she finished by asking me how would I teach to a beginning level class the meaning of ‘generous’ and ’embarassed’ and so I basically acted it out and explained it and she laugheg again (I don’t know if she was breaking some kind of protocol as she forced herself to stop doing it repeatedly) hehe…

    And so she just said: ‘Ok Carlos, you’re accepted on the course and I think that you’ll do a good job, although you tempt to do too much Teacher Talking and it might be a problem for you, but I guess you’ll be able to eliminate that’ (I remember your post about it and said ‘damn’ to myself) hehe…

    And so, I already paid the course (it was a real pain as it’s a lot of money, but I hope it’ll be worth it). So, instead of doing a new blog, I’ll just leave a post in all of yours so that people who are going to do it, can read it from another perspective and another country too, right?

    Great Blog, Hugs! Carlos from Spain

    • workislove says:

      Thanks for the input – it’s interesting to see all the different experiences that people end up having with different centers and different staff members.

  16. Thanks to everyone!Reading all these doubts, answers and responses made me overcome my nervousness and fear since I am waiting for an interview for a CELTA course after submitting my application. Still I surprise the questions being asked in various centres differ.

  17. Anisah says:

    Thank you for an amazing blog. Tomorrow I have my intervew for celta and all I have done is stress about it. I am a native English speaker and like most people, have taken it for granted. It is almost 20 years ago since I studied grammar terminology and although I have been cramming it in, it just wont stay in there. I totally lack in confidence and need to figure out how to solve that if i am accepted on the course. Have you any tips or advice?

  18. linda says:

    hi i would be very grateful if you could give me what type of questions would i be asked during the celta interview
    many thanks

  19. Pingback: 10 Questions and Answers for an Overseas CELTA Application and Interview – Shy Backpack

  20. Priya says:

    I am a non-native speaker and planning to take up this course. Should I appear for toefl or IELTS test before applying this course. please guide me.


  21. Pingback: Celta Course In Seoul University – BestSEOTraining.xyz

  22. Sena Del says:

    Thank you for the information in this website. I was able to answer the Celta application form and do well in the interview by following your guidelines. The two books you recommended, the one on teaching and grammar helped me to get through the interview with ease. Youtube also has some videos with teachers explaining the basics of grammar. I found it useful to watch some of them just before the interview. The learning teaching book is essential to build your confidence and help you answer the questions in the application form. Thank you once again. Great help.

  23. Mire says:

    Hi, I am an expat from many years ago traveling wherever my husband job takes us. I am a science teacher and I wish to register for the course. They contacted me to ask to give more details about why I want to do the course and to explain a lesson plan in more details….do you think I still have a chance to make it to the interview? How this reply sounds to you?The fact that I am not a native speaker ( have an accent) and am not a young person diminishes my chances? I can’t just tell them that I need this certification so I can get a job wherever I go in the world….please help.

  24. Y.J says:

    How nice you are! Completed celta. Would you please check your e-mail? Some questions about Celta.

  25. Pingback: Surviving the CELTA: Chiang Mai, Thailand – Site Title

  26. Pingback: CELTA: The Application Process – Celta Thailand

  27. Hilal Gur says:

    Hi guys,
    Seth the info you provided was great! Thank you.
    I have just applied for the Celta course, I have completed the first pre interview task which was to explain a good or bad learning experience. I was then emailed stating that I have to complete another pre interview task which requires one hour of my time. My friend that applied for Celta a few months ago did not get asked to complete this task.
    I am freaking out about this task as I don’t know they types of questions that will be asked. Can anyone give me some tips or let me know what I should be expecting

  28. Gary says:

    Thank you guys so much for sharing your experience with me. I just passed the CELTA interview yesterday. It’s time to give back. Hopefully my experience can be of help to those of you who are preparing for this interview, too.


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