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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