CELTA frequently asked questions



What is CELTA?

The Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) is an initial teaching qualification for people with little or no previous English teaching experience and is awarded by Cambridge Assessment English, part the University of Cambridge.

Generally, it is taken by people considering a career in English Language Teaching in another country (not the UK). The CELTA is a practical qualification that provides a sound basis in the fundamentals of language teaching practice and gives you confidence in the classroom.

What is the difference between CELTA/ TEFL/ TESOL ect?

TEFL means Teaching English as a Foreign Language and it does not refer to a specific qualification. It is an umbrella term for the industry and in the world of TEFL, there are many different certificates and qualifications you can take.

The most well-recognised are the CELTA, which is accredited by Cambridge University and the CertTESOL, which is accredited by Trinity College.

These courses are comprised of over 120 hours of input and involve 6 hours of assessed teaching practice of real learners and at least 6 hours of observation of experienced teachers.

However, there are many other courses varying in length and cost. In order to decide which course is right for you, look at the kind of job you would like to get and see what qualifications they require. They will often require a ‘CELTA, CertTESOL or equivalent’.

In order to understand what is meant by equivalent, the British Council state that a recognised TEFL qualification should:

  • Include at least 100 hours of input
  • Include at least 6 hours of assessed teaching practice with actual ESL students (not your peers)
  • Be taught by experienced university-level teacher trainers (holding at least an MA in teaching English as a foreign language or linguistics, a DELTA or extensive professional training and English teaching experience)

Do your research. If the course you are considering doesn’t include all of the above, it might not be as acceptable to employers as you want it to be. It also might not equip you with the skills and confidence that you need before setting off on your teaching adventure.

You can find out more on this British Council blog and the Guardian TEFL section.

  • Include at least 6 hours of observation of experienced teachers (either live or recorded)
  • Be accredited and assessed by a recognised body
Why should I choose CELTA?

CELTA is the most-recognised TEFL qualification internationally. It is accredited by Cambridge and it is a well-structured and rigorous course. It is designed for trainees with little or no teaching experience and it will give you an initial, practical introduction to English Language Teaching.

According to Cambridge research, three-quarters of ELT jobs ask for a Cambridge CELTA.

Who am I qualified to teach after the CELTA?

The CELTA focuses on teaching English to adults, but every course includes some input on teaching Young Learners and many of the teaching techniques are transferrable for any age and any teaching context.

Where can I teach with a CELTA?

With a CELTA, you can teach anywhere in the world, with the exception of countries where English is the first language. It’s not impossible to get jobs in these countries, but it isn’t what the CELTA qualification was designed for.

I have previous teaching experience, is CELTA a suitable qualification for me?

CELTA is designed as an entry-level qualification for trainees with little experience. However, many experienced teachers have taken the qualification in order to improve their teaching skills, provide them with a professional qualification and improve their overall confidence and English Language Teaching knowledge.

What's the difference between part-time and full-time CELTA courses?

All CELTA courses consist of a minimum of 120 hours.

On the intensive 4-week course, this equates to 30 hours a week at the ELTC. Depending on the length of the part-time courses, you would be expected to be at the ELTC between 6 and 10 hours a week.

In addition to that, we ask trainees to plan and study for the equivalent time outside of the course. For example, if you are at the ELTC for 10 hours per week, we would expect you to dedicate at least 10 hours per week outside of the course to planning lessons, completing assignments, and reviewing input notes.

Therefore, if you are on the intensive course, we would ask you to study for 30 hours a week outside of the 30 hours you spend at the ELTC. This is a lot of work and as a result, the full-time course is very intensive.

We recommend that for the duration of the course, trainees (as much as is possible) relinquish themselves of additional responsibilities and make sure they are in good physical and mental health as the course can be very stressful and demanding.

On the positive side, the intensive course has its own momentum. It is all-consuming and if you are able to dedicate sufficient time and effort to it, progress is quick and it can be a very rewarding experience.

Within a month, you have a potentially life-changing qualification, you’ve learned a huge amount and you’ve made some new, lifelong friends along the way.

In contrast, the part-time course is less demanding. It means that you can balance other responsibilities, for example a job or family commitments, alongside the course. It suits different learning preferences as it allows trainees to spend more time on planning and reflecting on the contents of the course.

However, even the part-time course is still quite a commitment as you are expected to plan and complete assignments outside of the course, but it isn’t anything like as intensive as the part-time course.

Different courses suit different learners and if you are unsure which course would work for you, contact the TEFL team by emailing tefl@sheffield.ac.uk or ask at your interview.

What does the online CELTA course involve?

The online course has exactly the same content and assessment as the face-to-face course. As the input is online, we expect you to have a sufficient level of computer literacy, to be able to work collaboratively online with fellow trainees and to have regular access to a computer that is compatible with the Cambridge system (most computers are as this is quite a common learning platform).

The certificate awarded is no different from the face-to-face CELTA certificate.

How many hours do I need to study?

As a general rule, we recommend that you match the number of hours you are at the centre with the number of hours you study outside of the centre.

For example, if you spend 6 hours at the ELTC, you should be spending 6 hours working on the CELTA course at home. This is a very general equation though and many factors affect it.

For the online course, it is advised that you dedicate around 20 hours a week to the course.


How will I be assessed on the course?

There are 3 parts to the assessment:

  1. You will teach 6 hours of assessed teaching practice across 8 lessons.
  2. You will complete 4 assignments related to teaching.
  3. You have to attend and participate in 100% of the course.
Is there an exam?

No, there is no exam.

Do I have to pass every teaching practice?

‘Pass’ and ‘Fail’ are not words used to describe the teaching on a CELTA course.

The teaching practice is assessed and awarded a grade of either ‘to standard’ for this stage of the course or ‘below standard’ for this stage of the course. Understandably, this standard changes during the course.

The expectations we have for you as a teacher at the beginning of the course are not the same as the expectations we have at the end of the course. As a result, when we grade your lesson, it is based on where you are in the course.

Throughout the course we expect you to reflect on your teaching and to make progress. If after you teach we feel you aren’t at the standard we expect for that stage of the course, we will mark you below standard. It is important that you then work to ensure you are to standard next time you teach.

The overall aim is that by the end of the course it is felt by the tutors and the assessor that you have reached the standard expected of a successful CELTA graduate with relation to your planning, your teaching, your ability to reflect and overall professionalism.

Do I have to pass every assignment?

In a word, no. There are 4 assignments across the course and with all assignments, you have the opportunity to resubmit once having received feedback on your initial submission. If on resubmission, the assignment is still not up to the expected standard, it will be considered a fail. It is possible to fail one assignment and still pass the course.

You cannot fail two assignments.

This would be an automatic fail of the entire CELTA course. Ideally, trainees will pass all the assignments as they are a key element of the course and your development as a teacher.

The rigorous application and interview process and the level of support offered on the course means that there is a very high pass rate (95% globally), but it is still possible to fail the course and to fail elements of the course.

There are three main reasons trainees fail the course: if they receive a fail grade for more than one assignment, they can fail the course. If they intentionally plagiarise work, they can fail the course. If by the end of the course, they are not considered to be to the expected standard for a CELTA graduate, they can fail the course.

If a candidate is not maintaining the expected standard on the CELTA course, they are made aware of this in tutorials.

Does everyone get a pass or are there grades?

The majority of trainees (approx. 65% globally) get a Pass grade at CELTA. This is a good grade and indicates that you have successfully passed all of the elements of the course to the accepted standard.

A small number of candidates who show they are generally more effective in their planning, lesson delivery and reflection get a Pass B (approx. 25% globally).

Approximately, 5% of candidates globally are awarded a Pass A. This means that they have demonstrated an ability to plan independently, analyse language thoroughly and consistently use their reflections to develop as a teacher.


Who will I teach?

You will teach volunteer learners who come from all over the world, and currently find themselves in Sheffield.

What will I teach?

You will be given Teaching Practice Points and teaching books.

How big will the classes be?

Generally, the classes have about 12 learners in them.

How many lessons will I teach?

You will teach 8 assessed lessons over 6 hours at 2 different levels. There is also the chance to do some unassessed teaching on most courses.

Who are the trainers?

The Teacher Training team is made up of about 10 very experienced teachers. They are all qualified with DELTAs and/or Masters in Applied Linguistics, TESOL or a relevant subject. In addition to that, they have all been through a rigorous teacher training programme overseen by Cambridge in order to become CELTA trainers.

Language awareness

How good does my knowledge of grammar need to be?

On the CELTA course, you are expected to teach the learners English grammar (along with reading, writing, speaking, listening, vocabulary and pronunciation). Therefore, it is important that you have a good initial understanding and awareness of English grammar yourself.

You should be able to recognise different parts of speech (verbs, nouns etc.) and tenses. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should have an awareness of and an interest in English grammar.

I’ve never learnt English grammar. Where can I find a very simple introduction?

For many potential trainees, their grammar knowledge is an area of concern. Therefore, we recommend familiarising yourself with the fundamentals of English grammar by doing a course, such as this one from Cambridge or this from ELT-Training.

Additionally, you could buy or borrow this book Grammar for English Language Teachers by Martin Parrott. This is a key text on the ELTC CELTA course and it’s a really useful resource.

Will I learn 'grammar' on the course?

You will improve your understanding of grammar on the course and you will explore the skills to break it down and explain it effectively to learners. However, having a good awareness before the course starts is really helpful and will be beneficial on the course.

Non-native speakers: Is my language level high enough?

At the ELTC, we advise that non-native speakers have a language level of IELTS 8 (or equivalent). We also assess your language level and general literacy in the interview.


Can I get an Advanced Learners Loan?

You cannot get an Advanced Learners Loan for the CELTA at the University of Sheffield, but you can get one for the CELTA at other institutions. Look on the Cambridge website for more information.

Can I pay in instalments?

Your place on a course is only confirmed after full payment is received. On part-time and online courses it may be possible to arrange staggered payments of the second half of the course fees. If this is something you think you need, contact a member of the TEFL Team or discuss this at interview.

Will I be able to get a refund if I drop out?

If you withdraw from the course, refunds or transfers to other courses cannot normally be offered.

Post-CELTA support

Will you help me find a job?

Towards the end of the course, we have a job hunting session and look at how and where to look for TEFL jobs. We also have an online alumni group that you can join and we have a reference service for CELTA graduates.

A world-class university – a unique student experience

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.