In this section you will find some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about doing the CELTA teacher training course, which you will find divided into the following three pages:

Before the course | During the course | After the course

Before the course

Do you need to have teaching experience to enrol?

No, though if you do, it obviously helps you to cope with being in the ELT classroom.

However, it is interesting to note that some past trainees who did have previous classroom experience (usually in other fields) have said that they sometimes felt it was more difficult for them because they had to “de-program” and “re-learn” quite a lot. The course assumes that the majority of trainees have no experience, so nothing to worry about!

Do you really need to do a TEFL course in order to gain employment?

Most reputable schools, also in the rest of the World, will expect their new teachers to be trained to teach English. The Cambridge CELTA is probably the most respected and well-known training course, and the one which the majority of people refer to when they ask “Have you got the TEFL?” or “Are you trained to teach English?” The second consideration here is your own confidence.

Starting to teach English is made a great deal easier if you have some idea of what you are doing, why you are doing it and how to go about teaching. The course gives you this confidence and means you can walk into a classroom feeling like a prepared teacher.

Does your school assist in finding housing for couples taking the course together?

Yes! Just e-mail us for an accommodation request.

What is the application / interview procedure?

In outline, the application procedure is as follows:

  • Complete the application forms and pre-interview task (see next question) and email them back.
  • You’ll receive a message setting up a time for you to call us for an interview. Interviews are usually between 2pm and 5pm, on certain afternoons of the week. You are told during the interview if you have been accepted.
  • Wait for an acceptance letter with details for payment.
  • Upon receipt of your acceptance letter, a 50% deposit is required immediately to secure your place .The balance of payment is required at least three weeks before the course begins. If the interview is less than three weeks before the course payment is required in full. Most people pay by EFT
  • You will then receive the pre-course task (see below) to do before your course starts.

What does the interview consist of?

This usually lasts up to 30 minutes and we ask you some questions about yourself and the task you have done. We also tell you about what you are letting yourself in for, ie. the course, and you can ask any questions you may have too!

The pre-interview task is not a test – obviously you don’t know all the answers without having to think hard about them and even having to look them up in reference books (which is what teachers do all the time!).

It’s more a test of your attitude and instinctive approach to teaching, your inner resources and, where language is concerned, how you would react if a student asked you this type of question. This gives us a good idea of your skills and qualities and, therefore, of how you will respond to only four weeks of training – whether it will be enough to bring you up to pass standard and allow us to award you the Certificate.

What are the deadlines for registration for the course?

The real deadline is when the course is full. There is a maximum of 12 places on any one course.To be sure of a place, we recommend fees are paid six weeks before the start date or as soon as you have been interviewed.

What level of English grammar is expected prior to enrolment?

Rather than “level”, we prefer to look at it as “instinct”. Our pre-interview task helps us to see whether you can instinctively analyse grammar, ie. whether you have a “feeling” for language so you can help students with their problems.

Your learning of the grammar really takes place when you teach it, because you have to research it when planning a language lesson. But we also include some input sessions on the course to help you develop this area. What is the pre-course task? How much time and preparation is involved?

The pre-course task involves about 12-15 hours of work. Although it isn’t assessed or marked, it’s very useful as initial preparation for the course, especially the sections on Language Awareness and Phonology. We’ll send it to you as soon as you’ve confirmed your place with payment.

How much money should I have with me for my first month in South Africa?

You’ll need to bring money with you to pay for accommodation, around R 4000 should you chose the Ih Cape Town accommodation.

Some other indications of the cost of living:

  • Food: A meal in in a bar outside, around R 50 plus. Evening eating out can be around R 120 – R 180. Dining in your accommodation is obviously much cheaper and fruit and vegetables especially are very reasonable.
  • Drinks: A Coke etc is around R 12, depending where you drink it. Spirits are more expensive – drinks in a club go from about R25 – R40 each.
  • Transport: The bus system (if you need to use it) is very cheap - approximately R 7 per trip
  • Other expenses: Allow around R 100 a day average or around R 2000 for the month doing the course, which is what past trainees say they spend during the course.

Should I get a TEFL/TESL certificate, or go for a masters degree?

It depends a bit on where you want to teach. It is a pretty standard requirement in the USA but other countries, particularly European, look for a course which has a strong practical element with at least 6 hours observed and assessed teaching practice.

There are other countries of course which will employ you simply by virtue of you being a native-speaker graduate. However, the latter is not a serious option if you want to do justice to your learners and yourself.

During the course

What is the dress code at IH Cape Town?

Smart, casual and clean is what is expected: no suits or ties are necessary (though see also the comments on dress code in our post-course FAQs section).

The most important consideration in any context is the students – and the fact that you will be in front of them. Will what you are wearing look clean, comfortable, neat and professional, or will students be looking at your suntan, tattoos and underwear (?!).

Please note that during the course, flip-flops, mini-skirts, revealing T-shirts and any clothes that are torn and/or dirty are not acceptable. We don’t wish to seem sexist, but shorts for men are not acceptable either. Clean, tidy jeans on the other hand are fine.

What is the grading system?

The most important things to work on in the course are your lesson planning, your teaching, your written assignments, your development, and your professionalism. The assessment criteria are set by Cambridge, and you will be informed from the start what these are in detail, and how they apply at each stage of the course.

At the end of the course, candidates may be awarded the following grades (shown below from most to least common results):

Pass: This is by far the most usual grade worldwide and means that a candidate’s performance “overall in the teaching practice and on the written assignments meets the specified criteria (…) They will continue to need guidance to help them to develop and broaden their range of skills as teachers in post.”

Pass B: This means that a candidate’s performance in the written assignments “meets the specified criteria, and they have demonstrated in their teaching practice a level of achievement significantly higher than that required to meet pass-level criteria, in relation to classroom teaching skills (…) They will continue to need some guidance to help them to develop and broaden their range of skills as teachers in post.”

Pass A: This means that a candidate’s “performance on the written assignments meets the specified criteria, and they have demonstrated in their teaching practice a level of ability and achievement significantly higher than that required to meet pass-level criteria in relation to:

  • Planning for effective teaching
  • Classroom teaching skills
  • Awareness of teaching and learning processes

They will benefit from further guidance in post but will be able to work independently.

Fail: Candidates who fail to meet criteria in some, or all assessed components will be awarded a Fail. This means:

  • inability to establish rapport or to project a confident, caring classroom presence;
  • insufficient grasp of the basics of language analysis and/or inability to apply these principles to classroom practice;
  • inability to apply basic classroom management skills and techniques in order to facilitate learning;
  • insufficient awareness of the effect of one’s teaching style and approach, and/or inability to monitor and direct one’s own progress.

What is the name of the certificate received once the course is completed successfully?

The certification received is the Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. The paper certificate you are sent two months after the course finishes is issued by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and says: “This is to certify that [Name] has been awarded __(grade) (Pass, Pass B, Pass A) in the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults”

Does the certificate indicate the location where it was taken?

The date, and centre number – but not location – are specified. The location is on the progress report which is written by your tutors, and which accompanies the Certificate.

What are the various written tasks that trainees are expected to carry out during the CELTA course?

There are 4 written tasks, the first two of which are sometimes combined at IH Cape Town:

  • Focus on the Learner
  • Skills Related Tasks
  • Language Related Tasks
  • Lessons from the Classroom

They are very practical and based on your students, your materials, language analysis and your progress. They are set at least a week or so before they need to be handed in and your tutors will set them up during input to ensure that you know exactly what to do. They all need to be around 1000 words – the total written work in words is around 3000 – 4000 words.

How long outside of scheduled classroom hours do you anticipate these coursework tasks to take?

Each should take around three hours to complete – depending on the candidate, of course! They are spaced out over the course, usually to be handed in on a Monday and count towards the final assessment.

After the course

Am I guaranteed a teaching position if I complete the course?

We can never guarantee that a course participant will get a job. But you are much more likely to find a position if you have done the course…

Does your school help with job guidance and placement inside and outside South Africa?

We do our best to give you as much help as we can. The course includes a session about finding work, including work through IH schools around the world (over 130 of them).

There is, however, no rock-solid guarantee of finding work. It depends, ultimately, on you and how well you do on the course, and luck to a certain extent – networking and following whatever leads may be available. While not guaranteeing employment, we’ll do as much as we can to help candidates with employment issues after the course.

What would be my chances of finding employment?

This depends firstly on the local context where you have chosen to work.

Most schools run an “academic year” of three (or two) terms: in the northern hemisphere this is from September/October to June, (and in the southern hemisphere from March/April to December). Consequently, in South Africa, schools are looking for their new teachers both around September/October to replace teachers that are leaving, and / or in the week or so before the first term of the academic year begins, ie. late January, when they are adjusting timetables due to fluctuations in student numbers (South African students tend to leave enrolling on a course to the last minute).

Some vacancies can occur in July, when new courses begin. At other times of the year work crops up regularly as new classes and in-company contracts can start, and most trainees who are persistent will find they have more than they can handle.

The second factor to take into account is how employable you are, both in terms of your previous experience – obviously previous teaching experience is valued, particularly where there is a large supply of teachers for schools to choose from – and in terms of how you did on the course, your future plans, your reasons for wanting to teach, your attitude, your personality… and a host of other factors.

During the course there is help on how to go about finding work. The course puts an emphasis on professional development and careers as well as competence in the classroom, ie: learning how to be a teacher as well as learning how to teach. Also, the schools in the area, knowing we run courses, advertise vacancies with us.

From which countries do you receive inquiries from employers needing English teachers?

Most employment tends to be done locally, although some schools, in particular in Central and Eastern Europe, do let us know about their vacancies. The IH World website has a worldwide recruitment section you can look at for current and upcoming vacancies. Roughly how much can a CELTA qualified teacher in Cape Town expect to earn?

Pay and conditions vary a great deal. In Cape Town you can expect between R 6 000 (without experience) to R10 000+ (with experience) per month for a minimum of 20 hours a week contact time. With very few exceptions, almost nowhere in the world do you go into ELT to get rich! But as a rule of thumb, English teachers’ salaries are in line with the average wage and do allow a reasonable standard of living (depending on how much you have to pay for accommodation), though it’s not easy to save.

How much do I need per month to allow if I do not find work immediately after the course?

You probably need around a minimum of R1500 a month to live on, plus your rent, which could be R5000 - R7000 a month. But of course, it all depends a lot on your personal lifestyle!

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Is there any form of dress code in teaching in South Africa?

What we said regarding dress code in our “During the course” FAQs section applies in most English language teaching jobs in South Africa. However, in some business English teaching contexts and in teaching in some universities, men may be expected to wear a jacket and tie.

Smart but casual is the general rule for most teaching jobs in South Africa. In other cultures the dress code may be different and may be an even more important.