How to Get the Most out of your CELTA Interview
There are many reasons why people find themselves about to embark on the life changing CELTA programme! You could be looking for a career change or a way to earn money during your world tour. You might have more pragmatic ambitions; you may already be working in the ELT industry, but are looking to hone your skills and take the next step in your professional development.
So, you have managed to free up enough time to take the first steps into getting CELTA certified (either face-to-face or online) and want to know more about the CELTA interview with the course tutor. In this article, you will find some very useful advice on how to get the most out of the interview stage of the application process. Remember, the free application process consists of the initial application, the pre-interview task and then the interview with the CELTA course tutor.
We have talked to several CELTA tutors, who have kindly shared their pearls of wisdom with you. You never know, you may one day get the chance to meet them!
Why is there an Interview?
The CELTA course has very high success rates at around 96% worldwide (Click here to see the most recent Cambridge figures). This may be due to the excellent support and feedback you can expect to receive during the course, but more to do with the fact that centres always try their best to ensure you are capable of passing the course.
All too often, many potential candidates worry about their English pronunciation not being native-like. Native teachers may have sleepless nights fretting about the differences between the present perfect and simple past grammatical functions. The fact is, CELTA is a certificate targeting people with little or no experience of teaching.
Your potential CELTA tutor is primarily interested in three key areas:
- Your willingness to learn
- You having a growth mindset
- Your ability to explain ideas in a clear and concise manner
So, don’t be nervous – remember, it’s not an exam. The interview gives the opportunity for both you and the training centre to see where you’re starting from, so they can help you prepare for your course and plug the gaps in your knowledge. If they feel you need a bit more time to prepare for a course, or to focus on a particular aspect of your teaching, the tutor can help and advise you on that too.”
Typical CELTA Interview Format
Having an opportunity to meet your potential tutor is also a great way for to get to know the centre before the start date of your course, thus making entering the classroom (either face-to-face or virtually) on the first morning a little less daunting. So, ‘What kind of an interview will it be?’ you may be asking.
The interview may take several formats, but the most common is definitely online (often on Zoom). Some face-to-face courses give you the option of being interviewed in person. During the application stage after completing and returning your pre-interview task, you will normally be asked if you have a preference. You will be offered a suggested date and time or selection of potential dates and times for the interview. Choose the one you are most comfortable with.
If for whatever reason you are unable to attend in person, make sure you clearly arrange a time to. Don’t leave it till a minute before the interview to add the tutor’s contact details. Ensure you have their number and contact details saved in your contact list so that you do not have to panic when it’s your time to shine. Check with the tutor you have the correct time-zones confirmed, go and sit in a quiet room where you will not be disturbed. We would also recommend checking your Wi-Fi connection beforehand to ensure call clarity and using headphones with a microphone as the call can last 45-60 minutes.
Before the CELTA Interview
So there are many different things you can do to make sure you get the most out of this life-changing experience. Connor O’Donoghue, Head of Teacher Training at our partner school at London (British Museum) gives his top three tips:
- Be honest about your motivations! It’s OK if you don’t want to change the world. If you’d like to work in Italy or to move to Thailand, tell your interviewer! They could be able to give you some very good advice about your career.
- It’s OK to be nervous, to need time to think and getting an answer wrong is totally normal! The interview isn’t a test and they don’t expect you to know everything!
- Don’t feel you have to be very formal or to wear an uncomfortable suit. It’s not an interview for a job. The interviewer is merely trying to discover if you have the capacity to pass your CELTA course!
We also spoke to Mike Carter, the Head of Teacher Training at Seville, who said he had many potential candidates worry too much about their grammar, and not enough about actual teaching. He gave this nugget of advice, “You should prepare by thinking about how you would teach some of the examples in the pre-interview tasks you completed. The tutor might also ask how you would deal with potential problems in/out of the class.”
So, this could be having an idea about highlighting the difference between different functions of grammar, or how you would solve a problem of mixed ability classes!
Cansu Akan, the CELTA Online Course Tutor for the Florence centre says: “Remember that CELTA is a teaching qualification, so it is not a walk in the park. The course is demanding and intense, be it a part-time or full-time course, so in the interview, you should show that you are eager and ready to embark on this journey and dedicate your time and attention to the course to make the best of it. The interviewer would like to see whether you are open to feedback and collaboration. Taking in feedback and making progress are one of the most important elements of the course, so be yourself and share your honest ideas in the interview process.“
For those worried about their grammar knowledge, Cansu has this advice: “It is OK to be a bit rusty with some terminology. The interviewer would look into how you approach the tasks and follow-up questions and how you justify your answers, which would give an insight into your language awareness and ideas about teaching and learning.“
During the CELTA Interview
As we said earlier, the tutor is not expecting you to have a PhD in applied linguistics. They just want to see your capability of passing the course.
As you may already know, the Cambridge CELTA is not a walk in the park! So in addition to language and teaching related areas, potential CELTA candidates may want to think about other aspects. It is not just classroom situations and grammar. A big part of the interview process is ascertaining how well you will cope with the demands of the course, not just the classroom teaching. Expect to answer questions on time management, dealing with stress, and working with others as well as teaching and language questions.
If you can show how you have dealt similar situations in the past, then this is going to stand you in good stead for being accepted.
Questions to Expect
When we asked Connor from London (British Museum), what the most commonly asked questions were, he came up with the following 6 areas:
- Why you decided to do a CELTA course
- What you already know about CELTA
- What you think makes a good teacher/good student/good lesson
- Responding to feedback and criticism
- Explaining the meaning of some words/phrases/grammatical items to students
- How you might correct some examples of student language errors
Questions You May Think About Asking
Remember, the interview isn’t all about the tutor, it provides an equally important opportunity for you to be able to ask things about the centre. How long have they been established and are the team there teachers as well or are the tutors on a freelance basis? What are the facilities there in terms of IT and course book materials? If you are taking the CELTA face-to-face, what are the costs of accommodation and living expenses?
Knowing about these areas will give you the chance to make an informed decision and give you less to worry about during the course!
Feedback on Your CELTA Interview
Following the interview, you may be given confirmation straight away, but more often this will be done at a later time via email. Most centres will give a clear breakdown of the areas you did well in, and also some issues you may like to focus on before the course starts:
- Quite often, candidates may need a little more exposure to grammar and StudyCELTA has teamed with ELTcampus where we have an excellent grammar refresher course that can be done entirely online.
- If you are feeling worried about the teaching side of things and managing people in a classroom, the TEFL Preparation Course really helps – many people have done it before their CELTA interview, and some after, as a way of gaining confidence before embarking on the course.