Tips from our trainees: How to pass the CertTESOL

Last week our teacher trainers shared their top tips for succeeding on the CertTESOL course. Although, even with many years of experience, they are not the ultimate experts on what it's like to get through the CertTESOL course.

In this series of articles, we interview some of our previous graduates, and ask them what it was like, first hand, to make the decision to apply, how they achieved success on their course and their top advice for what to expect on the CertTESOL.

Before joining the CertTESOL course in 2015, Anu was working as a research consultant and looking after a young child.  For her, the CertTESOL course gave her access to a fulfilling and flexible profession. When she left the course, she was hoping to get a good foot in the door to local school system and now she is currently working 6 hours days, three days a week at two local kindergartens, something that would have been unthinkable in her previous career.

Here she shares with us her top suggestions for maximising your opportunities for success on the CertTESOL course....

As a rookie teacher, I was having limited success finding good TEFL teaching jobs in Hong Kong. A teacher friend mentioned in passing about how the CertTESOL had helped her increase her hourly rate and I enrolled into it right away! I had no idea what to expect, but by the first 24 hours I realised that it was going to be no piece of cake. I considered dropping out but the thought of losing HKD 25,000 gave me a heartburn, so I decided that I had to stick it out. I cleared my schedule (this included having 8 hours of sleep) and got to work: TESOL work. Surprisingly I got through and even did well on a few of the courses (pigs do fly!!!).

So, post-facto I decided to put down some tips I wish someone had told me about surviving the TESOL.

Written Assignments: Cushion The Blow!

Having little to no experience teaching, I realised doing well on written assignments was a good way to bump my overall grades that were often pulled down by teaching practice. A well-written assignment should take the following into account:

1. Do not ramble

Stick to the word count. Given the limited time you have for every assignment, you will save yourself significant time and energy if you don't go over the recommended word count.

2. Make reading easy

Have clear heading and subheadings so the instructor can see you have covered everything necessary in one glance. Tables not only make for easier reading, they are also less wordy and show clarity of thought.

3. Do not use informal language

Apart from your instructor; a moderator from Trinity also reviews your work, so stick with professional jargon.

4. Offer reasoning for all your observations and inferences

Without this your assignment can read like minutes of a meeting. TESOL wants you to ask key questions, “Why did he/she/I do this?”, “Was it the correct approach?”, “Can it be done differently for better results?”

Participation: Use All the Help You Can Get.

Looking back, I can see clearly that the TESOL is intended to be a collaborative process between trainees because it effectively replicates a school staff room of sorts where teachers survive and succeed by offering each other a helping hand. The key to success is to join forces to succeed in the following aspects of the course.

Starter Pack: Nobody warns you enough about the importance of the starter pack.

As soon as the course coordinator emails you the starter pack, do make group sessions to go through it/review it together. Language awareness is probably the hardest subject on the course and doing the starter pack definitely gives you an edge.

Teaching Practice: Use your peers for help.

In my opinion, having a fellow trainee (even better if they are experienced teachers) listen to your lesson ahead of teaching practice increases your probability of an A/B+. The volume of workload and just the amount of time you spend with each other makes them (and you) brutal in feedback. Defending your work to them also gives you clarity of thought on your decision to pursue your choice of lesson plan.

Managing The Workload: Critical Success Factor!

Here is the bad news; there is no time to be lazy during the TESOL. You will have a lot on your plate and keeping up with it will consume all your time (and sleep). Here is the good news, just keeping your head above water is enough- you will definitely survive and come out of it with the coveted TESOL certificate. Basically don’t postpone: Anything that you can start today, start today.

Managing your time will mean the following:

1. Start your assignments as soon as they are handed out, in particular the learner profile.
2. Finish your reflections as soon as you finish your teaching practice.
3. Don’t leave your material assignment to the very end. Give yourself enough options: start looking for the right material from you first solo lesson/teaching practice 3.

Language Awareness: Study Study Study!

As mentioned before, this is the stumbling block for most trainees. Largely all the previously offered tips can ensure that Language Awareness is less of a struggle for you. These are:

1. Ensure you go through and complete your starter pack before start of the course; you won’t have the time to do it once the course starts.
2. Team up with your classmates to work through each other’s doubts. Teaching someone else is the best way to learn.
3. Ask your instructors to challenge you.  A couple of us with no knowledge of phonology began asking an instructor to give us words/phrases to phonetically transcribe on a regular basis to solve and this proved invaluable to us during the exam.

Top Tip: Don’t Leave!

TESOL is not easy. It really puts you through your paces. So no surprises that there are always 1-2 drop outs in most batches. So, my overall top tip to get through TESOL is to persevere. It is well worth the effort, as it is recognized globally, you learn from the best, make friends for life (both trainees and trainers and most importantly, it opens doors to teaching opportunities aplenty!

For more tips on success on your CertTESOL course, visit our upcoming CPD training calendar to find out about our next information sessions.

About the Author

James Pengelley

James worked at EfA as a CertTESOL and DipTESOL trainer and digital content manager. He holds a Cambridge DELTA, Trinity TYLEC and a postgraduate diploma in teaching (secondary). He has made multiple contributions to English language teaching publications, including the English Australia Journal, The British Council and the International House Journal of Education and Development, which you can read here.

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