CELTA - Frequently Asked Questions

Apollo IH Vietnam: CELTA - Frequently Asked Questions

Why take the CELTA rather than a TEFL or TESOL course?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) are umbrella terms.  CELTA is a particular type of TEFL/TESOL course.  There are of course many different types of TEFL/TESOL course available around the world, and these vary greatly in terms of quality, content, cost and length.  The quality of a TEFL course really depends on the professionalism of each centre and the skill/experience of the trainers on that course.

CELTA and the Trinity TESOL are more thoroughly standardized across the world.  Although there will be some differences in terms of how each CELTA course runs, every course that we run is moderated by a Cambridge assessor, who comes to visit the centre and observes a day on the course.  They will also speak to the trainees and check that assessment is in line with Cambridge standards, and that everyone is happy!  This generally means you can be more assured of the standard of training you will receive on a CELTA course.  What this also means is that potential employers can be more assured of the ability of CELTA-qualified teachers, and will generally give preference to candidates with a CELTA over those with a TEFL certificate, due to its international recognition as a quality training course. 

Who takes the course?

Although the CELTA is an entry-level qualification, you will likely find yourself on the course with both trainees who have never taught before and those with several years of teaching experience.  Our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds and countries the world over.  The majority of our trainees are in their 20s and 30s but we have had trainees anywhere from 19 to 65 years old.  The mix of personalities and experiences generally makes for a unique and extremely beneficial learning environment.

How many trainees will there be on the course?

The majority of our courses run with 12 trainees, although at busy times this could be 18.  There is a ratio of 6 trainees to 1 tutor, which means we generally have 2 tutors on each course.

Can I take the course without a degree?

Cambridge recommends that candidates are educated to university-entry level to be accepted, so a degree is not a requirement.  However, if you wish to stay in Vietnam for the long-term and work legally, a bachelor’s degree is required as part of the Work Permit application.

Do I need to be a native speaker?

Absolutely not, although you do need an advanced level of English in order to deal with the demands of the course and to meet your students’ needs.  Generally, C1+ or an IELTS level of at least 7.5 are the recommended minimum.

Is there a right and wrong age to do the course?

Not at all.  Everyone can do well, and almost all trainees find the workload tiring!  Having been away from a learning environment for a long time can put you at a disadvantage in dealing with the sheer amount of information covered on a CELTA.  However, the most important thing is to be open to new ideas, aware that you may have preconceptions and existing beliefs of teaching and learning that might be contradicted by the course, and prepared to work hard to make improvements in areas suggested to you.

Do I need to be a grammar expert?

It’s important to be realistic in the early stages of your new career.  You don’t need to be an expert in all of the English language, but you DO need to be an expert in whichever language point you are about to teach!  Over the course, we don’t teach you much grammar, but rather the processes by which you can learn what you need to in order to teach your next lesson effectively.  Over time, and we mean long after the CELTA has finished, you will develop much more depth in your linguistic knowledge.  Our interest in the application and interview stages is to check that you are open to learning the intricacies of the language and also aware of areas in which you will need to increase your knowledge.  Prior to the course, we provide a pre-course task, which will help you to brush up on some language and terminology so that’s it’s not too much of a shock when the course itself begins.

What will be discussed at interview?

Primarily, the interview is so that we can fulfill our responsibility to only accept trainees onto a course if we are confident that they can pass.  You will speak with one of our CELTA trainers in-person or over the phone.  They will find out about your experience and motivations for taking the course, you will discuss your pre-interview task, have your language awareness further-tested, and they will also fill you in on more information about the course and what you can expect when it begins.  After the interview, you will be swiftly informed of the result by email.  However, it’s worth remembering that simply being accepted does not guarantee you will pass the course, as there is much work still to do! 

Why do people say the course is intensive?

You’re going to train to be a teacher in 4 weeks, which means there is a lot to cover in a short time!  While you will be in the centre from 8:30 till 5 from Monday to Friday, the work doesn’t stop there.  Assignments, lesson planning and reading and research will all need to take place in your own time, which means evenings, weekends and maybe some late nights will be taken up with work on the course.  It’s very busy, but it’s doable.  We strongly recommend you don’t do any other work while on the course.  It’s only 4-weeks and it’ll be worth it!

Can I miss 1 or 2 days of the course and still pass?

100% attendance is required on the course.  Things move very quickly on the CELTA and it’s a very tight schedule.  If you miss a day, it can be very hard to catch up.  If you’re off sick, you need to go to the doctor straight away and will need a doctor’s certificate to explain your absence.  If this occurs, we will do everything we can to support you in catching up on the workload but it is really up to you to make up for the lost time. 

What resources does the centre provide?  Do I need to buy any?

Both our centres in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are busy language schools.  You will spend much of your time in one of the modern, well-equipped classrooms, either teaching or participating in input sessions.  Outside of these times, you have access to a dedicated room for you and your fellow trainees to use while on the course.  You can access the centre from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 8am to 6:30pm on weekends.  In your CELTA room you have access to several computers, a printer and a photocopier, as well as stationary and a library of resource and reference materials.  Pretty much everything you need in terms of resources is provided, apart from one key thing – a ring binder!  You will receive a very large amount of handouts over the course and it will help you a great deal if you can keep these organized from day one!

So do I need to bring a laptop?

While we have computers available, there are not enough for everybody to use one at the same time.  If you have a laptop, you’ll find it more convenient to bring this with you so you always have a computer when you need one.  We do ask you to type assignments and lesson plans, which means you don’t really want to be waiting around for a computer unless you have to.

And do I need to buy any books?

We provide copies of the most useful reference and resource books in our library that you can share with the other trainees.  If you work better at home, then you may choose to purchase your own copies but the majority of our trainees work just fine without purchasing any of their own books.

How does a typical day on the course look?

On a typical Apollo course, Teaching Practice starts at 09:00 and finishes at 11:30. If you’re teaching, you need to be here by 08:30.  There are 6 people teaching each day, so to avoid stress, you don’t want to all be printing and photocopying at the last minute.  From 11:45 to 13:00 we conduct feedback on the lessons and do some assisted lesson planning for those teaching the next day.  After lunch, you’ll have 2 input sessions from 2 till 5.  On many days, some or most of your evening will then be given over to lesson planning or assignment writing as required. 

How does the Teaching Practice part of the course work?

You need to complete 6 hours of observed teaching practice to pass the course.  Generally, we break this down into 8 x 45 minute lessons, although this can vary.  You will teach on either the second or third day of the course and you will be teaching real language learners.  You need to teach a variety of lesson types at 2 different levels (usually Elementary and Intermediate) and will be observed by each tutor for 4 of your lessons.  We provide a lot of structure early on so you know what to teach.  This is reduced as the course goes on and you’ve had more input and feedback.  At the start of the course you will be divided into 2 teaching practice groups of 6 trainees.  This will be your group for the whole course and whenever you’re not teaching, you will be observing your colleagues and making notes. 

So will I get feedback on my lessons every time I teach? 

Yes, almost immediately after teaching has finished for the day, you will get together with your teaching practice group and your tutor for feedback.  You will be involved in giving and receiving feedback to your colleagues as well as getting feedback from your tutor.  During feedback, we discuss the effectiveness of the morning’s lessons, pull out the positives from each other’s teaching, and also decide on areas to work on for next time. 

You also receive written feedback on each of your lessons.  This will make it very clear how you are doing in relation to the criteria being assessed and what you need to work on for next time.

What will be discussed in input sessions?

You will get back together as a group of 12 for input sessions, during which you will cover methodology, lesson planning, language awareness and gets lots of practical input on teaching techniques.  These are generally very trainee-centred sessions which require active participation and involvement.  Your trainers will also make use of many techniques that you are free to ‘borrow’ and implement in your own lessons.

What is the CELTA method?

It is a myth of sorts.  To define the methodology, the best term is perhaps ‘communicative’.  What this means is that our classroom actions are designed to relate to the real reason that our students pay good money to attend our classes – because in the real world they want to USE the language to communicate with other people.  A fundamental principle is the idea that people generally learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process, and have the chance to try things out and to make mistakes. 

This is in contrast to some forms of education where the teacher is expected to impart knowledge on their students by telling them lots of things.  Often in the language classroom, our role is to be more of a facilitator to get students using the language.  If the teacher is talking, it only shows that they can use the language, not the students!  Teacher-Talk-Time is a term you will hear a lot on the course and likely  be encouraged to have less of.  Student-centred lessons are encouraged as they mean the students are actively involved in the process. 

You will be exposed to an eclectic range of techniques and approaches over the course, but the unifying theme is probably that they can all be justified in relation to the main reason the students have come to class – to communicate more effectively.

How is my performance on the course assessed?

The 2 assessed components are the teaching practice and written assignments.  Each of your lessons will receive an overall grade. Your teaching is not assessed by comparing you with others on the course, but in relation to the Cambridge criteria.  These increase over the course from very few in week 1, to a large number in week 4.  This increase reflects the fact that you will receive more and more input and feedback as the course goes on and means that expectations of your teaching will increase over the course.  Your written feedback will be explicit about the grade of each lesson, as well as how you have performed for each criteria being assessed at that moment. 

Over the course, you also need to complete 4 written assignments of between 750-1000 words in length.  You must pass at least 3 of the 4 assignments in order to pass the course.  You get 2 chances to resubmit each assignment so the main reasons for failing may be unsatisfactory language accuracy, or failing to respond to the feedback provided by your tutors.

What are the overall grades for the course?

Pass, Pass B, Pass A and Fail.  It is possible to fail the CELTA, but worldwide this number is very low due to the interview process being used to filter out any weak candidates.  Some trainees do withdraw from the course if the workload is too much, or they decide that maybe it isn’t for them.  There will be two tutorials during the course, where your tutor will provide you with feedback on your overall progress and let you know where you’re at in relation to grades. 

On each course there will be a visiting assessor who will observe a morning of teaching practice to make sure that you are being assessed accurately in line with Cambridge standards.  Your tutors are standardized to evaluate your overall grade based

Where can I find out more about grades and criteria?

Generally, we introduce things gradually over a course as and when they are most relevant, but we also give you an overview of criteria and grades on Day 1.  You can also access a full description of the criteria and grade descriptors here: http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/21816-celta-syllbus.pdf

Do I get a certificate?

Once the course is finished, results are sent to Cambridge.  From that point, it can take from 4-8 weeks for your certificate to be issued and delivered to Apollo.  In the meantime, 2-3 days after the course finishes you will be sent a report from the centre, written by your tutors, which will tell you your provisional grade.  All grades are provisional until the certificates have arrived from Cambridge.

Will it be easy for me to get a job after the course?

Vietnam is currently a great place to find your first teaching job, with plenty of different teaching opportunities, especially in Hanoi and HCMC.  Apollo itself is a large organization with lots of centres across the country, so there are regular opportunities for trainees to be employed there straight off the CELTA.  Towards the end of the course, we’ll have a session on professional development and give you advice on your next step.

When’s the best time to do a CELTA if I want to get a job afterwards?

It’s genuinely easy to get a job in Vietnam year round as the demand for teachers is currently so high.  There are a significant number of unqualified English teachers in employment here, so if you have a CELTA, it will put you immediately in with a chance of some of the better jobs on offer.  However, just before summer and the beginning of the academic year (early to mid-August) are particularly good times to look for jobs as they are busy hiring periods. 

What visa will I need while taking the CELTA?

You should come into Vietnam on a business visa.  After a successful interview, we’ll share contact details of agents who can help you to arrange an invitation letter.  You simply present this with your passport at the airport when you arrive in Vietnam and purchase your visa there.  If you’re already in the country on a tourist visa, it might be okay for you to take the course anyway.  However, if you look for employment after the course, you will need to do a visa run in order to change to a work visa.

If I stay in Vietnam to work after the course, do I need a work permit?

Yes, you will do in order to work here legally.  Established organizations such as Apollo can only employ you on a full-time contract if they can get you a work permit.  For this, you need a bachelor’s degree and CELTA certificate.  You will also need a police check valid in the last 6 months.  It possible, and often much cheaper, to get a local police check in Vietnam for this.  You will also need to do a medical check, which your school should help you to arrange.

How easy is it to notarize my CELTA certificate?

After completing the course successfully, your CELTA certificate will be sent to the centre from Cambridge.  Officially, a certificate needs to be notarized and authenticated in its country of origin, which may involve you having to send it back to the UK to be legalized.  However, if you are not from the UK, you should check with your embassy/consulate to see if they can perform the legalization in Vietnam.  If you are from the UK, the certificate will need to go back to be legalized.  It is, however, easy to begin employment straight after the course while you’re waiting for your work permit to be processed.

Do you provide support with accommodation?

We don’t provide any formal support but are happy to offer advice on this matter.  In reality, it’s very easy to find cheap and comfortable short or long-term accommodation in Hanoi and HCMC.  Visit Airbnb.com or booking.com to get an idea of prices.  There are plenty of very active housing groups on

Facebook that you should join, especially if you wish to find a room in a shared house or flat, as people regularly post there. We recommend that you find somewhere close to the school during the course, as traffic can move slowly during rush hour.  It’s perhaps better to find something temporary over the course and then find something for the longer-term once you know where in the city you will be working.

How much money do I need beyond the course fees?

Cost of living is famously very reasonable in Vietnam, although it’s possible to also spend a lot depending how you choose to live.  A room in a shared house will cost around 2-250USd per month, a studio flat 3-450USD and a 2 BR flat 600USD and up.  If you eat like a local, you can have delicious food from local eateries for less than 2USD per meal.  If you prefer home comforts, you could be spending 10USD per meal excluding drinks. 

Transport is relatively cheap, with improving bus services in the city.  You can rent a motorbike for a round 40USD for the month if you prefer! 

Is there a dress code on the course?

The main rule in terms of dress code is to look like you are working and not backpacking.  Outside of this, we like to be flexible as we want you to be comfortable in the hot weather. Jeans, shorts and flip-flops are out.  Try to look fairly smart in the mornings for teaching practice.  In the afternoons, it’s just you and the tutors so we don’t mind you wearing more comfortable clothing once the students have left for the day.

Any other questions?

Drop us a line at teacher.training@apollo.edu.vn

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