How NOT to get a Pass A at CELTA

In my experience as a CELTA tutor, many candidates arrive on the first day having read and researched about what to do in the course (if you don’t know what the CELTA is, by the way, you can find more about it by watching this webinar or by checking out Cambridge’s official website).

There are plenty of blogs and videos out there telling you about what books to buy, what CCQs are, how to teach receptive and productive skills and all sorts of other things. This is all very helpful of course (and if you are looking for something to read before the CELTA, this is what I’d recommend).

What none of these will tell you, though, is what NOT to do. So, here it goes:

1. Don’t be late.

This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often candidates show up late for Teaching Practice. I don’t mean being late once on the day there was a bus strike. I mean consistently late, particularly when they are not teaching or if they are not the first one to teach (convenient, huh?)

What candidates fail to realise is that they are being assessed all the time, not only when they are teaching. Therefore, being punctual, being polite and helping other candidates, to name but a few, are things that will count towards your final grade.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

It’s true that independence is a strong trait of Pass A candidates, particularly towards the end of the course. However, candidates often tell me they have read somewhere that they shouldn’t ask questions about their lesson plans or about their assignments. This isn’t true. If you don’t know what the stages of a listening lesson are or how to present grammar using guided discovery, you should turn to your tutor for help.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you should send your tutor your lesson plan and ask for ‘some feedback’. Questions need to be specific (would a gap fill activity be appropriate for controlled practice of X) rather than general (are my practice activities OK?)

3. Don’t miss deadlines.

Again, this should be obvious, but I don’t think I have ever worked in a CELTA where multiple candidates didn’t miss deadlines. During the interview process candidates are told the course is demanding. On the first day of the course candidates should get a calendar with all the deadlines, so there are no excuses really.

There are exceptions of course, particularly when there’s a death in a candidate’s family, but it’s rarely these candidates that cause trouble. Instead, it’s the candidate who is not organized and is constantly asking for an extension (which, in my opinion, they shouldn’t get, but that is up to the Main Course Tutor.)

4. Don’t use new techniques for the sake of using them.

Some candidates, especially strong ones, feel they need to reinvent the wheel every lesson. Unfortunately, this can end badly, as using a technique or approach you are unfamiliar with doesn’t always result in great lessons. The CELTA is as much about consistency as anything else. The fact that you were able to ask CCQs in one lesson doesn’t mean you have mastered that skill. You need to show me that again and again. The same goes for language analysis, lesson planing, lesson staging and so on.

If you have found something that works (i.e. when you received positive feedback on a lesson) keep doing that while ading new things. Your lesson will be all the better for it.

Finally, I’d encourage you to read the CELTA syllabus, in particular the descriptions of each grade on page 14. You can’t go wrong if you follow those guidelines.

Thanks for reading

Ricardo Barros

Ricardo Barros is a CELTA tutor and freelance teacher trainer based in Jundiaí–SP. He has taught English since 2003, working as a teacher, teacher trainer, academic coordinator and Cambridge examiner. He holds the DELTA, CELTA and a BA in History from Unicamp. He is a moderator for the BrELT facebook group and advisory council member for BRAZ-TESOL. He also blogs at

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