CELTA - getting a 'Below Standard' lesson

CELTA teaching practice
I got a Below Standard CELTA lesson! What does that mean?
Nobody likes to feel that they've failed at something and getting a 'Below Standard' for a lesson can shake your confidence. In this video, I'll talk about what it means if you don't pass a lesson on your CELTA course and what you can do to make sure your next one is a success.


Assessed teaching practice lessons on the CELTA course are graded either to standard or below/ Not to standard (some centres have an above standard grade, too). So what happens if your lesson is NOT graded ‘to standard?

I’m Jo Gakonga from ELT-Training.com and I recently got a message from someone who said…. ‘My lesson was graded not to standard. What does this mean?’ So I thought I’d make a video to give you a few thoughts on this in case you’re in the same situation.

Most lessons pass 
It’s worth starting by saying that the vast majority of the lessons that trainees teach are graded ‘to standard’. This isn’t because it’s easy to learn to teach, it’s because:

1-  In order to be accepted onto a CELTA course, there’s a rigorous selection procedure that a centre can only take on candidates that they think have a good chance of passing

2-  You’ll get help and support from your tutor with planning all of your lessons, especially at the beginning of the course when you’re finding your feet and

3-  You’ll have course book material available to use that will also give you a good starting point even if you adapt it.

A rather public event 
So most lessons are ‘To standard’, but of course things can go pear-shaped.  I’ve been a CELTA tutor for over 20 years and assessed a lot of courses in other centres too, so I’ve seen a few below standard lessons in my time and I know that they can really shake your confidence. No one likes to feel that they’ve failed and it’s a rather public forum with your TP group watching your lesson and participating in feedback. For many people, though, this disappointment is made worse because they start to worry about failing the whole course. Trainees often ask:

If I’ve failed a lesson, can I pass the course?


How many lessons do you have to fail before you fail the whole course?

Have I failed the course?

Obviously it’s not great if your lesson is not to standard, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve automatically failed the course. There are no cut and dried answers to the question of ‘how many can I fail before I really fail?’ though.

The first thing to remember is that you’re not expected to get everything right from the beginning. The grade for each lesson is ‘To standard for this stage of the course’. This means that what is expected in your first lesson is very different from what your tutor is looking for in your final lesson.

This means that if you have a lesson or two in the early part of the course that are not to standard but then pass the others it’s generally not a problem, but lessons nearer the end of the course carry more weight.

If you are in any danger of failing the whole course, though, you will definitely be told about it. There are carefully devised procedures that tutors have to follow to make sure that if you’re struggling you’re told very clearly that this is the case and what you need to do to pass. So don’t worry that you might not know. You will!

What should I do now? 
It’s not nice to get a Below Standard lesson, but if you do, try to see it in a positive way. It’s easy and very natural to feel defensive, but this doesn’t help you move forward. Think about:

What feedback did I get? Your tutor will give you detailed feedback on the areas that you struggled with so read it carefully – what are those specific areas and how can I work on them? If you’re not sure – ask your tutor. They’ll help you.

How can I plan better next time to avoid the difficulties I had in this lesson? Good planning is the bedrock of good teaching – spend time on it. Make sure you know what you’re going to do. Think about the things that might be difficult and how you’ll deal with them. Plan what you’re going to say when you give instructions or explanations. And again, don’t be afraid to ask your tutor.

I hope that your lessons are all successful but remember that we often learn more from the things that don’t go according to plan. Pick yourself, dust yourself off and keep going. Learning to teach well isn’t an overnight process but it’s an interesting journey. Good luck with it and thanks for watching.

Created with