CELTA is a criteria based course so everyone could potentially get an A, a B, a Pass or a Fail- it’s about how you achieve in relation to the criteria- and they’re completely publicly available- we’ll look at them in a minute- that determines your grade- not how you do in relation to other people on the course.
Cambridge do produce statistics of results though- and worldwide about 5% of candidates get an A, and about 20% get a B. Most people get a Pass. Remember this. Only about 5% of candidates withdraw or fail the course but this isn’t because it’s easy – it’s because centres have to have a rigorous application procedures with written tasks and an interview. Cambridge are very clear that a centre shouldn’t take on a candidate for a course unless they feel that person has a good chance of passing and they have to be able to prove that to an external assessor. So, if you’ve been accepted onto a CELTA course, you should already be pretty pleased with yourself! You’ve already achieved something significant.
Something that it’s also important to remember is that a Pass is not ‘just’ a Pass. A lot of the people I train are used to being high-fliers academically – they did well in school, they’ve often got university degrees, and they feel that if they don’t get a Pass B or A, they haven’t really ‘passed’. You need to lose this mindset. To get a Pass is just fine. And it’s a wide band. From ‘they just scraped through but they’re safe in the classroom and they’ll learn’ to ‘they were so nearly a B but didn’t quite get all the balls up in the air at the same time’. Employers know this and they’ll look at the report that the centre gives you at the end. So, even if you ‘only’ get a Pass- the work you put in will be reflected here. It’s worth putting in the effort.
Another thing that you should keep in mind is to remember that it’s designed as an initial teacher training qualification – you’re not supposed to know everything there is to know about teaching at the end of it- think of it as a first aid kit, not a medical degree.
So let’s have a look at the things Cambridge say that you need to achieve to get the various grades. These aren’t a secret- they’ll be given to you when you do a course as well as a breakdown of the 42 different criteria that determine these levels. The assessment is designed to be very fair, very standard and very transparent. It’s not about whether the tutor likes you, it’s about whether you showed in your lessons that you match up to the stated, publicly available standards.
There are 5 areas on the performance descriptors: Planning, teaching, awareness of learners, reflection and an overall category. Look at these areas- they’re all related to the classroom. On CELTA, you have to pass the assignments too, but the GRADE you get comes from your teaching practice. It’s not about KNOWING HOW to do it- it’s about CAN YOU DO it?
To achieve a particular grade, at the end of the course, you need to match up to the descriptors in all of these. This is what they say…
For planning, for a Pass:
Candidates can plan effectively with guidance. They can analyse target language adequately and generally select appropriate resources and tasks for successful language and language skills development.
So you can see that you can have help with your planning (from you tutor) and pass the course. Your ability to analyse language has to be adequate and the resources you select ‘generally’ appropriate.
The difference for a Pass B candidate is that the guidance is less, language analysis is good and you should be able to select appropriate resources all of the time.
Candidates can plan effectively with some guidance. They can analyse target language well and select appropriate resources and tasks for successful language and language skills development.
The step up for a Pass A candidate is only needing minimal guidance and being able to thoroughly analyse language. These two are really key and your knowledge of grammar and your ability to anticipate what will be difficult for learners, as well as planning more independently, are often what tutors look for in giving higher grades.
Candidates can plan effectively with minimal guidance. They can analyse target language thoroughly and select appropriate resources and tasks for successful language and language skills development
So that’s planning.
Candidates can generally deliver effective language and skills lessons, using a variety of classroom teaching techniques with a degree of success
For a Pass B and a Pass A you can see that things have to be more consistent. For both grades the descriptors are the same:
Candidates can deliver effective language and skills lessons, using a variety of classroom teaching techniques successfully
The next area is awareness of learners. This is an important part of teaching and for a Pass:
Candidates show some awareness of learners and some ability to respond so that learners benefit from the lessons.
For a B you need to show a better level of this:
Candidates show good awareness of learners and can respond so that learners benefit from the lessons.
And even more so for an A:
Candidates show very good awareness of learners and can respond so that learners benefit from the lessons.
Another area that’s often the key to a higher grade is reflection. The course isn’t very long and we want to see that you are aware of your own practice- the strengths and weaknesses- and that you are able to act on this, too- so that you can continue to develop on your own.
For a Pass:
Candidates can reflect on some key strengths and weaknesses and generally use these reflections to develop their teaching skills.
For a B, you’ll need to be more targeted in your reflection:
Candidates can reflect on key strengths and weaknesses and generally use these reflections to develop their teaching skills.
And for an A you’ll need to show that you can consistently act on what you are able to see:
Candidates can reflect on key strengths and weaknesses and consistently use these reflections to develop their teaching skills.
For the overall, final bands, and almost as a summary of all the rest, a Pass is a satisfactory level:
Candidates’ planning and teaching show satisfactory understanding of English language learning and teaching processes at CELTA level.
B is a good level
Candidates’ planning and teaching show good understanding of English language learning and teaching processes at CELTA level.
A is an excellent level
Candidates’ planning and teaching show excellent understanding of English language learning and teaching processes at CELTA level.
As I said at the beginning, no one can guarantee you a Pass A, but in this guide, I’ll be sharing with you some top tips on how you can not only survive CELTA but come through it with flying colours. They all involve work but I hope that they’re helpful.