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What Are the Different Types of TEFL Exams?

By K'Lee Banks
Updated: May 23, 2024

Exams for Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) are the preferred method to determine the eligibility for instructors wishing to pursue this career path. Other names and acronyms for these types of exams include Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), and English Language Teaching (ELT). Those learners for whom English is not their first language benefit greatly from professional, experienced TEFL teachers. TEFL classes are necessary prerequisites to prepare for TEFL exams. The different types of TEFL courses from which instructors may choose before attempting the related exams may include internationally recognized courses, accelerated courses, or distance and online TEFL courses.

An assortment of TEFL exams are available, with options to suit the needs of those instructors interested in pursuing either short-term appointments or careers as TEFL teachers. These options include internationally recognized courses and their related exams, such as the Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) and the Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL). Prospective TEFL instructors may complete these courses in as little as five weeks on a full-time basis, or range from a few months to over a year on a part-time basis. Available in more than 50 countries worldwide, these courses prepare teachers for the TEFL exams through a combination of language and teaching skills development, and hands-on classroom teaching with diverse groups of learners.

Other preparatory TEFL classes are available as accelerated courses, completed over 40 hours or an intensive weekend course, and distance or online TEFL courses. Individuals choosing these options should be aware they are often less comprehensive than the CELTA or CertTESOL programs, particularly since they may lack the essential teaching practice element. Depending on the program’s stipulations, instructors may gain practice teaching English to foreign students by volunteering to teach ESL classes in their local communities.

Educators interested in pursuing TEFL courses and exams to help them teach English to foreign learners should explore the opportunities available to them in various countries. Requirements may differ from one location to another and TEFL training may include receiving a TEFL certificate or a TEFL license upon passing the TEFL exams. In most cases, TEFL instructors relocate to foreign countries to provide English instruction to non-English speakers. Other times, English-speaking countries offer English classes to foreigners who desire to learn the language for a variety of reasons. In any case, passing TEFL exams is the first step toward a rewarding short-term adventure or a career in teaching English as a foreign language.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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