Tips for getting a CELTA Pass A

As I mentioned in the post about teaching qualifications, doing a CELTA is a great choice for new teachers because the 4-week course will prepare you for your first job. The CELTA is also taken by experienced teachers who wish to improve their teaching skills. This standardised course is offered in numerous locations around the world, including Bogotá and Medellín. It can now be done 100% online because of the pandemic, but I will focus only on the in-class option in this text.

I had never taught English to anyone before taking my CELTA at CELT Athens, so I didn’t know what to expect. In the end, it turned out to be an unforgettable experience that completely changed my professional life. Getting an A grade was a nice bonus, and it made me feel good about my decision to become an English teacher. I can’t provide you with a step-by-step guide to achieve the top grade because there are too many variables, so I will try to share some general advice instead.

Tips for getting a CELTA Pass A

At first, we need to look at relevant statistics. In 2018, the overwhelming majority of trainees (95.4%) successfully passed the course. The CELTA is really demanding, but there is no need to feel anxious about it. Course providers screen candidates by asking them to take a test and undergo an interview in order to select only those who have a real chance of passing the course. If you search for CELTA-related information online, you will probably encounter some terrifying stories of people being on the verge of a nervous breakdown during the course, but I wouldn’t recommend paying too much attention to that. Again, the numbers are clear: if you are accepted on the course, you will most likely pass it.

So who exactly doesn’t pass the CELTA? According to the 2018 statistics, 4% of the candidates withdrew from the course. It’s necessary to emphasise that the full-time CELTA is very time-consuming because you have to spend 8 hours at the centre every day and then do your lesson planning, background reading and assignments in your free time. That’s why taking the course in your hometown may not be the best option because you need to avoid distractions. You should also stay in a place close to the training centre so that you don’t waste a lot of time commuting.

I couldn’t really afford to fail the course because I had quit my job and bought a ticket to Colombia. No pressure then! My solution was simple: I decided to sacrifice four weeks of my life. I spent most of the evenings and weekends studying, and ventured out of the apartment only to do my grocery shopping. It wasn’t the most exciting way of spending June in Greece, but it had to be done. In the second part of the course, I got a little bit more adventurous and went for a walk a couple of times. I even found time to watch two films: Logan was brilliant; T2 Trainspotting disappointing (with the exception of one good scene).

Well, what about the 0.6% candidates who actually failed the course in 2018? All trainees receive constant guidance from their tutors, so you would need to ignore what they tell you in order to fail the course because of your performance in the classroom. In addition, some people think that arguing with the tutors or other trainees is a good idea. Teaching English is a serious profession and it’s important to have that in mind when taking the CELTA. Being punctual and respectful, taking the tutors’ advice into account, and behaving like a decent human being is as important as your performance in the classroom.

Now that I have been teaching for a few years, I know that the bar to pass the CELTA is quite low. You don’t have to do much reading before the course, but you can certainly make life easier for yourself, especially if you are eager to get a good grade. Your centre will probably provide you with a pre-course task, and it’s a good idea to take it seriously. I also recommend that you read the syllabus and assessment guidelines and familiarise yourself with the way the course works. You should also refresh your grammar knowledge to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use, which is aimed at intermediate students, will be sufficient.

If you have some free time before the course, you could read the following books, which are very useful for CELTA trainees:

● Martin Parrott: Grammar for English Language Teachers
● Graham Workman: Concept Questions and Time Lines
● Rosemary Aitken: Teaching Tenses
● Jim Scrivener: Learning Teaching

Each course is externally assessed and it doesn’t really matter where you take it. You can find a lot of websites with detailed information about the CELTA, including my favourite resource ELT Concourse. That said, the most important thing you have to do is listen to your tutors because their feedback is the most valuable part of the course. It’s necessary to pay attention to the tips for improving your teaching that you are going to receive. If you are told to talk to your students and not to the board, you are expected to do that in your next lesson. It’s not exactly rocket science because even the input sessions are done in the same way you are supposed to teach.

I understand that teaching your students while a group of people is observing your every move isn’t the most comfortable experience. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, though. Copying the tutors’ and other trainees’ techniques and using them in your lessons is perfectly acceptable. Your students don’t expect you to be a world-beater either because they know that you are being trained to be a teacher. I highly recommend that you learn their names as soon as possible and try to talk to them during breaks. Teaching people you’ve chatted with before is more pleasant than standing in front of complete strangers.

If you plan to get a CELTA, you need to know that it isn’t a walk in the park. However, if you are a hard-worker with good time-management skills, there is nothing to be afraid of. You are going to receive a lot of support during the course, so you just need to keep an open mind and absorb the knowledge. Chasing an A may leave you feeling disappointed, because the criteria for obtaining that grade are a bit fuzzy; some centres seem to be stricter than others, so luck may play a role as well. Your main objective should be improving as a teacher, and the process of obtaining your CELTA will certainly contribute to that.

How to obtain a cédula de extranjería

If you are a foreigner and want to work in Colombia, you are required to get a cédula de extranjería from Migración. This document is very useful because it will help you get a bank account and access other services. You can also leave your passport at home and use only your cédula on domestic flights. It’s also important to know that everybody in Colombia is required to have their ID with them at all times. Police officers have the right to stop you on the street and ask to see your documents. I have met a few foreigners who struggled with obtaining their cédula, so I hope that this article can help those applying for the first time.

Disclaimer: This article is based on my own experience. The requirements and processes may change in the future. Make sure to check Migración’s website before starting the process.

How to obtain a cédula de extranjería

First of all, you need to have a valid visa. As I mentioned in the articles about work visa and partner visa, the process is done online. If your visa application is successful, you will receive an electronic version of your visa via e-mail. When that happens, you have 15 days to get your visa stamped to your passport and apply for your new cédula (UPDATE: The visa office is currently closed because of the health emergency. The digital visa is sufficient for the cédula application.). The good news is that you can do both on the same day since the Cancillería and Migración offices in Bogotá are within a walking distance of each other.

However, you can’t just turn up at Migración with your visa and ask to get a cédula. You have to complete this application first. The form asks you for your personal information, including details of your employer. It’s necessary to include your blood type because it will be printed on the document. You also have to provide the visa number that can be found in the e-mail with your electronic visa, which means that you can fill in the application in advance. If you get asked to attach a file, upload the electronic version of your visa. When you complete the form, you will receive a code with which you can go to Migración. Please note that you are supposed to enter the office on your own (UPDATE: You are now required to schedule your appointment in advance on this page.).

If you don’t live in Bogotá, I highly recommend that you go to your local Migración office. The one in Bogotá is overloaded these days and you may have to wait a long time for your turn. You can apply for your ID at any Migración office, and the application form allows you to decide where you are going to pick the document up. For example, you can apply in Tunja and ask them to send your cédula to Pasto. This option is very useful because the local offices usually aren’t busy and the process takes around 15 minutes.

The officer is going to make a copy of your passport and double check the information from the application form. You are going to have your fingerprints and photo taken. They will write the number of your cédula to your passport and ask you to pay the fee of 203,000 COP. The Migración offices accept only payments by card. If you have cash, they will send you to Banco de Occidente to pay the fee there.

You can track the status of your application online, but in my experience the page doesn’t get updated fast enough. You should keep checking this list of IDs that are ready to be picked up. It usually takes a few days for your number to appear, and then you can pick up your cédula at the Migración office. If it’s your first time, don’t forget to take your passport. If you are renewing your ID, you just need to show them your old cédula.

Don’t forget that when you change your visa, you have to get a new cédula as well. It is recommended to apply for your visa a month before your current document expires to give you enough time. If you can’t renew your visa in time, you can ask for an exception (Salvoconducto), which gives you extra 30 days to stay in the country. 

By the way, Migración uses a platform called SIRE to track foreigners’ movements. Hotels, employers, health services providers and others have to report contacts with foreigners. If a receptionist asks you for your next destination, you will know that they are using the system because that information has to be filled in. I guess many places providing accommodation don’t even know about that. Anyway, your employer has to register you on SIRE within 15 days of the first day of your contract. There are no sanctions for you if they don’t do that, so you don’t really need to concern yourself with that.