I took the online TEFL course before going to The Dominican Republic to volunteer as an English teacher. I decided to take it as I hoped it would provide me with a solid grounding in teaching methods as well as help me feel more confident when I entered the classroom. I don't regret taking the course as it provided me with a good basis for beginning my career in ESL. I was very happy to receive my online TELF certification and head off to teach abroad.
The course was wide ranging as it covered an extensive number of themes including theory, teaching methods, grammar, lesson planning, classroom management and so on. All aspects of teaching were touched upon so I felt much more self-assured before I went abroad to teach. Even though I had some previous teaching experience at summer courses and after school clubs and so on I learnt a huge amount and was able to benefit from the course content.
Familiarise yourself with the course content so you know what to expect and there are no surprises.
Make sure you check the meaning of any new terminology.
For me the grammar section was definitely the most difficult part to master as I had no previous experience teaching grammar. Although I obviously speak and write English to a high standard, explaining it to others felt like a big challenge and I didn't really know where to begin. I had to really sit down and study in order to feel better about my abilities with tenses, nouns, verbs and so on! I used a few books referred to me by a friend who is an English teacher and these helped me to grasp the bits I was finding tricky as thy broke it down even more than the course did. It goes without saying that there is no better practice than actually teaching a group of students a grammar point yourself. You quickly develop your own style and ideas when you begin teaching and of course with experience teaching becomes easier, even the grammar! However, the course itself means you have the backbones of knowledge before you begin and can start of feeling confident about your abilities.
Don't get stressed about grammar! Take it one step at a time and ask for help if you need it.
Find a friend or someone else on the course to study with and share ideas and concerns.
Personally I found that I felt much more confident in areas such as classroom management and planning lessons but this is probably due to my own experiences and previous jobs and volunteering work. With the TEFL course you are able to focus on your own areas of weakness which is a good plus point. I found the course to be flexible and I appreciated that I was able to work at my own pace, spending more time on the areas I needed to. This aspect gives the TEFL course a more personalised feel, rather than having to rush through and risk not understanding things fully.
Take your time on the areas you find more difficult.
Remember when you are in a real classroom you will learn a lot more and have opportunities to put all your new knowledge into practice.
The test itself wasn't really easy but nor was it incredibly difficult. I think it is well balanced in terms of the level of challenge. Due to the course preparation and my additional revision I had done independently (particular on the grammar pats!) I felt fairly well prepared. The test itself isn't designed to trick you so if you have participated fully in the course itself and then gone over your personal areas of weakness there is no reason why you wouldn't pass. I was quite nervous but in hindsight I didn't need to be.
Go over your weak areas in your own time or with your study buddy to avoid feeling overly nervous on the day of the test.
Ask your tutor or a friend for additional support if you need it.
Don't panic! Take everything one step at a time and you'll be fine.
Overall my impressions of the course were that it has been well planned and well thought out, covering many aspects of teaching ESL and allowing those with or without experience to gain knowledge and tools for teaching abroad. For those hoping to work or volunteer in different countries it provides a clear and helpful introduction to teaching ESL and will help dispel any fears or concerns you may have. Ultimately I feel if you take the TEFL course you will be a better teacher in the long run and be able to prepare consistently good and well planned classes for your students as a result.
I would recommend the course as it is easy to access, time efficient and practical. I would say that it would be beneficial to those like me who do have some prior experience but also to those who have never set foot in a classroom or picked up a lesson plan!