An ultimate breakdown of English Certificates

Certificates for teachers; language tests for students; personal experience - Anna Budko.


If you are a young ESL / EFL teacher fresh off the boat you may be considering your options of furthering your knowledge. Or you may be a native speaker who wants to try themselves in teaching their language to others and looking for courses to take. Also, not all degrees are valid outside of your country, and if you want to get an internationally recognised qualification, you should take one of the many exams available for teachers. Let’s break down all the different kinds of certificates there are.


The first certificate we recommend every teacher to take is a TKT one. It stands for Teaching Knowledge Test and is divided into 3 main modules and 2 additional ones. 

Who is TKT for?

  • New and experienced teachers

  • Recommended for teachers with an English level of B1 or above

  • Teachers who teach primary, secondary or adult learners

  • Teachers who want to prove their teaching knowledge

  • Teachers who need a globally recognised certificate

TKT is taken as a series of multiple-choice tests. There are five modules that can be taken in any order or combination:

Core modules:

  • Module 1

  •  Background to language learning and teaching

  • Module 2

  •  Lesson planning and use of resources for language teaching

  • Module 3

  •  Managing the teaching and learning process

Specialist modules:


  •  Content and Language Integrated Learning

  • TKT: YL

  •  Young Learners

New teachers should pay special attention to the three main modules of the test, which focus on the basics of the language, teaching methods, and classroom management. They will help you build confidence and bring structure to existing knowledge. 


TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, it is accepted globally, and many educational institutions are now hiring TEFL certified teachers. It takes around 120 hours and up to 3 months to complete the program, although in some cases extensions are allowed. In some countries having only a TEFL certificate without any teaching degree is enough to land you a teaching job. There are both online and onsite programs, both including such aspects as language knowledge, curriculum planning, classroom management and assessment systems. The advantage of this certificate is that you are going to get classroom observation, peer reviews, and mentorship. This certificate gives a fuller understanding of how teaching works and a more hands-on experience. 

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Both terms are used interchangeably and are basically the same certificate. However, the main difference is that TESOL is more general and includes not only teaching English as a foreign language (like in China) but also as a Second language (like in a US college where you have students from around the world). 


This is another Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, but it is Cambridge certified and is usually a bit more expensive. In many ways, this certificate equals a Bachelor's degree in language teaching, and many schools will gladly accept it as a valid qualification. CELTA is specifically directed at teaching adults, it focuses on developing practical skills with face-to-face teaching practice and requires some prior knowledge. The course will include at least 120 hours, which is a standard, offers full and part-time options, but it always includes real-life teaching experience. Doing CELTA full time will require full commitment and will take around 4 -5 weeks of your time, so if you already have a job, you will have to take a month off. 


This is an advanced course suitable for those who have at least one year of teaching experience, English language teachers who want to progress into more senior roles such as head of English and teacher training, and those who want to extend their expertise in a specialist area. Delta is a post-graduate level qualification, equivalent to a Master's. It will require extensive preparation and a lot of experience. It includes three modules:

  • Module 1

  •  Understanding Language, Methodology and Resources for Teaching

  • Module 2

  •  Developing Professional Practice

  • Module 3

  •  Option 1: Extending Practice and ELT Specialism

  •  Option 2: English Language Teaching Management

Taking the Delta course online can often be a much more flexible option for people who cannot dedicate large portions of their week to study face-to-face. Regardless of whether you take the Delta completely onlineonline-blended, or face-to-face, the certificate you receive will be exactly the same.


How good is your English? Can you barely keep a conversation going or do you speak like a native? Studying in a US university, landing an internship or a job in London, travelling through New Zealand for six months… Being able to accurately demonstrate English language skills is becoming a must for a growing number of today’s students. Many English language certificates allow you to assess your language ability. But to reach a specific goal, you need to choose the right English language test. Global recognition, band score systems, test formats and registration fees: spotlight on the main language proficiency tests. Get ready to score!

Your goal: studying in an English-speaking country

Applying for an Australian student visa, enrolling in a Californian university, travelling to the UK under an exchange programme, to study abroad, in all these cases you will be expected to have an English language certificate.


Who accepts TOEFL?

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test is accepted by more than 8,500 institutions in over 130 countries. TOEFL scores may also be used to meet student visa requirements for the UK and Australia.

What is the test format?

Most test-takers choose to take the online TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test) test but a paper version of the test (PBT) is also available. The test is divided into four sections, each of which includes either a series of questions or tasks: ReadingListeningSpeaking, and Writing. Total score ranges between 0 and 120.

How much does the test cost?

On average, the iBT TOEFL test costs between EUR119 and EUR186, depending on the country. Following the test date, scores are valid for two years.


Who accepts IELTS?

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is accepted by thousands of organizations, such as schools and universities, in over 135 countries. In the United States, more than 3,000 institutions accept the test. Also, an IELTS certificate may be enclosed in a student visa application for Australia or the UK.

What is the test format?

You can either take the IELTS Academic, specially designed for people aiming to enroll in a higher education institution or the IELTS General Training, if you wish to secure an internship for instance. The tests are divided into the same four modules as the TOEFL test but the overall score is on a 1-9 scale.

How much does the test cost?

IELTS test fees vary from one country to another: a test-taker will generally spend between EUR185 and EUR200. An IELTS score is valid for two years.

Your goal: gaining international work experience

Are you intending to build your resume by landing an internship abroad? Have you reached graduation and are looking to enter the workforce by landing a position in a foreign country? Having a high English language test score sometimes is an employment condition. A high score might also help you to convince a prospective employer. Check if you have the English language skills needed in the global workplace!


Who uses TOEIC?

Over 10,000 organizations in more than 120 countries use TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) scores to determine the language skills of current or potential employees.

What are the test formats?

Listening and Reading, Speaking and Writing: these are the three TOEIC tests which will allow you to prove your ability to use English in the workplace. There are two sections of 100 questions each to the Listening and Reading test. The Speaking and Writing tests contain a series of tasks and may be taken at the same time or separately. As for the scores, they range between 10 and 990 for the Listening and Reading test and between 0 and 200 for both the Speaking and Reading tests.

How much do the tests cost?

TOEIC test fees vary slightly depending on the country. Registration to the Listening and Reading test usually costs between EUR110 and EUR119. Double registration to Speaking and Reading test costs between EUR110 and EUR129. TOEIC test scores remain valid for two years.


Who uses BULATS?

Throughout the world, companies use the BULATS (Business Language Testing Service) test to assess the knowledge of business English (other languages available) of actual or potential employees. You may also take BULATS as an individual.

What is the test format?

BULATS online or paper-based test contains three different sections (two sections if paper-based): reading and listening test, speaking test, writing test. Taking all the tests isn’t mandatory. BULATS scores are on a scale of 1-100.

How much does the test cost?

An individual test-taker pays an average test fee of EUR60. BULATS scores are valid for two years.

Your goal: finding out what your English level is

How well do you speak English? You might not have the answer to that question. But you probably would like to know where you stand before your Working Holiday in Australia, before the internship interview you will be passing in Dublin within two weeks or your au pair stay in England.

Cambridge English exam: the FCE

What level of proficiency in English does the exam assess?

The FCE (First Certificate in English) is an upper-intermediate English language exam.

What is the exam format?

You may take either a paper or computer-based test. There are five parts to the FCE test: reading, writing, use of English, listening and speaking. An A, B or C score means you have passed the exam. If you get a lower score, you have failed the exam.

How much does the exam cost?

Registration to the FCE test generally costs between EUR196 and EUR199, depending on the country. The FCE certificate has no validity limit.

Read full article here.


Anna took TKT modules 1, 2, 3 in 2019 and was awarded band 4 for each module. She got a pass A for her CELTA certificate in 2020. Anna’s career as a teacher started in 2012, and she has always valued personalised approach over sticking to any specific teaching method. She is genuinely interested in getting to know her students and likes to base her lessons on their interests.

Starting your career as an ESL teacher can be confusing and sometimes intimidating even if your level of English is C2. Many employers list CELTA or TKT as requirements in their vacancies. Are these certificates really that important and what benefits can a teacher get from them? 

First of all, let’s compare these qualifications to get an idea about the main differences between them.

Taking TKT is a good idea if your main goal is to structurize your knowledge and deal with an array of ESL teaching terms you might have stumbled upon while reading teaching books. It also helps to identify the areas of teaching you are most interested in and want to work on. This certificate is recognised all around the world and can become a useful bonus to you CV.

TKT was my first choice after I decided to start developing my career as a teacher. I didn’t want to rely solely on self-preparation for this test, so I chose a preparation course provided by the teaching centre I was going to take the test at. For me the course was a great way to learn about the format of the exam and its pitfalls. I definitely got my money’s worth since I didn’t struggle at any point of the test. Besides, I got to meet some of my peers and practise English in a friendly and professional environment. I wouldn’t say that it answered numerous questions I had about classroom dynamics, different ways of presenting material etc., but, admittedly, this was not its main purpose.

Nearly two years later I decided to take CELTA, reason being that I wanted to switch from teaching 1-1 to teaching groups but didn’t feel qualified enough to do that. There are some options such as full-time (4 weeks), part-time (3 months or more), both of them you can take online. I chose an offline part-time course so that I could still fit some of my students in my schedule. Nevertheless, the course was quite demanding and required a lot of time-management and dealing with deadlines. 

To my mind, the most valuable aspect of this course is the feedback you get on every step you take. Tutors, fellow trainees, students, yourself - everyone is a source of ideas and ways to make your teaching better! I especially liked the way tutors observed short 45 minute lessons planned and taught by trainees. Here are some comments of my tutor identifying the stages of my lesson, strengths and areas to work on.

CELTA helps you get a hands-on group teaching experience supported by theoretical material, practical tips and constant help of experienced teachers. As a side benefit, course trainees sometimes form a tight community because a hectic schedule and dealing with difficulties together promote teamwork and a very special bonding experience. I would recommend this course to any teacher who feels that they have hit a stone wall in their professional development.

That’s all for now!
Stay amazing❤︎