Cambridge TKT Course FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Cambridge TKT Course

Note that while we mainly use the term TEFL on these pages, in most cases the terms TESOL and TESL could equally well apply.

NB: For the sake of convenience, the Cambridge TKT is compared below to other Cambridge ESOL teaching qualifications, but other organisations offer equally good equivalent qualifications.

What does TKT stand for?
Teaching Knowledge Test

What is the TKT?
The TKT is an exam from Cambridge that tests your basic teaching knowledge.

What is the format of the TKT?
The TKT consists of three core modules, with one test for each. Each test lasts for 80 minutes and has 80 questions. The tests may be taken together or separately, in any order.

What are all these other versions of the TKT?
In addition to the three core modules of the TKT itself, there are additional optional modules available. TKT: Practical is observed teaching (40 minutes), whereas the others are written tests. TKT: Knowledge About Language (KAL) is a higher-level qualification in one aspect of the TKT, and Cambridge recommend at least an Upper-intermediate level of English to take it (as against Intermediate for the other tests). TKT: Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is specific to teaching other subjects through English. Each of these two has just a single 80-minute test.

Do I need to take the TKT before I take the optional modules (Practical, KAL, CLIL)?
No. Any TKT test can be taken separately.

Do I need to take all three core modules of the TKT together?
No. They can be taken separately or together.

How well recognised is the TKT?
TKT is offered by Cambridge ESOL, probably the world’s most well-known and well-respected provider of qualifications in EFL and TEFL. However, the TKT is not at the same level as a TEFL certificate course or Cambridge ICELT, and if you have the time, money and level of English to take one of those instead, you probably should.

How can the TKT show my teaching skills if it is just a paper exam?
Just taking the TKT test is no proof of your practical teaching skills, although as with language learning it is probable that subject knowledge has at least some positive practical effects. To prove your actual teaching skills, you will need to take the TKT: Practical or (preferably) a course with observed and graded teaching practice included.

What kinds of jobs can I get with the TKT?
No employers specifically ask for the TKT in the way that some job ads ask for the Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL (or equivalent). However, showing that you are interested in your professional development and having an internationally recognised certificate proving your subject knowledge can’t hurt!

Is the TKT a good introduction if I want to take a TEFL certificate course later?
Yes. However, TEFL certificate courses are designed for people with no teaching experience and so you could just do one straight off. It is only worth taking the TKT first if you are unsure whether you want to take a certificate course, if you don’t yet have time to take the course, or if your level of English is not yet high enough. 

I already have a TEFL qualification. Is it worth taking any of the more specialist TKT courses/tests?
The TKT: CLIL is probably suitable if you need to be involved in teaching other subjects through English and your previous courses didn’t have anything or much on this. The content of the other courses would be covered in a typical 100-hour TEFL certificate course.

What are the differences between the TKT and the CELTA?
The biggest difference is that the CELTA always has at least six hours of observed and graded teaching practice, whereas the TKT has none or, if you take the TKT: Practical, 40 minutes. The CELTA also involves at least 100 hours of training, whereas the TKT test can be taken after preparing on your own. The English language level for entering the CELTA is also quite high, with course providers often asking for Cambridge Proficiency (CPE). For all these reasons, the CELTA is considered a higher level qualification than the TKT.

What are the differences between the Cambridge ICELT and the Cambridge TKT?
The biggest difference is that the TKT is a test and so you don’t necessarily need to take a preparation course (although most people do). Unless you take the optional TKT: Practical, there is also no observed teaching practice in the TKT. This is one of the reasons why the TKT is considered a lower-level qualification than the ICELT, along with the lower level of English needed and the lower number of classroom hours in a typical course. In fact, some people use the TKT as a way of preparing to enter an ICELT course.

Which is better, an online TEFL course or the TKT?
If an online course has more than 100 hours of instruction it might well deal with more content than is in the TKT, but the TKT still has the name of Cambridge ESOL (part of Cambridge University) behind it. You could always combine the two by doing an online course and then the TKT exam.

Who is the TKT most suitable for?
It is most suitable for people who have few or no qualifications in teaching English as a foreign language or people whose training did not include more up-to-date methodologies. That could include people with no teaching experience. However, these groups of people would probably gain more from a course with observed teaching practice such as a TEFL certificate like the Cambridge CELTA or the Cambridge ICELT, so the TKT is often taken by people who do not have sufficient time or a good enough level of English to enter those kinds of courses. The TKT: CLIL test is also suitable for those with initial qualifications in teaching who want to know more about this specific area.

Do I need to take an English language test to prove my level before I can enter a TKT preparation course?
Not according to Cambridge, but local course providers may have their own criteria.

Is the TKT suitable for people with no teaching experience?

What level of English do I need to take a TKT course/pass the TKT?
Cambridge does not set formal entry requirements but recommends a level of at least Intermediate (CEFR B1, PET or a 4.0 in IELTS), or Upper Intermediate for the TKT: Knowledge About Language. Preparation course providers might have different requirements.  

Is the TKT just for non-native English speaking teachers?
No, although that is the largest group of people who take the test. Native English speakers could use the test and/or preparation courses as a way of preparing for a TEFL certificate course, as an alternative to an online TEFL course, or to help them decide if TEFL is for them before they pay for a 4-week course.

Is the TKT easy for native English speakers?
An educated English speaker with no language learning or teaching experience would probably still know about half the answers in a Module 1 test. However, someone who has learnt English as a foreign language is likely to find some other questions, such as those on grammar terminology and phonemic symbols, easier than an average native English speaker would.

What is the pass mark?
There is no pass and fail. All candidates get a band between 1 and 4 for each of the exams that they take.

Will my lessons be observed as part of the assessment?
Only if you take the TKT: Practical, in which case your grade will be based on one or two lesson observations and the accompanying lesson plans. The other tests are just a test of knowledge, as the name of the test implies, and so courses with integrated teaching practice, e.g. a TEFL certificate such as the CELTA or ICELT, are considered higher level qualifications. 

What exam tactics are useful in the TKT?
There is often one extra answer that is not used, so check that there is one left over and that it doesn’t match with any of the options. In a similar way, with multiple-choice questions you should double check that the options that you didn’t choose don’t match the question.

What is the most important thing to do to prepare for the test?
Learn English teaching jargon such as: parts of speech; types of exercise and activity; names of approaches to teaching; and techniques for language learning.

Can I take a TKT test without taking a course?
Yes. All you need to do is register yourself for the test at any TKT exam centre, e.g. a local branch of the British Council.

How can I study for the test without taking a course?
There are now specific books on the TKT available and also many online resources, including practice tests. More generally, reading English-language books and articles on language teaching is a good way of increasing your knowledge of teaching and TEFL terminology, and of testing how ready you are to take the exam.

Can I take the TKT as part of or after an unrelated course?
Yes, in fact that is a common use of the test. For example, some teacher training organisations in the UK offer the TKT as an option at the end of the course.

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