Published 2nd April 2019

general english

Teaching English as a Foreign Language is not a one-size-fits-all job. If you are an EFL teacher, there are many different hats you can be expected to wear, depending on what classes you are given to teach. Yes, they will all involve teaching English as a Foreign Language, but no, they won’t involve the same content, aims or lesson plans. Sorry!  In this blog we cover types of EFL classes –  teaching general English versus teaching English for exams.

Teaching General English

The most common form of EFL lessons are General English classes. Students take General English classes because they want to improve their English but they don’t have a specific goal in mind. They may need to be awarded a certificate for a certain level – for example, Upper Intermediate – for their job or for some other reason, but they usually have no specific end goal besides proficiency.

In General English classes, the teacher usually follows a coursebook. Classes will cover language and the four skills, but the teachers have the freedom to deviate from the syllabus whenever they feel they should. In this way, General English classes are flexible enough to cater to the interests of the students, however varied they may be. In other words, the class might look at Unit 6 on Monday and then do a lesson related to a relevant DVD on Tuesday.

As a result, General English classes are usually low-stress. The classroom atmosphere is relaxed and the students like to have a good time in the lessons. There is no reason to introduce any kind of pressure into the lessons, even for tests or assessments, as this will only be counter-productive.

Teaching English for Exams

Teaching English for Exams classes are quite different. In these classes the students have one goal, to pass an exam. There are a number of different exams EFL students may be studying towards, such as IELTS, TOEFL, FCE, CAE and CPE, just to name a few. Students might need to pass or get a certain mark in the exams for acceptance at a university or for a job. The exams are all different in format but the lessons will be similar in terms of structure.

Consequently, teachers in exam classes do not have as much flexibility as General English teachers. They have a set date for the exam to work towards and their students have a set goal. At the same time, students in exam classes are generally more motivated, dedicated and hard-working than other students because of this.

This doesn’t mean that exam classes are boring, by any means. Exam teachers need to work extra hard to make sure their lessons are not dry and boring, which is not that easy when you have to stick strictly to a curriculum or coursebook.

At the same time, exam teachers are able to see the results of their and their students’ hard work in the results of the exams. It is easier for exam teachers to be aware of the progress of their students and witness their satisfaction when they pass their exams. In this way, exam classes can be very rewarding in a way that General English classes aren’t.