Published 24th July 2019

What level should my English be to teach abroad?

Doing a TEFL course can be the beginning of a whole new life for many people. Having a TEFL certificate opens the doors to travelling and teaching wherever your itchy feet want to take you. Can anyone complete one? Well, sort of. The question you need to ask yourself is what level should my english be for a TEFL course? If you are a native english speaker then chances are that you have nothing to worry about. If english is not your native language, it is a little bit more complex. The best way to explore whether or not you are eligible is to complete a tefl english exam. Which we will get to shortly.

What Does it Take to Complete TEFL?

A lot of people out there believe that because a Level TEFL course is 168 hours that it isn’t a “real” qualification and anyone can do it. There are other people out there that think that if you can speak English, you can simply teach English. We think it is fair to say that anyone who has spent an hour in an EFL classroom will be quick to point out that it is far from the truth. To put it lightly.

The truth is that a TEFL course is a legitimate and well regarded teaching qualification needed to teach English as a Foreign Language. As with any qualification there are a few requirements you must satisfy to be accepted on a TEFL course.

What Level Should My English be For a TEFL Course?
What Level Should My English be For a TEFL Course?

What requirements do you need to do a TEFL course?

There are a variety of different factors that different TEFL providers can have as minimum requirements to complete their TEFL courses. Some TEFL courses require you to have a Bachelor’s degree. Others only require a school-leaving certificate. All TEFL courses only accept TEFL trainees who are older than 18 years of age. You will need to find out the specific course requirements of the TEFL course you want to do. However there is one TEFL course requirement which all TEFL courses have.

To be able to teach English as a Foreign Language effectively you need to have a solid foundation in the theories of teaching and learning. A good grasp of the English language and a certain skill set, all of which are dealt with on the TEFL course. Consequently, there is a language level requirement to sign up for a TEFL course. This is where 

Native speakers of English will naturally be above the minimum standard of English needed for a TEFL course while non-native speakers should have an English level of C1. Taking a TEFL english exam is the best way to examine whether or not you are at this level of proficiency in the language.

What does C1 mean?

A person’s level of English is commonly measured by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which describes language ability on a 6-point scale. If a language learner measures as a Beginner or Elementary learner they are classified as A1, as Pre-intermediate they are A2, Intermediate B1, Upper Intermediate B2, Advanced C1 and Proficiency C2. (Don’t get your knickers in a knot over the levels just yet – you’ll learn more about them on your TEFL course).

Someone who wants to do the TEFL course will need to measure at a C1 or Advanced level of English. This is similar to any other course of study that is conducted in English. A certain mastery of the language is needed to deal with the course materials and texts, more so in this case because it is an English teaching qualification. 

How do I know what level I am?

In order to test any language learner’s level, there are a number of language tests that can be taken. A C1 according to the CEFR is equivalent to the following:

  • The Pearson Test of English (PTE) General Level 4
  • Trinity ISE III
  • Trinity GESE Grades 10 and 11
  • Cambridge CAE (Grade A,B or C)
  • Cambridge Business Higher
  • IELTS score 6.5-7.5
  • Michigan ECPE
  • TOEFL score 95-120
  • TOIEIC Listening: 490-495 Reading 455 Speaking: 180 Writing: 180
  • If you haven’t taken a formal test and would like to gauge your level, you can do a quick level test on any of these websites:
  • The British Council
  • Cambridge English
  • Exam English

When you apply to do a TEFL certificate and you are a non-native speaker, you may be required to provide proof of your English language ability. This can be done with a certificate from one of the tefl english exams above or through an interview with the TEFL school.

Is being a non-native speaker a disadvantage?

Absolutely not. Don’t let this requirement put you off doing the TEFL and becoming a TEFL teacher. There is no reason why a native speaker would be a better teacher than a non-native speaker purely through the fact that English is their mother tongue. In fact, because non-native teachers have learnt English as a Foreign Language themselves, many argue they have an advantage over native teachers, in that they have been through the same process their students are going through.

Non-native Speaker Jobs

Sadly, the reality is that even though being a non-native teacher won’t affect your teaching ability, you still might find it a bit challenging to find a job in some countries as they prefer native English-speaking teachers. 

There are many other opportunities out there, but you will just need to find them. That is the amazing thing about TEFL, how flexible it really is. So there is no reason to be disheartened if a school is not willing to take you on due to the fact that you are not a native speaker. There are lots of different avenues for teaching that you can explore other options and there will be the right school or recruiter out there for you. 

Teaching English Online

The growing trend of teaching english online for example is a great avenue. Particularly for non-native speakers that are having issues getting jobs. We have written at length in the some of our other blogs about the ability to teach with different companies to teach with and FAQs for teaching english online that you are more than welcome to check out. 

But you can assure you that for any that have passed a tefl english exam and want to jump into the world of TEFL. We are here to guide you through. Our expert tutor tutors are really the best in the business and are on hand to respond to any issues that you may have over the course of your study. At the end of the day, The TEFL Academy is here to support you. You will become a competent and most importantly, confident TEFL teacher. Helping you to score the dream teaching job and supporting you in your first steps to a whole new lifestyle. Exciting times!

  1. I come from the Philippines originally though I have lived in London for over 30 years.
    I had my degree qualifications back in Phils (where English is the language in school and business) and foundation courses here in UK as well as NVQ3. I’d like to think that I Have at least C1 level of English but I’m also now 56 years old. If I was younger, I would not hesitate. After researching, I realised that my age limits my chances. Now, I realised that perhaps not being a native speaker also further limits me. And although I have a degree, it was back when I was living in Asia, so I wonder if that is also a limiting factor for me?
    Please tell me with your honest opinion what sort of opportunities would someone like me get after qualifying TEFL.

    1. Hi Marie. Thank you for commenting on our blog post. One of our student services advisors has been in touch with you via email to offer some further information in regards to your query. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get back in touch with us.

    1. Hi there Akanksha! When you take the course, you will be awarded a pass, merit or distinction grade upon passing. These grades are based upon the grades received in the three assignments through the course. As long as you receive a pass grade, you will then be qualified with a Level 5 TEFL qualification and this can then be used to teach English either online or in almost any country around the world.

  2. Hi , I am a native English speaker . I’m 54 yr old living in Australia. I have no school certificates or other qualifications, but I wanted to do the TEFL course for extra money as an online job only .
    Would it be suitable and worth my while doing this certificate .
    Also do you have to speak any other languages to be qualified to teach students from other countries?
    Thanks Karen

    1. Hi Karen – Yes Our course will qualify you to teach English as a foreign language for all ages and all levels, online, as well as in the classroom! A TEFL teacher does not have to speak other languages are you are teaching a class in English. It can only help though!

  3. Hello, I’m A professional native Spanish teacher living in England. I am considering to move back to Spain in a few years and continue teaching there ( English to Spanish students). Therefore I am interested in getting the TEFL certificate. Would you please send me some information? What are the requirements do I need to have to get the certificate? Are the courses only online or there are also face to face ones? Where?
    I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Cristina, That’s great you are interested in a TEFL Course! There are very few requirements to do the TEFL course with us. You only need to:

      be over the age of 16 (Online Course) or be over the age of 18 (Combined Course)
      have a minimum C1 level of English (advanced)
      have access to a computer/laptop and the internet
      have basic computer skills.
      If you fit all of these requirements then you will be able to enrol for our course online or over the phone.

      You can study the course completely online or pair with a weekend training/webinar option. There is more information on our course options here:

  4. Hi there I’m interested in joining the Tefl course. I wanted to know what do u need to join the program


  5. Just wanted to ask if a matric ( Grade 12) certificate from South Africa is equivalent to a level C1? I’m very interested in joining the academy. I have been for years but I have no teaching experience or background. I would like to know the course I need to take to attain a level C2 and how much that would cost and would I need to go do practicals if I intend on teaching online?

    1. Hi there- You do not need to prove your English level before taking the course. We just ask that you be of this level. We’ve emailed you more information now.

    1. Hello Vuyisani, we have sent you an email with our course information and a prospectus. I hope this will be helpful for you. 🙂

  6. As a non native speaker being african is it challenging to be employed as they prefer native speakers,this is really not encouraging at all,so far on the pictures of students i see native speakers yes and the videos you have but i didn’t let that discourage me but now reading this above leaves me worried honestly as a non native speaker.
    I am kindly asking for a much fair explanation please
    Your assistance in this would be appreciated
    kind regards

    1. Hello Lebogang, there are a huge amount of opportunities for non-native speakers. We have a high number of non-native speakers who have completed the course and gone on to find jobs all over the world. We have sent you an email with information about finding jobs as a non-native speaker. I hope this will be helpful in your search and if we can answer any further questions you have, please don’t hesitate to send an email to our student services team at the following address: 🙂

    2. How do I register with the TEFL academy and is it a free course or registration fee and course fee is needed, cause I am very much interested.
      Your assistance will be appreciated

      1. Hello Maria, it is possible to enrol for the course either through our website or over the phone. The course we offer is a level 5 168-hour TEFL course. You can choose to study it as an online only course: or as a combined course with a 20-hour weekend: The most up to date prices for the course are available on our website at the following link: 🙂

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