What Level Should My English Be For A TEFL Course?

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Doing a teaching English as a foreign language (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 a TEFL course? 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. But we’ll get to this shortly.

What does it take to complete a TEFL course?

A lot of people out there believe that because a Level 5 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 both of those are far from the truth

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.

TEFL students

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. The majority of TEFL courses only accept TEFL trainees who are older than 18 years old. 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.

What level should my English be for a TEFL course?

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, Pre-intermediate as A2, Intermediate B1, Upper Intermediate B2, Advanced C1 and Proficiency C2. Or, to put it more simply: 


EFL Level

CEFR Level









Upper Intermediate






(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. Besides, you can’t teach a language if you can’t speak the language!

How do I know what English 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:


Score equivalent to C1

The Pearson Test of English (PTE)


Trinity ISE III


Cambridge CAE


IELTS score

6.5 – 7.5


95 – 120




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:


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.

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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.

Read more: The Advantages of being a Non-native English Teacher

Non-native speaker TEFL 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. 

These days schools, companies and recruiters are more understanding of the fact that being a native speaker doesn’t necessarily make you naturally better at TEFL. 

Read more: TEFL Opportunities for Non-native Speakers

Teaching English online

The growing trend of teaching English online, for example, is a great avenue. There is such a huge demand for online English teachers that it is relatively easy to find work online. Being a native speaker of another language (besides English) can be particularly helpful when dealing with students’ parents who may not speak English themselves.

The bottom line, then, is that you do need a certain level of English. If you can’t speak and understand English at at least an Advanced level, you won’t be able to pass the course let alone teach learners. But if you can and you would like to teach English abroad, there’s nothing left for you to do but sign up for a TEFL course and get certified! Good luck!


Does it matter what grade I pass this course with?

Akanksha, 23rd January 2021

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

Karen Fish, 18th January 2021

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,

Cristina Lopez, 22nd August 2020

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


Tracy, 20th April 2020

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?

Palesa Molefe, 3rd April 2020

Am interested in TEFL ACADEMY

Vuyisani, 12th August 2019

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

Lebogang Mosito, 31st July 2019

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