The perfect CV and cover letter for an EFL exam class teacher

Summary: The CV for those specialising in ESL examinations

There is something impressive about a string of letters representing all the exams you have taught preparation classes for somewhere in your CV:. "I have taught KET, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE, IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, BULATS and BEC" jumps out of the page much more than "I have taught all levels from complete beginner to proficiency". Teaching EFL exam classes is one of those classic "You need experience to do it the first time, so where are you going to get the experience from?" situations that hits job seekers of all kinds though. Below are some tips on how to polish up your CV and get exactly the experience you need on it in order to get into EFL exam teaching for the first time, and how to use the exam teaching experience you have got to get yourself the better teaching jobs you now deserve.


Unsurprisingly, the main factor a school manager will be looking for when thinking about employing you to teach an EFL/ ESOL (English as a Foreign Language/ English as a Second Language) exam class is to see on your CV how much experience you have in teaching exactly that kind of exam, e.g. "250 hours of classroom time teaching TOEFL", "10 years experience teaching IELTS" or "Over 100 students in my classes have passed Cambridge Young Learner exams". The best thing you can do to get that on your CV, then, is to volunteer for as many exam classes as you can. You should also try to make the exams that you volunteer to teach one you are likely to need to teach in the future, e.g. FCE (Cambridge First Certificate) in you want to teach in Spain, CAE (Cambridge Advanced) and CPE (Cambridge Proficiency) for Greece, or IELTS for Australia and China. If it is not possible to get a class that is taking exactly the exam you want to get experience of teaching, you could try going for something similar, e.g. teaching TOEFL or BULATS as suitable preparation to teach TOEIC when you get to Japan. If that is also not possible, try using as many exam materials as you can in your other classes, e.g. readings from IELTS textbooks for EAP and ESP classes, or Business English textbooks that are written to be compatible with the BEC exams.


Once you have experience of teaching exam classes, the cherry on the cake that can make all the difference in getting a good teaching job is being an official examiner. At the top of this world is actually writing exam questions for the exam board (e.g. being employed by or working freelance for ETS, Cambridge ESOL or local versions like STEP Eiken), whilst the easiest entry point is usually to volunteer locally to train as an oral examiner for the Cambridge suite of exams (KET, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE, or the kids exams Starters, Movers and Flyers). To become an oral examiner for IELTS the local contact is usually the British Council, and they may be able to give you details on how to apply to be an oral examiner for the other Cambridge exams, including BULATS. In between these two types of examining in terms of difficulty of getting qualified and impressiveness on your CV is marking written papers. In general, it is worth taking any examiner training and work you can find, because being an official examiner for a different kind of test to the class you will be teaching is still likely to get you the job before someone who isn't an examiner at all.


There are ways of showing you have similar useful experience even if you haven't actually qualified as an examiner. You can do this by mentioning your experience with level checking, internal exams, practice test oral examinations, adapting textbook progress checks etc. You might also want to mention if you are sufficiently qualified to able to become an examiner when the opportunity comes, e.g. for CAE examiners this usually means a Diploma or equivalent, a certain number of classroom hours teaching Cambridge Advanced, and 3 years post qualification experience. Also mention if you have already sent off an application to become an examiner.


Here are other things that might be writing on your CV if you are applying to teach an EFL exam class or for a full time job in a school with lots of EFL exam classes, in no particular order:

1.      Involvement in writing internal school exams for your own classes and (preferably) other people's classes, how you decided what to include, and any research and reading you did in order to make those decisions

2.      Having previously prepared exactly the same level of students as will be in the class you are applying to teach, e.g. IELTS students who have an 4.0 and need a 5.0

3.      Having taught a wide range of students taking the same exam, e.g. students aiming for TOEIC 550 and others aiming for TOEIC 800.

4.      Having taught mixed ability classes where they are all planning to take the same test, e.g. Intermediate and Advanced TOEIC students in one class

5.      Having taught mixed classes of exam and non-exam students, e.g. an Advanced class where only half the students are interested in the taking the CAE

6.      Having taught a class students have to finish before they start the exam class (e.g. the General English Upper Intermediate class they need to finish before starting FCE), but all the while bearing their future exam class in mind

7.      Advice and/ or self-study materials given to students in your group class who are taking the exam off their own backs

8.      Having taught for exactly the right version of the test, e.g. the updated version of TOEIC, the TOEFL writing or computer based test, or the IELTS General (rather than the more common IELTS Academic).

9.      Having used a wide range of exam preparation textbooks and other materials, including materials at various levels (e.g. Longman Intermediate and Advanced preparation courses for the TOEFL or pre-FCE course books)

10.  Having access to a wide range of exam materials

11.  Having published reviews of exam materials

12.  Having been involved in pre-publication testing of EFL exam textbooks etc.

13.  Any help, advice or training you got from an official examiner or other exam expert who works in your school

14.  Outside workshops on language testing attended

15.  The average, most recent and/ or most impressive pass rate or improvement in marks in your classes

16.  Long term improvements in your students' scores (even better if without any dips), for example "All students improved IELTS score by at least 0.5 each time they took it", or "Class average improvement in the TOEIC test of 100 points continually for the last 2 years".

17.  Students or whole classes who had failed the test many times but then passed it after your class

18.  Having taken language tests yourself, preferably one similar to or the same as the one you will be teaching, e.g. BULATS in German or other tests based on the ALTE framework

19.  An MA with a language testing component

20.  Academic and non-academic articles on language testing published. This can include easy to write stuff like advice for students taking the test or opinion pieces on how the test should change

21.  Reading of and subscription to language testing publications

22.  Speaking a variety of English that is most heard in the exam or a variety of English the students in your prospective class are likely to have the most trouble with in the exam (e.g. students who are used to American accents struggling with British and Australian in the revised TOEIC)

23.  Experience of grading all four skills

24.  Any other English classes that are relevant to the exams you want to teach, e.g. EAP (English for Academic Purposes) for IELTS and TOEIC; Business English for BULATS, TOEIC and BEC; or high level General English classes for CAE and CPE.

Copyright © 2008

Written by Alex Case for

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