Teaching Exam Prep

exams1.jpgPlenty of schools ask for native speakers to teach exam preparation for tests such as the TOEFL, Cambridge Exams, or IELTS. Is this for you? The pros and cons:

  • Students are generally motivated and so work hard because they have a concrete goal in mind: the exam.
  • The syllabus is usually straightforward; there are strategies and practice tests in the book and you generally follow these. Some of your time will be spent simply administering practice tests.


  • Most exams require a high level of English to begin with, so exam students tend to be able to communicate quite well. You don’t have to worry as much about grading your language and may even get involved in some interesting discussions or exchanges.
  • On major issue is having students in your group who do not seem up to the level. This can be problematic at any level, but in an exam class, it seems especially dangerous for the group to be held back by a few people when students are preparing for an exam that is not only costly and time-consuming but will likely play an important role in determining their future. Private language schools in need of students may be liberal with admitting students who want to take the course, even if their level seems to preclude the possibility of passing the exam. Nor is it unheard of either for schools to place some weight on the pass rate when assessing the teacher.
  • While you are ostensibly teaching test-taking strategies and skills like writing (how to structure an essay, etc.), the Cambridge Exams and older (non-iBT) TOEFL tests do have sections devoted to grammar and students may want explanations. For experienced teachers, preparing for this shouldn’t be overwhelming, but it would be more time-consuming for a new teacher.

Many teachers rank teaching exam prep highly. Overall, if you go into classes prepared and with a good syllabus and students at an appropriate level, exam prep can be a breeze.