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Is it possible to get a free TEFL course? And where can you find it?
Is there such a thing as free TEFL course?
I mean, think about it. Companies work hard to produce up-to-date, course-accredited, high-quality content. They have wages and rent to pay! When a TEFL provider claims that the TEFL course is ‘free,’ there are usually some conditions attached.
Let’s take a look at some of the free TEFL courses that you can find on Google.
1. TEFL Professional Development Institute
There is a course provider called “TEFL Professional Development Institute.” It can also be found at theteflcertificate.com and is the top search result when people are looking for online ‘free’ certification.
They claim that their TEFL course is free, so let’s have a look and see what we can find.
According to their home page, their “Professional Certificate Direct” is for those who need to get certified fast and already have some language teaching or training.
So, they seem to imply that this is a quick top-up certificate that you can show to your employer before starting your job.
According to their FAQ section, you must have a native level of English to take this course.
As you can see, their writing is not proofread and is riddled with errors. I don’t think they are English teachers themselves!
Their site looks a little old and outdated. To find out more, I check their WHOIS information for the site.
So we can see more about them here. It looks like this website was established by an individual or company in China.
It was created in 2014, and it’s still going!
They say that this certificate is recognized by employers in leading TEFL teaching courses, but how can we be so sure?
This certificate mentions its accreditations:
If you look up BOAA, Google appears not to be able to find any organization. The Board of Academic Advisors seems to be an ad hoc group. We don’t know if this ad hoc entity was appointed by the course provider themselves or an independent party.
The whole site seems to lack academic credibility, and I don’t think it would be respected by employers. The overall site doesn’t instill any trust whatsoever.
There is a seemingly lack of reviews in relation to this site; in fact, I can’t find them anywhere.
However, someone reached out to forums like ESL Base discussing the problems with this site: (actually, this is the only piece of feedback I’ve found online)
They need to purchase a hard copy of the certificate, and they have to pay The TEFL Development Institute £50 to do so! So the ‘free’ certificate now costs £50. Hmm…
Of course, the recruiter is afraid that the certificate might not be accepted by the government… It lacks real credibility!
Don’t fall for this… Please.
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2. Teacher Record
Teacher Record, a recruitment site, seems to offer a free 120-Hour TEFL course.
This is a 120-hour TEFL course which is the minimum requirement when applying to jobs.
Teacher Record is not an unheard-of site and you can often find them recruiting on sites such as TEFL.com. They are based in China and hire for multiple online companies and schools.
I think this one has more credibility straight away; however, is it really free? Let’s take a closer look.
Again, I am not finding any reviews online for this particular TEFL certificate.
I know they say it’s 100% for free, but I wonder if they will give you a hard copy for free? (which you will quite likely need if you are teaching abroad). I sent them a Skype message to find out:
When I sent them the Skype message, they said that it costs $70 to get the paper version delivered to an international address. If you are living in China, you can get it for 150 RMB… That’s roughly $23.10. The free certificate has now just got much more expensive!
I also can’t find any mention of its accreditation. It’s not mentioned on the TEFL certificate either.
I sent them another Skype message:
Their course is accredited by Teacher Record ESL Association, in other words, by themselves! Accreditations assure the quality of ESL certification from a recognized independent organization in the industry.
TEFL courses need to be accredited the same way as universities do; to ensure quality and ethical standards are accepted and recognized by the international job market.
I signed up for the free course, and this is what it looks like:
There are 13 modules, and each module carries a test. The tests are all multiple choice, so you have no teacher trainers grading your work or offering official support.
I decided to take the second last module test to check the quality of the material. The questions were very straightforward, and they were multiple choice. (I don’t think you’d even need to study for it).
I tried to go to the next test, and I got this warning!
While I may not be able to complete the course in a few minutes as I had hoped, let’s just say the questions were common sense. However, I just finished one test, so I cannot make a clear judgment on the overall course.
So I don’t know how valuable this course really is.
Complete this TEFL course at your own risk! Without accreditation from an external body, it likely won’t be accepted by all language schools. But what more can you expect from a free TEFL certificate?
3. Online Companies with their own Free Training
Some online companies or schools abroad provide their own certification.
This training will cover you when you get the job. However, there are some concerns about this too.
Before you decide to get certified with the employer, you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Can this certificate be used for other ESL companies, or is this only suited to this particular job?
- Is the course accredited by real institutions?
- Do I need to pay for a printed version of the certificate, which can be used when applying to other companies?
For example, VIPKid is said to offer a TEFL course for free. However, if you want to use that certificate for another ESL school, you’ll need to pay $79 to obtain a printable version.
Another company that provides free certification is EF English First. This is one of the few ways to get TEFL certification that’s accredited, and they will provide you with teaching placement abroad.
Even though it might seem free or the better option, teachers often end up losing more money in the long run because they are usually paid less for the teaching job when they are not already certified.
Recommended TEFL Courses
While these are not free, these courses can be purchased for a low price, while giving you the credentials you need to get the teaching job.
The International Open Academy: The Quickest and Cheapest Option
If you are stuck for a free or cheap course, this is your best bet. The International Open Academy is endorsed by Training Qualifications UK Ltd and is reduced to a special price right now.
The International Open Academy is a great course if you want to start teaching English online fast, as it is widely accepted by online teaching companies.
It is a very popular certificate as countless online teachers have taken this course to join some of the biggest online ESL companies.
IOA meets the Chinese government requirements of a 120-hour ESL certificate. Teachers have reported completing the course in just a few hours.
The TEFL Academy: My Number One Recommendation
I recommend The TEFL Academy because it is still an affordable course for teachers and is one of the world’s most widely known TEFL providers.
The TEFL Academy goes above and beyond with its value, providing a level-5 qualification (similar to a CELTA) at just a fraction of the cost. You can find it listed on the official Register of Regulated Qualifications here.
I really cannot fault it as I took the course myself. It really prepares you for teaching, is fairly graded, and I got a job within less than a week of completing the course!
Sometimes it’s just worth going the extra mile and paying for the course. The course pays itself back over time because you stand a chance of getting higher-paid jobs.
They also paid me to write articles for their website after my first teaching job. Find out more in my TEFL Academy Review.
Let’s face it, there is no TEFL provider (a.k.a. a business that has to make money) that is going to give you an accredited, quality TEFL course for free. If it is free, read the terms and conditions carefully as it could actually turn out to be more time and expense in the long run!
When you choose a certificate, make sure it’s accredited, at least 120-hours, and up to date. Depending on your needs, you might like a certificate that also provides job support, teacher training, classroom experience, and other areas of specialty.
The two courses we recommend are The International Open Academy and The TEFL Academy because they suit teachers with a wide variety of needs. Read our post How To Become An Online English Teacher to help you on your journey.
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- 7 Best Cheap TEFL Certification Online in 2022
- The Pros and Cons of Teaching Online
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.