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Choosing a Language School – Can your School Guarantee Success?

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The main reason you go to a language school is to improve your English and become a confident speaker, maybe even pass an exam and gain an internationally recognised qualification. Before you choose a course, you should find out how a school plans to get you where you want to be! Great teaching, monitoring and support can make a big difference.

Before booking a course, you should ask the school : How can you guarantee my success?

Here is what you need to know:

A good school should be dedicated to your academic success. By providing support and guidance from the beginning of your language course until the day you leave, teachers should monitor your progress to ensure that you make significant improvement in your fluency.

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On your first day of school, you should sit for a placement test which assesses your aptitude in the four language skills; reading, writing, listening and speaking. The purpose of this test is to determine your level of fluency and place you into a class with other students of the same proficiency level. There are six levels of proficiency outlined by the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference), which is the standard used by most accredited schools:

Basic User
A1: Beginner
You can introduce yourself and you have a basic knowledge of vocabulary and simple grammar.
A2: Elementary
You can invite someone somewhere, talk about your past, and understand most conversations when spoken slowly and clearly.

Independent User
B1: Intermediate
You are able to communicate easily on everyday matters, but with a limited range of expression.
B2: Upper Intermediate
You can use the language with confidence but with noticeable lapses in accuracy and fluency.

Proficient User
C1: Advanced
You can read and write accurately with few errors, you can understand most academic tests and lectures.
C2: Proficiency
You have near-full command of the English language.

Some schools split these classifications even further, especially when they have many students who get similar marks in their placement test. For example, you may find a school with ‘Pre-Intermediate’, ‘Low Intermediate’ and ‘High Intermediate’ classes, apart from the usual ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Upper Intermediate’. It is always a benefit to be surrounded by others of your level, as you will face similar challenges and support each other as you improve your English.

EC students with certificates
Students proudly show off their certificates on the last day of school.

Your goal is to finish your course with a higher level of proficiency. How fast you can reach your target depends on the type of course you choose, the amount of hours you spend in the classroom, and your commitment to learning. Ask your student counsellor if the school provides any guarantee of progress; an outline of the language proficiency levels and how long it takes to move to a higher level in that school. Schools may even offer free lessons to you if you don’t move to a higher level in the indicated time.

e.g. If you start at Elementary, your school may tell you that it will take a maximum of 6 weeks for you to progress to Pre-Intermediate level.

Your school should also allow you to take a level test earlier if you think you are ready to join a class of a higher level.

Regular assessment and monitoring are important! Teachers will track your progress to make sure you’re improving at a steady rate. If you don’t, a school may offer you extra tutorials for free to boost your learning and get you to your target level.
At the end of your course you will take a final level test and then you will be given an official certificate stating your level of English. This is a very useful qualification for your future, especially when applying for jobs and university.

Other things to look out for:

– Any extra classes, tutorials or workshops covering a range of topics. This will give you exposure to English in different contexts
– A language portfolio/journal where you can record your strengths and weaknesses
– Regular level tests and tutorials.

Watch this space for the next most important question to ask before booking. Or download our FREE Guide with TOP questions to ask every school before booking an English course. 

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