What is a TEFL curriculum?

Across the globe, there are five widely accepted levels of EFL learners, which are represented in the teaching materials and book series available for students and teachers.

These levels are commonly referred to as:

  • Level 1: Starter (or beginner)
  • Level 2: Elementary
  • Level 3: Pre-Intermediate
  • Level 4: Intermediate
  • Level 5: Upper-Intermediate

Note: Any levels above these are typically termed 'advanced' and aren't usually taught in standard settings.

Please note that different curricula may categorize these levels in various ways. For instance, the Touchstone series from Cambridge uses a four-level scale, which, however, covers the same content as a conventional five-level scale. Another series, "Cutting Edge," encompasses six levels, including an advanced level, along with the standard five.

Let's examine some representative syllabus content for each level from the "Cutting Edge" series, 3rd Edition, published by Pearson.

Level 1: Starter (or beginner)

At this level, which includes absolute beginners, the curriculum starts with the alphabet, progresses through parts of speech, and introduces the first tenses (present simple). Other topics covered include possessives and the verb 'to be.'

Also read: What should I teach English beginners?

Level 2: Elementary

This level covers the present simple tense in positive, negative, and question forms, article types and usage, expressions of possibility using 'can' and 'can't,' and regular and irregular verbs, and an introduction to the past simple tense.

Level 3: Pre-Intermediate

At this level, learners are taught the past simple tense, the use of 'should,' 'shouldn't,' 'can,' 'can't' for obligation, adverb of frequency phrases, present simple and present continuous, future arrangements using present continuous, plans and intentions, and an introduction to present perfect.

Level 4: Intermediate

The curriculum at this level includes the past simple and past continuous tenses, usage of 'used to' and 'would,' comparatives and superlatives, present perfect and present perfect continuous, future forms, future clauses with 'if' and 'when,' past perfect, and reported speech.

Also read: Is grammar knowledge important when teaching English?

Level 5: Upper-Intermediate

This level covers auxiliary verbs usage, formation of adjectives, nouns, and gerunds, narrative tenses, continuous aspect, passive usage, passive forms with 'have or get,' review of future tense forms, complex question forms, and perfect tenses.

Level testing and progression

Regarding level testing and progression, in traditional school settings, students within the same year group generally study English at the same level, with some grouping variations in larger schools. For adults in language school settings, they will typically undergo a level test at the beginning unless they possess a language level certification (like IELTS). This level test determines which of the five levels suits them best. Since each level builds on the preceding one, it is important that students demonstrate comprehensive understanding of a specific level before they are placed.

Also read: What are the best books for teaching ESL?