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Trinity DipTESOL assessments: what are they and why do we do them?


Although the word assessment can bring forward memories of school and a whole host of negative emotions, it’s not necessarily the case. Research in both the fields of English language teaching and mainstream education has shown that well-designed assessment can be motivational and lead to better learning. 

There are four assessments within the Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Trinity DipTESOL qualification), a Level 7 English Language Teaching qualification offered by Oxford TEFL. The focus of this qualification is to achieve an advanced level in teaching English to speakers of other languages by studying, in depth, the theory behind key principles and applying them in a classroom environment. It also focuses on phonology, as well as taking a reflective approach to teaching practice.

Trinity DipTESOL exam

The Trinity DipTESOL qualification gives you the chance to advance your knowledge and skills as an English language teacher and can be a means of progress to more senior positions within ELT networks, including management and teacher training – if you are so inclined.

Each of the four assessment units within the Trinity DipTESOL aim to test different aspects of the course. In this blog post we will explore why the assessments are important and how the Trinity DipTESOL course offered by Oxford TEFL will help you to put your best foot forward when it comes to tackling these assessments.

So, let’s take a look at what each assessment entails and why this is important.

Unit 1 Assessment

What is it?

First up, a three hour paper that consists of three sections. In the first section, you need to answer four short questions from a choice of five, and the topic is on Language. Sounds quite broad, doesn’t it? Check out Oxford TEFL tutor Lindsey Clandfield’s blogpost for more detail on this part of the exam. 

The topic of the second section is Learning and Teaching, and here you have to write one essay from a choice of three. The final section is also a choice of essay question on the subject of Professional Development. This may sound like a lot to cover, but the fact is you only need 50% in unit 1 to pass. James Rowland, a recent DipTESOL graduate, has written a comprehensive guide to doing your best on the unit 1 exam, which you can read here.

The unit 1 exam is the only one of the four assessments that must be taken face-to-face, but you can do so at any institution (including the school where you are currently working). There are three examination dates to choose from each year, in May, August and November. 

Why do we do it?

The reason for the Unit 1 assessment is that it checks your understanding of grammar and key, up-to-date theories in the field of language teaching, as well as how you apply these to your own practice. These could include student errors, second language acquisition theories and approaches to assessment. The material covered in the syllabus for the Unit 1 assessment forms the foundation for the rest of the DipTESOL assessments so it’s important that you feel confident with it.

How do we help you prepare for it?

The DipTESOL course offered by Oxford TEFL helps you to prepare for the Unit 1 exam by introducing exam-style questions from the word go. The weekly assignments mean that you are introduced to new information within the module and then immediately get to apply your knowledge in an exam context. These assignments are based on a list of essential and recommended readings, which means you will be provided with the resources you need to fulfil the assignment. 

The assignments are marked within five days of the submission deadline and you are given a grade as well as detailed feedback from your module tutor. This feedback can take the form of comments and annotations on your submitted piece, as well as a summary for each marking criterion and what you need to do to achieve a higher score next time. Apart from this, you have weekly input sessions on Zoom with the module tutor where you can discuss the readings, assignments and collaborate with your coursemates.

There are additional activities besides the assignments, such as forum posts and group tasks, which allow you to demonstrate a more profound understanding of the key concepts and apply them to your unique teaching context. Despite the majority of the course being offered online, the collaborative element means that you have the chance to work with colleagues from all over the world and introduce yourself to different contexts and perspectives. 

You also have two opportunities to speak to Oxford TEFL Director Duncan Foord throughout the course, to talk about how you are progressing and this is also a great chance to discuss your interests in the field with someone who has a wealth of experience in the ELT industry.

Unit 2 Assessment

What is it?

The Unit 2 assessment is the coursework portfolio assessment. It is made up of three projects; the Observation Instrument (OI), Developmental Record (DR) and Independent Research Project (IRP). You can read about a DipTESOL graduate’s personal experience of Unit 2 here.

  • The OI project consists of 10 hours of observing other teachers using an “instrument” that is designed and refined by you. This tool can be a chart or a questionnaire that helps you to gather appropriate data for your research aim.
  • The DR requires you to focus on one aspect of classroom practice and record your progress, and that of your six or more students, over the course of 15 hours. 
  • The IRP is a supervisor-approved research project that allows you to explore a topic of interest in more depth. You will need to carry out a literature review, conduct research using a tool that you have devised, and finally draw your conclusions based on your findings.

Why do we do it?

The Unit 2 projects give you a chance to build on the relationship between theory and practice, and they also provide you with the opportunity to draw on your experience and your particular interest in the field. The resulting projects can form the basis for further research and specialisation post-Diploma. 

How do we help you prepare for it?

The Oxford TEFL Trinity DipTESOL course includes meetings with tutors to share ideas and make sure that you are choosing topics for your projects which are both complex enough but also not too ambitious for the time frame and context. 

Throughout the course, you are provided with models of each of the projects and asked to reflect on them to work out the benefits and drawbacks of each one. Therefore, you can have a better idea of what a “good” project looks like. Since the Unit 2 assessment is the most ‘writing-heavy’ section, the weekly assignments on the course help get you used to writing in an appropriate, academic way – under the guidance of your tutors. 

The course operates on a flexible time frame. From the date of your first assessment, you have up to three years to complete your unit 2 projects. So, you have plenty of time (if needed) to really do your research and make the most of the learning opportunity that this assessment provides.

Phonology exam

Unit 3 Assessment

What is it?

The assessment for Unit 3 is a 30-minute interview focusing on phonology. You will present a previously prepared talk on an aspect of teaching pronunciation and then complete an on-the-spot transcription exercise using the phonemic script.

Why do we do it?

Using the phonemic chart and teaching pronunciation is a skill that is emphasised and is unique to the Trinity Diploma in TESOL –  the Cambridge DELTA doesn’t have a dedicated module for phonology. You can learn more about the differences between the Trinity DipTESOL and the Cambridge DELTA here.  

This assessment gives you the opportunity to hone your skills and the confidence to incorporate this knowledge in the classroom with your learners. Luke Worsnop, an OxfordTEFL Diploma graduate, had this to say about his experience of the Unit 3 assessment in the Trinity DipTESOL:

“Starting out on the DipTESOL course, I knew that my classes often lacked sufficient integrated pronunciation work. For this reason, I found preparing for the Unit 3 assessment particularly useful. Building on what I had learnt during the study phase, I created a task to present and practice minimal pairs with long and short vowel sounds. As well as allowing me to focus on an area my Spanish-speaking students find challenging, this also increased my confidence in designing engaging pronunciation tasks moving forward. On top of this, studying phonemic transcription has enabled me to make better use of the chart in my lessons.”

How do we help you prepare for it?

Some of the input, assignments and tasks that you’ll complete during the online part-time phase of the Oxford TEFL Trinity DipTESOL course will introduce you to the terms and techniques used to teach pronunciation effectively. For example, you will watch videos to help you learn how to incorporate important aspects of pronunciation into your own teaching. You will explain your understanding and receive useful feedback from tutors who will help you reflect on your own teaching of pronunciation. 

There are four modules in the course that are dedicated to phonology, as well as it being incorporated into the rest of the syllabus in a more holistic way. You are encouraged to consider phonology, such as using the phonemic script, wherever language is involved. Watch this video of an Oxford TEFL tutor, Billie Hasse, demonstrating a phonology interview for an idea of what this assessment is like.

Unit 4 Assessment

What is it?

The Unit 4 assessment is the assessed teaching practice which you will complete during the four-week full-time element of the course. You will teach five one-hour lessons, each preceded by a discussion of your lesson plan (10 minutes) and followed by a discussion of the lesson with the examiner (20 minutes). Four lessons are assessed by Oxford TEFL tutors, the fifth by a Trinity examiner. 

The assessment isn’t only focused on what happens in the classroom, but also includes lesson planning and lesson evaluation. This assessment puts the theory that was covered throughout the previous input weeks of the course into practice. You will need to display evidence of planning lessons to suit the needs of your students, deliver classes and evaluate and reflect on your practice.

You can complete the unit 4 assessment online or face to face – you choose. Oxford TEFL has three international locations where you can do this; in Barcelona, Cádiz, and Hong Kong. If you choose to do the assessment entirely online, you can teach your own students or Oxford TEFL will arrange the students for you.

Why do we do it?

This is your chance to shine and show your tutors, peers and students what you have learnt during the last few months. You will deliver great English language lessons to students to help them improve their level of English and enjoy the experience of achieving their goals. You will incorporate new tools, techniques and ideas and transform yourself into a professional teacher who is at the next level in their career. It may seem daunting at first, but this assessment will help you understand why we are all here and why we have chosen to teach English in the first place. The external constructive feedback is also invaluable in helping you dissect your teaching in a more objective way, with your students at the heart.

How do we help you prepare for it?

Throughout the study phase of the course, you have plenty of opportunities to develop your skills and practice what you’ll be tested on the Trinity assessments. This includes when writing your assignments, exploring course design, preparing materials or reflecting on your own teaching. When you complete the unit 4 teaching practice, you will receive daily support and feedback on your classes as well as group discussion with your peers to help you deliver the most effective lessons to impress the assessors. Watch this video for some tips from Oxford TEFL on helping you pass the unit 4 assessment and this video of a graduate reflecting on one of his assessed lessons for an idea of what this assessment is like.

Final thoughts

Before I started the Trinity DipTESOL course, I was apprehensive about the assessments because there seemed to be so many of them, and they seemed different to the exams I was used to taking at university. I also wondered if I was going to be prepared for them by the end of the course or if I’d have to fend for myself. However, I can see that the Trinity DipTESOL assessments are an opportunity to help me stay aligned to my goals and prove to myself (and those around me) that I have the necessary skills to be a capable teacher. So far they’ve given me the confidence to feel like I’m actually pretty good at what I do. I feel supported by the tutors, who are there to help at every step of the way (meet some of them in this video of their top tips to help you pass the exams). Don’t let these assessments scare you away from taking the leap and investing in your career.

Looking for a way to advance your career in ELT? The Trinity DipTESOL is a great way to reignite your passion for English Language Teaching as well as open doors to new opportunities within the field. Find out more about our Trinity DipTESOL course here, watch our Trinity DipTESOL FAQs here or get in touch here.

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