Teaching English as a Foreign Language: 120 Hour Online TEFL Certification (Cheap)!

Last Updated on October 11, 2021

With a whole bunch of free time on my hands, I decided to get my TEFL certification. There are many companies out there offering courses, with different hours and widely different price tags. So I thought I would share my experience and how I found the course!

Online TEFL Courses

The Difference Between TEFL or TESOL

TEFL: Teach English as a Foreign Language

TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

When you start researching TEFL courses, TESOL courses keep appearing too. Personally I’d only heard of TEFL, so for me that was a big deciding factor between the two. After doing a bit of research, the two certifications are very similar. The course I ended up taking actually used the same material and tests for both the TEFL and the TESOL, they just had the different names.

The first question to ask yourself is WHY are you getting the certification? Do you want to teach English online? Travel and teach internationally? Teach English as a foreign language in your own country (to immigrants that have relocated to an English speaking country). This may affect what certification name may be better suited to your situation.

TEFL is recognised more worldwide than TESOL is. TEFL gets thrown around in the backpacking and travel community a lot. It’s more suited to those that want to teach abroad.

I am interested in teaching English online. There is a huge market in China so many of the online companies look at matching Chinese students with English native speakers from countries like: UK, USA, Canada and Australia.

miniature airplane and hand of person over drawn map: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

120 hour or 168 hour TEFL Certification?

The company I was looking into require a minimum of a 120 hour TEFL certification. You can also get 168 hour Level 5 certifications too which was introduced in 2019. It seems that the 168 hour course has additional modules that focus on teaching in a classroom or to a large group. This may be helpful if you plan on doing a physical classroom placement abroad but I’m hoping to teach more 1 to 1. Maybe one day I’ll get the extra hours but for now I’m happy with my 120 hour certification.

Cheap Online TEFL Course?

It’s important to complete a course that is accredited, meaning that is has been approved by an official examination board. For example, the teaching English online company need the unique certificate number during the application process.

Now this is what I struggled with. I saw such a wide range of course prices, from $200 to $500 on the high end for the 120hr course. But while researching the teaching company, I found a blogger that had applied for the company that I was looking into and got accepted with a 120 hour TEFL course from International Open Academy for just $19.

Obviously I questioned if a $19 course was legit when other places were selling the ‘same thing’ for $500? But it turns out that other teachers had also used the International Open Academy too. For $19 you can’t really go wrong. Even if it turns out not being accepted everywhere, it’s $19, not the end of the world if I have to pay out more one day. I just saved myself $480 for a qualification that I know is currently being accepted.

Certificate – hard copy or digital

If you fail the module tests, you’ll have to pay for a retake. I also paid extra to be sent an official ‘hard’ copy of my certificate for my records, which took around 2 weeks to be delivered. A free PDF copy of the certificate is available for immediate download on completion of the course.

Teaching Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How Long Does it Take to Complete a 120 hour TEFL Course?

I was fully planning for the course to take me a month or so to complete. I was like right, if I do 5 hours of studying a day, I’ll be done in 24 days. Turns out the 120 hour course took me 8 hours to finish! Two 4 hour days!

What To Expect From a 120 Hour Online TEFL Course

My course with International Open Academy had 10 modules:

  1. Teaching and Learning
  2. Linguistics
  3. Reading
  4. Writing
  5. Speaking
  6. Listening
  7. Pedagogy
  8. Lesson Planning
  9. Classroom Management
  10. Getting A TEFL Job

Each module is pretty text heavy, with lots of ‘scientific’ language words! At the end of each module you then have to pass a test. Each test had around 8 questions, with some being worth a couple of points. They ranged from multiple choice questions to ones where you had to arrange answers or sentences in an order.

A 55% pass rate is required for each module. I averaged around 90%, I lost roughly one point in each section (I think I passed only 2 modules with 100%!). The physical copy of the certificate is actually a little different to the free PDF version. The hard copy has your final grade on it. My percentage equalled a Distinction!


I did feel that a couple of things gave me an advantage. For the past 4 years I have worked in PreK. Although the kids speak English as a first language, a lot of the techniques are similar for students learning English as a second language. For example, in PreK you are teaching students to recognise things like shapes, colours, the visuals of letters and the sounds. A student might be able to sing the whole ABC song but not be able to recognise a letter on paper.

assorted color alphabet on black background: Photo by Magda Ehlers
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com


A letter has a name but then they also have sounds too (phonics)! The way we teach it in PreK is to do the letters like rhymes, saying the name, the phonic and then a word that has that strong phonic sound. For example: Ay – AH – Apple, Bee – BUH – Ball. A foreign speaker might know their own alphabet and sounds but you are then teaching them a completely new version of the alphabet that they might not be familiar with.

learning a language as an adult

There were also sections in the modules that I could relate to my own language learning experience. I’m learning Spanish on Duolingo and I’m guilty of constantly using the tool to slow down the speaking. I can often comprehend roughly what the sentence is saying at speed. But when you’re having to type it out in written form, I have to slow it down to make sure I get the right versions of the words. (For example: ‘I eat, you eat, he eats’ in Spanish is ‘yo como, tu comes, el come’…this is actually one I can do at speed but it gives you an idea on the different forms of the word ‘eat’).

I also know the way that I learn a language the best. Sometimes I get really frustrated and this is exactly how one of my potential students could feel in a class. I like Duolingo because it has various different activities from using: picture cards, typing the translation in English, typing the translation into Spanish, forming a sentence from word cards, speaking activities, listening to stories. My favourite way to learn is by the stories. When it comes to students, they’ll have ways that they learn better too, so the course helps you become aware of things like this.

You can find all my online teaching posts here!

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5 thoughts on “Teaching English as a Foreign Language: 120 Hour Online TEFL Certification (Cheap)!

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I am interested in teaching English and French to immigrants in Canada to help them prepare for the language proficiency tests and I have been trying to figure out how to do this

    1. Oh that’s cool! I only really do kids but there are some free online courses for people wanting to assist with IELTS and TOEFL which are the exams that a lot of adult learners want to prepare for 🙂 TEFL is a good place to start for general teaching though!

      1. Thanks for letting me know about that too! I’m hoping this can help me with getting a work visa for Canada and I’m just about to move there!

      2. Nice! Otherwise I’m not sure your situation type thing but if you were moving more ‘digital nomad’ style and you were paying taxes in your home country, it’s obviously a job that you can do from anywhere! I’m currently in the UK but if I go back to the US for extended visits, I can obviously continue to work from my laptop 🙂

      3. It’s a lifestyle I’m considering because I have no way of knowing if Canada will work out for me and I can do another option if it doesn’t work out

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