What is Ofqual level 5 and is it important for TESOL certification?

what is ofqual level 5

We get a lot of questions asking about Ofqual level 5. There is a lot of confusion out there about what it is and what it means.

Before we start, one thing must be understood. An Ofqual level 5 rating does not mean that a TEFL course is good, there are other incredibly important factors as well.

What is Ofqual and is it important for TESOL certification?

I will start by explaining what Ofqual is. Ofqual is the British Government authority that regulates and accredits British examination boards. This means that all official British examination boards are regulated by Ofqual and must appear in the Ofqual register.

What is Ofqual level 5?

Ofqual has a nine (9) level academic qualification rating list. The starting level is called “Entry” level, it is level zero. The scale ends at level 8 which is for qualifications where your study level is at PhD level.

Level 5 means that the level of study required is more or less the same as an undergraduate degree study. Level 5 does not mean that the TEFL or TESOL qualification you get is a degree, it just means that the level of difficulty of the course work required to get the qualification is at undergraduate degree level.

How does Ofqual level 5 fit in with TESOL certification?

You will see a lot of courses say that they give you an Ofqual level 5 TEFL certificate. All this means is that the level of study that you do on the course has been registered at level 5. Ofqual level 5 is a sign that the course provider has had the content of the course checked by an Ofqual regulated examination board to make sure that it is at the right level.

Is Ofqual level 5 the end of the story for good TESOL certification?

No it isn’t. Ofqual level 5 is a good start but there is also an internationally accepted standard for TESOL certification. This internationally accepted standard requires observed teaching practice plus external assessment and moderation. This standard is frequently referred to as the “British Council Standard” and many TEFL schools claim that they meet this standard.

The British Council Standard is very simple:

It says that a valid TEFL or TESOL certificate must …

  1. be externally validated by a reputable examination body (usually a university or recognised examination board) and / or accredited by a national accrediting body such as Ofqual in England;
  2. contain at least six hours’ supervised teaching practice where a qualified and standardised assessor observes the trainee teacher teaching real TEFL students and gives feedback to the trainee on his / her performance;
  3. contain at least 100 hours of ELT / TESOL input.


The British Council only has automatic recognition for two TEFL certificates that are externally validated by Cambridge Assessment English and Trinity College London.

Is Ofqual level 5 OK for online TEFL courses?

The British Council Standard disqualifies all online certificates that are Ofqual level 5 and do not have at least six hours’ supervised teaching practice that is observed by a qualified assessor. This means that your online certificate is at Ofqual level 5 but it fails to meet the internationally accepted  British Council Standard.

what is ofqual level 5

Why are Cambridge Assessment English and Trinity College London courses the most respected and accepted in the world?

Both organisations have been around since the mid 1800’s so they have a solid reputation and a strong track record for thoroughness and quality. They have a solid international name, sort of like BMW and Mercedes Benz.

It is their commitment to quality and the fact that every course that Cambridge Assessment English and Trinity College of London run is visited by an external moderator, every student is personally assessed by the moderator and all coursework is thoroughly checked.

Any school running Cambridge Assessment English and Trinity College of London courses can have its license revoked if it fails quality control standards. Even worse, if a school has its license revoked, its name appears in a Cambridge Assessment English and Trinity College of London “blacklist” that can be seen on the internet.

Schools that do not meet the high standards are named and shamed. This is the main reason schools prefer just to rely on Ofqual level 5 because the quality control standards are a lot lower than those of Cambridge Assessment English and Trinity College of London.

As a TEFL course student, you will not find any of this out until you start looking for jobs and the school trying to sell you a face-to-face or online TEFL course certainly will not tell you. Prospective employers will probably ask if you have a Cambridge Assessment English CELTA or a Trinity College of London CertTESOL. If you do not, you may be viewed as having an inferior qualification. This is not us saying this, it is common knowledge inside the English teaching sector.

To conclude – what makes a quality TESOL certification course?

Ofqual is a step in the right direction but on its own, it is not good enough to tell if a TEFL course is good or not.

An Ofqual course (online or in class) that does not have at least 6 hours of teaching practice with English language learners that is observed and assessed by an examination board approved assessor is second rate and does not meet the requirements of the British Council Standard.

If you want to enter and succeed in the TEFL world through TESOL certification and get the best jobs, it is best to take an Ofqual level 5 course that meets the requirements of the British Council Standard.

The British Council states that it accepts Cambridge Assessment English and Trinity College of London qualifications. Any other qualification would need to be presented and assessed by the British Council to confirm that it meets the requirements of the British Council Standard. Any school that says that its TESOL certification meets the requirements of the British Council Standard but cannot prove it by showing a letter of confirmation from the British Council … well I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

There are TEFL courses of all shapes, sizes and prices but there are only two that have an industry-recognised name, the CELTA and the CertTESOL.

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