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Yes, it's possible to fail an online TEFL course. But that will depend on the course. As far as courses go many may require you to maintain a certain grade through the course.

There are also other factors aside from your grade that may prevent you from completing a course which I will mention towards the end of this article.

About your grade...

Again I can't speak for all courses, but in ESLinsider's advanced course students are required to maintain at least an 80-85% through the course and on assignments.

If you cannot maintain that grade then you cannot progress in the course. 

But some courses allow you to retake sections

In ESLinsider's courses you can retake sections of the course to raise your grade. Also if your assignments are below 80% you will receive feedback on how you can improve your plans. So if your grade is below 80% you have to improve them before you progress in the course.

Retakes on topics are based on an average of all grades. So if your first time you scored a 70% and the second one an 85% then your grade would be 77.5% which is not high enough to progress in the course.

So you would have to retake it again to raise it.

Here's an example...

This student was having difficulties with the course and couldn't understand why he couldn't progress in the course.

He actually took the topic on teaching phonics 15 times which is rare.

He said, "It keeps saying my grade is 73.1 even though Ive been scoring over 80% consistently."

I replied...

"Here is a list of all of your attempts which includes many scores below 80%:

  • 60% Sunday, 31 March 2019, 6:23 AM, (22 mins 55 secs)
  • 66.67% Sunday, 31 March 2019, 6:48 AM, (10 mins 36 secs)
  • 66.67% Monday, 1 April 2019, 8:57 AM, (15 mins 23 secs)
  • 80% Monday, 1 April 2019, 9:14 AM, (12 mins 1 sec)
  • 80% Monday, 1 April 2019, 9:26 AM, (5 mins 55 secs)
  • 60% Tuesday, 2 April 2019, 9:45 AM, (9 mins 41 secs)
  • 73.33% Wednesday, 3 April 2019, 9:08 AM, (16 mins 54 secs)
  • 73.33% Wednesday, 3 April 2019, 9:26 AM, (9 mins 30 secs)
  • 60% Monday, 8 April 2019, 4:41 PM, (10 mins 57 secs)
  • 73.33% Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 1:19 PM, (19 mins 42 secs)
  • 66.67% Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 1:39 PM, (9 mins 36 secs)
  • 80% Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 1:49 PM, (7 mins 16 secs)
  • 93.33% Friday, 12 April 2019, 7:24 PM (11 mins 23 secs)
  • 100% Friday, 12 April 2019, 7:30 PM, (21 mins 19 secs)
  • 80% Sunday, 14 April 2019, 8:22 PM, (3 mins 25 secs)

The average of all of these scores is about 74%."

I don't suspect people usually try to cheat in this course, but I did catch this same person submitting the same assignment as another person who was taking the course (what he says was his wife's).

So I made him do it again.

Could you be suspended or banned for poor behavior?

I didn't ban or suspend this student although it's possible if they continued to be difficult.

I had one other really difficult person who took the basic course once. He insisted that all of his mistakes were the course's problem and he consistently used disrespectful language (insults:cussing and swearing) towards me.

Several times I told him to change his language and he didn't so I blocked him from using the site. 

But other than that few people have a difficult time progressing in the course. If they do have a difficult time - like the people here I mentioned it's usually because of two things:

  1. Their grade wasn't high enough.
  2. They didn't complete the topic.

All of these are stated in the course FAQ.

Is a TEFL course hard? You can fail, but it's not that hard if you put the effort in

It depends on the course.

SInce plenty of people are searching for the answers to their online TEFL courses you can bet that a number of them will be boring or hard.

The basic course is the easiest and fastest, but even though the Advanced and Practical courses require more effort and time they are not intentionally difficult.

In fact I try my best to make them engaging and not boring.

But it depends on you.

If you are just in it to get a certificate then you are more likely to get less out of the course and have more difficulties. And that's because you are focused on the end and not the process.

Reasons you might fail an online TEFL course

  1. You don't put the necessary effort into it.
  2. You rush which leads to a poor grade and an inability to progress and you don't retake the required sections as needed.
  3. You quit or stop working on it.

If you are looking for a low effort course then I think these courses aren't for you. The course for you might be the cheapest one on Groupon or here's one that's fast.

High drop out rates

There is another problem that may be more likely to prevent you from completing your course. Some online courses have high drop out rates. These can be for different reasons and some of them are:

  1. They are not self-directed learners. Some people are traditional learners and they need a classroom and lack the independence to complete a course online.
  2. They are bored. Some courses are boring. These courses are simple text-based courses where you answer multiple choice questions. Learn more about the research on what makes a good online TEFL course.
  3. There's no interaction with a human. Most of the cheap online TEFL courses are automated. In these courses communication with a human will be limited or non-existant which can lead to a feeling of isolation.
  4. It's not the right course. A course should help you do your job better, however if the course is focused on teaching adults and you teach kids then it's not a good match.
  5. Expectations. Another reason why students drop out of courses online is that it doesn't meet their expectations.
  6. Work load. If you were expecting to be finished with it in a week, but you are only 20% through by that time you may quit.
  7. They are not that motivated. Perhaps the quality of the course and the instruction is good, but you are just not that interested in teaching English abroad.


Can you fail an online TEFL course? Yes, it's possible to fail an online TEFL course. But that will depend on you and the course. Drop out rates are high too and may be more likely to prevent you from completing a course than a grade. Some courses will be easier than others, some may be more boring and some may have higher standards than others.

It depends on the course and you.

Are you planning on teaching English to mostly kids in Asia?

Yes or No.