top of page

How to teach advanced students

Updated: Jan 18

How to teach advanced level students
Planning is just as important (if not more so) when teaching advanced level students

New teachers can be intimidated by advanced students - "What if they know more about grammar than I do?" "What if they correct my English?" "What if they get bored because they get through every exercise so quickly?" Teaching advanced learners can be challenging, but it's not something to be scared of.

Five Tips for Teaching Advanced Students

A lot of these apply to all levels, but they are especially important for higher levels

  1. Don't bluff: You shouldn't ever bluff students, but especially not advanced ones. They'll be able to tell if you're making something up. If you don't know the answer to a question, be honest and tell them that. The first time this happens, there's a chance that students won't be impressed, but you can regain students' trust. Offer to find the answer out for them. When you find out, make sure to tell them! That's how you establish trust with students who ask tricky questions.

  2. Prepare carefully: Don't assume you'll know all the vocabulary and grammar that comes up in the lesson, in the way you can presume you'll know any new words in a pre-intermediate lesson. Examine your teaching materials carefully before you go into the classroom. It's important not just to know what the answers to comprehension tasks are, but why those answers are correct. Advanced students are much better able to challenge their teachers than lower level learners and so if their answers aren't the same as the teacher's, they will definitely want to know why. Prepare to say why and be ready to justify.

  3. Find out what your students need: We can generalise about the needs of lower level students. All intermediate level students will need to know how to talk about the past and about the future. All elementary level students will need to know the days of the week. We can't generalise in the same way about advanced learners. Look for needs analysis questionnaires and diagnostic tests online. There are lots of options out there to help you find out what your students don't know and what they need to know.

  4. Don't ignore nuance: One of the differences between an advanced user of English and an intermediate user of English is that they want and need to know the small differences between words. In a lower level, if students come across 'a remote house' vs 'a secluded house' vs 'an isolated house', you'll probably get away with telling the students that these are all the same, but the point of being an advanced student is that you need to be aware of these small differences.

  5. Bring lots of authentic materials into the classroom: Advanced students can cope with using English in real life. They don't need graded texts and readers. They don't need to listen to scripted dialogues by actors. They need real books, articles, podcasts, TV shows etc. You can have an awful lot of fun bringing tonnes of authentic materials into the classroom, and so long as you prepare well to make sure that you're exploiting these materials thoroughly for level-appropriate language and skills work, it will be beneficial as well as fun!

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page