DipTESOL Phonology Interview

There are some useful resources online the DipTESOL phonology interview. You can find two great overviews about it from Gemma Lunn and Dave Dodgson. Both mention the example videos by Oxford TEFL, which I think are done by the tutors there.

All I can really add are some concrete examples, and a bit about my experience of doing the interview itself.

Just for context, I got a Distinction for the DipTESOL. I scored 82 for my assignments – you can read a summary of one here and find the others in English Teaching Professional (see ‘About me’). I got 83 (I think) for the phonology interview, 81 for the teaching practice and 73 for the exam. However, I’m not a Dip examiner or tutor, so I can only share my subjective views…


I presented about activities I use to raise awareness of contrastive stress. I mentioned:

  • a specific group of learners
  • WHY this was an important or relevant skill for them to practice
  • how I got students to notice contrastive stress
  • how I got them to practice it
  • how I encouraged them to produce this feature in a freer context

That’s a lot to mention in 5 minutes. I agree with Gemma, the trick is to talk about something you’re comfortable with and most importantly something you’ve ACTUALLY TAUGHT. One guy on my course was really confident in his knowledge of phonology, but hadn’t put this into practice as much. This meant he struggled with ideas.

I think (please clarify this with a tutor) that it’s really important to bring in material you use, and it’s ok for this to be a published resource, although adapting it would be better. I bought in a simple handout that I could talk through. I mentioned some tried and tested tasks for noticing/recognising the importance of sentence stress, like this…


…from which I discuss changes in meaning and lead to a bit of practice. Then I raise awareness of contrastive stress when information is misunderstood. I try to elicit this with tasks like this…


…(LTC was my school). I explained how I do further tasks to help with recognition, like this one from Marks and Bowen (2012), which I adapt depending on the learners:


Finally, I mentioned about how I give students sentence starters from which they build dialogues using contrastive stress.

NOTE: my handout to show the examiner pretty much looked like the examples above, it wasn’t fancy or anything.

Chat about the presentation

One thing I liked about the Dip in general was that I never thought I had to know everything, or that I had to be ‘right’. I felt more like I had to be reflective, while trying to be principled. The examiner asked me if there were any limitations to the approach I used. I mentioned that creating dialogues using a lot of contrastive stress was a bit contrived, but that I found it hard to devise more natural tasks. I think they appreciated me being honest rather than trying to blag it.

They also asked what benefit I felt the tasks had for the learners, which is pretty important. I mentioned that the learners, upper-intermediate 18 year olds, found the tasks enjoyable and even played on the contrived nature of the task like it was a comedy sketch, so it certainly helped with affective factors.

If I could have prepared anything better for the chat, I’d have thought more about how the learners benefited, plus how I could have given further production practice.

REMEMBER: It’s ok to admit something could be improved.


I practised quite a bit of transcription during my undergraduate degree. Despite that, I got quite a lot wrong during the exam. However, you get to hear the examiner repeat parts of the utterance – that’s useful for marking the intonation and things like assimilation. The examiner prompted me to clarify parts of the transcription – we had little conversations like…

Examiner: It’s interesting what you’ve marked here. What feature of connected speech is that?

Me: Er… assimilation

Examiner: What type?

Me: Er… regressive, because that phoneme is influenced by the following sound…

Examiner: Yeah, that’s right. Can you give me another example of that?

Those conversations were scary. I think the examiner asked questions mainly based on some of my mistakes though. Again, I was just honest really, I tried not to blag anything.

The longer chat

Actually, these stages merge together really, because the examiner finds stuff they want to talk about (or that you already know about) from the previous tasks.

This was by far the best bit about the interview. It really was a chat with another teacher. I actually came out with some notes on things to try out, which was great!

First, the examiner held up the phonemic chart and asked me to explain what I knew about it. I rambled on for a minute or so about its layout, place and manner of articulation… the examiner just said ‘ok, I think you know about that, let’s talk more about how you use it’. We mentioned teaching the chart, error correction, a bit about problems with particular learners (Swan’s Learner English is a great book by the way).

What advice can I share here? Er… give concrete examples and talk about your actual classroom practice. Other people suggest you should quote theorists, I didn’t do that much.

I brought my favourite book for teaching pronunciation into the interview. The examiner hadn’t seen it so they had a flick through and loved it. We did a kind of book exchange because they saw a book on jazz chants on the shelf. I mentioned that I was going to try out a sort of jazz chant for the first time in my final observed lesson, which was a bit of a risk but was relevant. The examiner said they looked forward to it, and by that time we were done.

So, there’s my anecdote about the interview. You might find a few tips embedded in it! Take a look at the quizzes I made for a bit of practice/direction for things to revise. Cheers!

Categories: DipTESOL tips

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