CELTA Concept Checking Questions (CCQs): What, Why and How?


Through this post, I want to give a clear introduction and guide to using concept checking questions on your CELTA course.

The name sounds a little bit intimidating, but do not worry. These are quite easy once you know how.

So, below we will look at:

  • what exactly these concept checking questions are
  • why you will need to use them on your CELTA course
  • how you can use them in your CELTA work

With that over, let’s get started!

What are Concept Checking Questions (CCQs)?

Concept checking questions (CCQs), are questions a language teacher asks after introducing a new concept in a lesson to check/gauge their students’ understanding. If students have understood, continue. If not, go back and revisit your point. CCQs guide your lesson based on students’ understanding of new language points.

As the CELTA course uses a communicative approach to teaching, the preferred way to check that students have understood new concepts is through involving students.

If you ask students a clear question, the theory is that either they can show you they have understood, or you can help them to understand if they are not quite there.

So as the name suggests, you use simple questions to check concept.

I hope that doesn’t sound too obvious, but CELTA trainees sometimes look at this name as a block and get worried since it sounds quite complex, forgetting to see exactly what the name suggests.

Why do you need to use Concept Checking Questions on your CELTA?

question mark in grafitti
Photo Credit: Emily Morter on Unsplash

You need to use CCQs to guide students to further understanding new points that come up during your assessed teaching practice.

You will also need to include CCQs in things like lesson plans, and parts of your CELTA assignments (particularly CELTA assignment 2).

By preparing concept checking questions for your teaching practice, you will show that you are thinking about the language in clear terms before teaching it.

Writing these questions will also likely help you to clarify what you are trying to do before you do it.

There are many different ways to use these and there are different points during the lesson when they are appropriate.

However, if you think about them in advance, as you will have to on the CELTA course, this will be beneficial for your development as a teacher.

Include them at relevant points in your lesson plans and these questions will greatly benefit your students.

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How to use Concept Checking Questions in your CELTA work?

So how to use these CCQs in your teaching?

Let’s look at an example from an earlier post for CELTA assignment 2.

The example sentence in that post was the following:

“She’s just been to the shop”.

If we are looking to teach the present perfect simple tense with ‘just’ for a recently completed past action, as featured in the sentence above, we then need to think about questions to help the students identify the tense and its use.

Again borrowing an excerpt from my guide to CELTA assignment 2, below is an idea for using these CCQs in terms of an anticipated problem; this based on a possible problem with the meaning of the example sentence given above.

“Problem: Students might not understand that this person has ‘been to the shops’ recently.

Solution: Ask two CCQs to elicit this from students. For example:

  1. Question: Did she go to the shop today?

      Answer: Yes

  2. Question: Is she at the shop now?

      Answer: No

3. When did she come back from the shop?

     Answer: recently / just now / 5 minutes ago / etc. (anything which conveys recent past)

There are many ways you could approach this – it depends what you want the students to get from it (think lesson aims/objectives here) but you should be able to ask 1-2 clear CCQs to get the students to focus on what you want.”

Hopefully from the example questions above you can see that concept checking questions do not need to be complicated. In fact, they should be extremely easy to understand.

If students do not understand these, it defeats the object of using them.

Try to always prepare your CCQs with an obvious one-word answer, or perhaps a binary answer i.e. something that students can answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or maybe two options like ‘hot’ or ‘cold’.

If you do the latter, the options should be clear from the context or the vocabulary you have talked about already in that lesson. Never assume that students will know both of the words if you are hoping for them to guess!

Also avoid using any of the target language (i.e. the present perfect tense in this case) in your questions – this will only confuse the students as it is the language they still haven’t learnt!

As stated above, include these at relevant points in your lesson plans and you will keep both your students and your tutors happy!

Useful Books for Concept Checking Questions

The following books can help you with examples of concept checking questions and how to make them:

Scrivener – Teaching English Grammar

 – This great book has many examples of concept checking questions which are provided for each grammar point covered. 

The CELTA Trainee’s Manual by Scott Thornbury

– This book has some explanation of concept checking questions (as you’d expect!) but not the same variety of examples as with the Scrivener book above it.

Teaching as a Foreign Language for Dummies

– This book has some explanation of concept checking questions but I can’t say much more than that as I haven’t used it extensively!

NB: all of the above are Amazon ‘affiliate links’, which means no difference in price for you but it helps to support CELTA Helper if you choose to purchase anything through these links. If not, no problem!

Summary of Concept Checking Questions for your CELTA Course

So there you have it, a quick and easy guide to using concept checking questions on your CELTA course!

Remember that you will need to be able to come up with relevant and appropriate concept checking questions for your lesson plans and the CELTA assignments.

With this in mind, constantly try to think about how you would concept check any point you might be asked to teach and it becomes easier to get into the ‘CCQ’ mindset for CELTA!

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you!

Talk soon,


Stephen Beale

After taking the CELTA back in 2007, I have since gained over 11 years' experience of teaching English in various countries. I have also worked in EAP for several years and like sharing what I've learnt along the way here.

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