CELTA Pre-interview Task: How to find word stress?


Hello once more. It’s Steve here, from celtahelper.com. I’m back to answer another CELTA question. So this time, Dania asked me:

“Steve, I have the pre-interview task the day after tomorrow and I’m worried about some of the questions. Specifically, I have a problem with phonetics and the stress of words. What do you suggest?”

Find the Word Stress in a Dictionary

Okay, so, the first thing I would say is that….for word stress, you can find this in dictionary entries.

The dictionary I recommend is the Cambridge Dictionary and this word stress appears in the phonemic transcription.

CELTA pre-course exercises: word stress

I recommend the Cambridge Dictionary for a couple of reasons, mainly because it has audio as well so you can hear it, and that comes in British and American English. It’s also accompanied by the phonemic transcription without you having to click.

Some other online dictionaries actually show you what they’ve written down as the [literal] sounds of word. But it’s not the phonemic transcription [so therefore, not great for our purposes].

So by using [Cambridge Dictionary], you then [also] start to get used to the phonemic transcriptions, or the international phonemic alphabet and you also then get to see the word stress.

Now, the word stress is denoted by an apostrophe (see image!). The stress actually comes after the apostrophe, so if you don’t see an apostrophe, it’s probably because it’s a one-syllable or monosyllabic word. Look for the apostrophe, in the phonemic transcription, and there you have your stress.

Say it Out Loud (But in a Special Way!)

Another thing you can do, is actually you can say the word out loud, with your mouth closed. I know this sounds a bit funny and feels funny but it definitely works.

For example, if you wanted to find the word stress in ‘development’, hear that again, ‘development’, if I say with my mouth closed, it comes out as mmm-MMMM-mmm-mmm (!!).

Sounds a bit silly, but it really works [side note: students love it, too!].

One of my early TEFL teachers taught me that and I still show my students it today because it’s really helpful.


So there you have a couple of different ways of finding stress.

  • Cambridge Dictionary and
  • Speaking with your mouth closed

Simple things but both of them will help you forever more! And I hope that was useful.

What other questions do you have about the CELTA course?

Any more questions? Check out my CELTA Helper YouTube channel here for more!

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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