|CELTA-003| CCQs x ICQs

Hello Exam Seekers,

Here we are with another CELTA post for you!

However, before reading the post, take a minute to think about the meaning of these two initials. Do you know what they stand for? Have you ever used them? What for?

Well, we will give you a clue. Even though their spelling is the same, the ICQ one is not -the least bit – related to the instant messaging website that was a fever at the beginning of the 21st century.


So, to begin with, when you start a teaching course like CELTA or even pre-service training at a school, there is every likelihood you will come across these two initials, especially when talking about lesson plans and the language you use while teaching. It is essential to know the difference between these two types of questions since they may be pretty similar, but entirely different in reality.



ICQ stands for Instruction Checking Question. It is used after setting instructions – as the name suggests – to check the understanding of the command you have just given. Look at the example below.

You show your students the activity sheet with types of actions and some gaps below them – a common fill in the gap activity. Then you tell them:

  •  Instructions:
    Sit in trios.
    In these gaps, write down all the parts of the body you need to perform the actions above.
    Sometimes, more than one part of the body is required.
    You can repeat the word you have already used if you need to.
  • Checking instructions:
    Are you going to do this individually? (no. in trios)
    What do you need to write in the gaps? (the parts of the body used to do these actions)
    Can you repeat them or write more than one? (yes)

As you could notice, the answers to the questions are in parenthesis. When you are planning your lesson, it is vital to write the ICQs down followed by the possible answers to the questions you have just asked, since this is what you expect students to come up with after you set the instructions. Once students answer all of them and you are more sure of their understanding, you start the exercise and will most certainly have a better outcome than if you had not checked your instructions.



CCQ, on the other hand, means Concept Checking Question. You can use these questions to check about a grammar topic, new vocabulary or pretty much every different concept that may be unclear for students yet.

For instance, after you show a picture to elicit some vocabulary, you can ask questions related to the word in itself to check if students truly understood what the new lexis mean. Look at the picture below.


These are called cobblestones.

After showing this picture, what are some questions you could ask to clarify meaning and make sure your students got the idea? Some possibilities are:

Are they types of rocks? (yes)
Are they used in the pavement? (yes)
Can you walk over it? (yes)

Depending on the level or the course you are teaching, you could ask even more specific questions, compare to another type of pavement and so on.

Curiosity: Have you noticed that the answers to the CCQs are all affirmative in our example? Well, you should be very careful when preparing CCQs that lead to a negative answer, they are always tricky:

Are they earth? (no)

So, if they are not earth, what are they?! When we ask a negative question, we understand that the student realized what it is not, but we don’t know if they understood what the concept actually is. Therefore, it is very important to plan ahead your CCQs.



Chances are that during the CELTA you will use both ICQs and CCQs intensively, which is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to make them effective and realize how much of a difference they can make in a lesson. Still, it is worth taking into account that both types of questions should be levelled depending on the group you teach. For instance, if you teach a beginner group, you will most likely come up with more objective and short questions to check the understanding of both instructions and concepts rather than asking long and complicated questions. Therefore, even though asking those questions may look easy they can be quite tricky at times, especially in the beginning, when you are not used to making them.


Something to bear in mind is that even though these questions are relevant and quite useful – when used appropriately – you should always think about when they will be relevant and genuinely help students rather than confuse them. For example, when you elicit with pictures, it is not always necessary to ask questions, sometimes they are too obvious or irrelevant.

Sem título

Is this a toy? (yes)
Is this a robot? (no)
Can you play with it? (yes)
Do children play with it? (yes)
Do adults play with it? (yes)
Is this round? (yes)

On the other hand, there are concepts for which CCQs are vital, and if not prepared in advance or if the words were not chosen appropriately, they could lead to misunderstandings which will turn out into confused students and sometimes in the non-completion of a task. For this reason, always reflect what the best question would be, if it is not wordy or even if the words are clear and have already been learnt.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that whenever you use ICQs and CCQs, you aim to clarify and make sure students understand what you said. However, these are not the only way you can do so. They are undoubtedly useful and do help learners a lot regarding comprehension, but on the other hand, there are other ways to check understanding, such as elicitation, modelling, asking another student and so on and so forth.

If you have more questions about CCQs or ICQs, write them in the comment section below.

Patty and Eve.

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