Basics and Self-Introduction

What’s the CAPES?

The CAPES is the competitive exam (in French, concours) to become a secondary school (lycée or collège) teacher in France. There are actually four different types of CAPES (not counting of course all the many specialties, like English, French, math, social studies):

  • CAPES externe: the concours for people who don’t work for the Education Nationale (most people) and who want to enter the public system
  • CAPES interne: the concours for people who have worked for the EN for at least three years, and who want to enter the public system
  • CAFEP CAPES: the concours for people who don’t work for the EN (most people), for the private system
  • CAER CAPES: the concours for people who have worked for the EN for at least three years, for the private system

To take the interne exam you have to prove three years of ancienneté, which most foreigners won’t have.

EU citizens can take the public CAPES, but non-EU citizens cannot. They can, however, take the CAFEP CAPES or the CAER CAPES (the second one requiring, of course, three years of ancienneté).

Edit: The rules on this have been going back and forth the past couple of years. In 2014, the Ministry made European citizenship a requirement for the CAFEP. For 2015, this requirement isn’t listed on the official website, so I guess it’s gone for now. To be safe, check the Ministry of Education website!

Who am I and when/how did I do it?

My name is Eileen, and I passed the CAFEP CAPES d’anglais in 2011, which was a reform year, meaning that it was the first year of the full masterisation of the CAPES. That means that previous to the concours of 2011, and especially previous to the concours of 2010 (because that was a transition year), you didn’t need a masters degree to do the CAPES. You needed the equivalent of a French licence, and many French students continued onto the IUFM after getting their licence. They spent two years at the IUFM: the first year preparing for the concours, the second year attending some classes but most importantly completing their stage year during which they had between 6 and 8 hours of classes to teach per week.

So what has changed? Now, you need at least an M2 to take the CAPES. If you already have a masters for whatever reason (I did), you can sign up for the CAPES as a candidat libre without signing up at the fac, if you want. If you don’t have a masters, you have to get one, and at least be working on your M2 the year you take the CAPES. (This calendar is changing, though, since the government would like to lighten the load for M2 students. The written exams may soon be offered after the M1 year.)

The specific masters degree that has come into being because of this reform is typically the MEF, master des métiers de l’éducation et de la formation, and I can’t tell you much about this because I didn’t do it. Other masters degrees are possible. You should talk to the university in your town about what they offer.

Here’s what I did:

I spent two years in France after my bachelor’s degree, the first as an assistant, the second as a lectrice at an engineering school. I then went home to complete my M.A. in Foreign language education at the University of Texas at Austin. I came back to France the following September, having taken summer classes to finish up my coursework, thus having only the thesis to write. I technically graduated in December 2009. I moved back to France in September 2009 to work as a maître de langue at another engineering school, leaving me ample time to work on other projects: first, my masters thesis, then, the CAFEP CAPES. I renewed my maître de langue contract for the 2010-2011 year, and I signed up with the CNED in May of 2010 to prepare the concours. I was a candidat libre, and I kept my job while I prepared for the CAPES. It’s not possible to be a maître de langue/lectrice for more than two years, even if you change institutions (technically I cheated by even being a lectrice one year and then a maître de langue two years), so I was practically out of other teaching options, especially as a non-European.

I’m not writing all this out because I think people need to know lots about me personally, but because, like everyone who comes to France, my path was very specific and as a result, I’ll have some very specific knowledge of some things (the CNED) and very little knowledge of others (the MEF masters).

What’s this guide for?

I wrote this mini-guide in the effort to help out future cafep-iens, because for me taking it all alone, it felt like a labyrinth of secret rules and know-how that I didn’t know about. I’ve tried to limit the guide to the paperasse involved in taking the CAFEP, though some of my personal experience and advice is in here too. Take it or leave it—I can’t pretend to be an expert on this!

Next page: Overview of the CAFEP


3 thoughts on “Basics and Self-Introduction

  1. Leah says:

    Hello Eyelean,
    First of all, thanks so much for sharing so much information about the trials and tribulations to teaching English in France as an American. It’s not an easy route and the more information out there is to the benefit of all of us!!

    I have a some small questions for you when you have a moment. I’m an American like you, and would like to try my hand at teaching English in France. I am considering taking a TEFL course, as I don’t have a teaching background of any kind. In case it’s useful to know, I have a bachelor’s degree in Communications and a Master’s degree in Poli Sci from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I also have another Master’s in Environmental Sciences from King’s college London.

    I am thinking that if I get TELF certified, it will perhaps help me get my foot in the door for tutoring and/or teaching at private schools, so that I can at least see if I enjoy teaching English language classes and living in France on a more permanent basis. In addition, I’m hoping it will help to improve my French, as right now I’m at the B1 level (as in the DELF B1) but know that I if I want to get serious about teaching English in France, my level of French needs to improve dramatically. Also, I am nearly 30, I’ve looked into the teaching assistance opportunities through the French government, but it appears that I’m too old for that. Finally, just to let you know, I lived in Brussels for 1.5 years working as a consultant, so I am aware of at least some of the obstacles of living and working in the EU as an American.

    My question for you is two fold and rather future-oriented. First, you mention that from now on in order to pass the CAPES, you must have a Master’s degree, typically the MEF, but other master’s degrees are possible. Do you have any clue if they’d consider Master’s degrees that don’t have to do with teaching? Secondly, since you’ve succeeding in passing the CAPES, do you think having a master’s degree in teaching a foreign language gave you an extra advantage? In other words, is it rather impossible to think that someone like myself (even if non-teaching master’s degrees were accepted for the CAPES) could ever pass a test like the CAPES and eventually get a decent job teaching English within one of the French school systems without the training and experience that you’ve had?

    I’d really appreciate your thoughts on the matter, and of course, would be thankful for any other advice you have to give about teaching English in France…especially with only a TEFL certification if you happen to know about it.

    Thanks a lot in advance,

    • Hi Helen. I had mixed feelings about the CNED—some correctors were helpful, some useless. The forums were reassuring. I still think it’s worth it if you have no other classes for it and/or are foreign to the French concours and university system.

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