A few basic things you probably already know about the CAFEP CAPES but might not:
- The CAPES externe (the public exam for people who are not already working for the Education Nationale) and the CAFEP CAPES (the private exam) are competitive exams, not the equivalent of a certification to teach. The number of people who pass corresponds (usually) to the number of positions open, and never more.
- The actual content and dates of the exams are exactly the same for the public CAPES externe and for the CAFEP CAPES. You will sit in the same room as the public candidates and have the same jury deciding on your fate.
- Though the number of people who pass does correspond to the number of positions open, the jury nonetheless sets a passing score in order to rank all the candidates. This passing score changes every year but there are some general patterns, and it’s important to know that concours grades are typically much lower than normal university grades.
- When I passed the exam, the CAPES and CAFEP CAPES are offered once per year, though that is not exactly an accurate description of how it worked. You registered in the summer, the written exams were in November, and if you passed those, you went to the oral exams the following June. If you forget to register before the deadline, there is nothing you can do about it till the next year. *UPDATE* This schedule has changed for future exams! The schedule is evolving currently and will settle into something very different from what I did, so check out the official sites.
The CAPES calendar, as it was when I passed it in 2011 (check out this page for the changes that have taken place):
- May: Ask for the Pré-accord Collégial
- June-mid July: Register on the Education Ministry website (registration has been moved to several months later)
- Late November: Take the written exams in the main town of your Académie (also moved)
- Late January: The results of the written exams are published on Publinet.
- Sometime in the spring: Get your dates for the orals
- Late June/early July: The oral exams take place in one city in France, that changes from year to year (I did them in Lille)
You may hear many rumors about the CAFEP CAPES that are not true: that passing doesn’t mean you’re assured a position; that no matter what the passing grade is only as low as it is in the public test, etc. These things are not true, and it can help to remember that most people in France don’t understand the private test, if they even realize it exists, and won’t know what they’re talking about if they do happen to have things to say about it.
A few important points to know before thinking about taking the CAPES (things I knew and things I wish I’d known beforehand):
- Since the CAFEP is a path into the private education system, it means communicating with the Ministry of Education and with the Catholic Schools system, the Enseignement Catholique. It’s important to know that the two systems do not very often communicate with each other.
- My personal advice: The CAPES is very hard, but not undoable. It requires a lot of work and a lot of determination. If you feel this is what you want to do, by all means try it. You need a high level of French (spoken and written), and a high level of written English. All the literature, history, government, grammar, and linguistics that I had studied from high school to graduate school helped me when I was preparing for the CAPES.
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