Improving Your English

British Council English Online review: Are these English classes worth it?

British Council has helped over 80 million students globally to learn English over the past 80 years. In 2020 it launched English Online, a platform offering live online English classes alongside premium learning materials.

It’s not the cheapest way to access online English classes, but it’s touted as one of the best and is used by over 45,000 students worldwide.

If you’re considering signing up, this detailed British Council English Online review will cover:

  • British Council English Online pricing, credit system, and discounts
  • The different course options and what’s included at each level
  • How easy it is to book lessons and use the platform
  • Who the teachers are
  • How British Council helps you learn English online
  • Criticisms of the platform
  • Alternative ways to learn English with online classes

We hope this helps you decide whether British Council’s English Online course is right for you.

Key takeaways

  • British Council English Online offers a versatile learning environment with live classes, premium resources, and study paths themed by topic.
  • The courses support a broad range of learner goals and styles, serving a global audience from diverse backgrounds.
  • The platform is known for its expert course content and personalized teaching methods.
  • Choose from self-study or live online classes (group or private) with flexible pricing according to your budget and learning preferences.
  • Specialist courses for business English and IELTS test preparation are available.
  • Online classes to suit your schedule, 24/7
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Combine private and group lessons
  • Highly qualified English tutors
  • Pause your subscription if needed
  • Free 7-day trial with some packages
  • Limited number of tutors
  • More expensive than language apps
  • Requires self-motivation
  • Only British English

What is British Council English Online?

English Online is the name of British Council’s online English course platform.

With a monthly subscription, students can access private and group classes as well as supplemental learning materials. Thanks to it being an online platform with teachers all over the world, you can take classes at any time of day, 24/7.

English Online classes cover a wide range of topics aimed at improving your English for use in everyday life, work, travel, and more.

British council learn english online review of topics

Progress is measured according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

British Council’s background in education

British Council was founded by the British government in 1934 as the “British Committee for Relations with Other Countries”. The name changed to British Council in 1936, and in 1938 the organization opened its first overseas offices in Romania, Egypt, Portugal, and Poland.

The original mission of British Council was to improve cultural relations overseas and promote a wider knowledge of Britain and the English language abroad, and it still retains these values today through cultural activities and education centers.

In 1980, British Council partnered with Cambridge English to launch the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which today is one of the most widely recognized English assessments.

English Online is a relatively new addition; this online platform was launched in 2020 as a response to people wanting to learn online during the pandemic.

Although it uses modern technology, you can be assured that British Council brings decades of teaching experience and high pedagogical standards to its English courses.

Who can benefit from British Council courses?

The British Council’s English Online courses cater to a wide spectrum of learners. They’re especially suitable for students who:

The classes are not suitable for people who want to learn American English or who have a very low budget, although there is a self-study course option with no live classes for just $10/month.

British Council English Online course overview

There are three types of course available with English Online:

  • Self-study: Online exercises but no live classes
  • Silver/Gold/Platinum: Live group or private classes with additional online materials
  • IELTS Coach: A 3-month package with group or private classes aimed at improving your IELTS score

We’ll come back to the IELTS Coach option later; for now we’ll focus on the first two options.

British Council’s self-study program gives you access to online learning materials from six themes, plus four Live25 sessions per month.

Live25 sessions are 25-minute webinars that focus on grammar and pronunciation. The webinars are taught live by British Council teachers and are included in every English Online package. You can interact and answer questions via the chat box but you don’t get to speak to the teacher directly.

Person listening to how American English speech sounds in a TV show

The Silver, Gold, and Platinum packages give you access to all this plus live online classes with an English teacher. You can choose group classes, private classes, or a combination of both. The number of classes you can attend each month depends on your package, which brings us on to…

British Council English Online prices and credits

English Online pricing can be a little tricky to understand as the platform operates a credit-based system for classes.

  • A 55-minute group class (maximum 10 students) = 1 credit
  • A 25-minute private class = 2 credits

Here are the different packages and the number of class credits they include:

Self-Study CourseSilverGoldPlatinum
Monthly price (before discount)$10$88$164$224
Class credits51015
Cost per credit$17.60$16.40$15
Live25 teacher-led grammar and pronunciation webinars4/month4/month4/month4/month
Free trial?NoNoYes (includes 2 class credits)Yes (includes 2 class credits)
Includes Premium Business classes?NoYes if you pay annuallyYes if you pay annuallyYes

British Council often runs promotions and discounts for these packages, so check here for current offers.

Now, let’s explain what the class credit system means in practice.

With the Silver plan, you can spend your 5 monthly credits in any of the following ways:

  • 5 group classes
  • 1 private and 3 group classes
  • 1 group and 2 private classes

The Gold plan, which includes 10 monthly credits, can give you:

  • 10 group classes
  • 5 private classes
  • 3 private and 4 group classes, etc.

And with the Platinum plan, which includes 15 monthly credits, you can take:

  • 15 group classes
  • 1 group and 7 private classes
  • 5 private and 5 group classes, etc.

With all plans, you have the option to purchase extra class credits each month if you want to attend additional classes.

Group vs private classes

Group classes last 55 minutes, compared to 25 minutes for private classes. Although you get double the teaching time with a group class, you have to share that time with other students. You may end up having more speaking practice and teacher feedback in a 25-minute private class than in a 55-minute group class.

However, group classes allow you to interact with a global community of English learners, so you can listen to different accents, learn new words, and feel more connected in your learning journey.

woman learning English with British Council online

The other big difference is the class materials. Group classes are based on the course themes, with 54-84 lesson topics per English level. In a private class, you can either select from the topic list or you can discuss anything you like with your private teacher – from tricky grammar to recent news events to general conversation practice.

Fortunately, you have full control over how you spend your credits each month. This means you can try out different teachers and class types until you find a combination that suits you.

Other benefits

The Platinum plan includes access to extra business English classes and lesson materials. These classes are only available on the Silver and Gold plans if you pay annually, rather than monthly.

Finally, there’s a free 7-day trial period, with 2 class credits included, if you sign up for the Gold or Platinum plans. Whichever package you choose, you are free to cancel anytime.


British Council is one of the co-owners of IELTS, so the organization knows a thing or two about how to help you achieve your target score.

Your IELTS Coach experience begins with a personal needs analysis (costing two class credits) which helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses and create a learning plan. The course teachers have a thorough knowledge of the IELTS test and will be able to give you personalized advice and help.

The IELTS Coach packages use the same class credits system as the regular classes, but you pay a single fee for a three-month subscription.

There are three packages, the only difference being the price and the number of credits included:

Cost for 3 months$175$386$908
Class credits (total for 3 months)102050
Cost per credit$17.50$19.30$18.16
Live25 webinarsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited

Again, there are often discounts available, and you can check here for current promotions.

These courses are suitable for anyone taking the IELTS test for the first time, but also for anyone retaking the test to achieve a higher score.

During your lessons, you’ll get the chance to do practice speaking tests and writing tutorials so you feel fully prepared for test day.

The learning experience: Course content and teaching methods

We’ve explained how much British Council’s English Online platform costs and the different plans available, so now let’s look at what you get when you sign up.

English Online classes are designed by English experts, building on British Council’s 80+ years of education experience. The teachers on the platform are all highly qualified professionals, experienced at teaching English online to people all around the world. It’s the quality of the teaching that sets British Council apart from similar services.

The platform provides a comprehensive suite of learning activities, including:

  • A free placement test
  • Exercises for listening, reading, and writing skills
  • Interactive grammar and pronunciation lessons
  • Vocabulary exercises
  • Audio and video materials with real-life application scenarios
  • Live classes to build English speaking confidence (except the self-study package)
  • A certificate of attendance that updates as you complete lessons

You can access some of this content for free by going to this page and clicking on the ‘Explore our online platform’ button. Once you are registered, go to the ‘Extra Study’ section for free video lessons and grammar tests.

British Council free resources for learning English

Lessons are grouped into ‘Themes’, like modules on a particular topic. One theme consists of six lessons, each of which has a corresponding class and some preparatory materials.

Lesson topics include:

  • Avoiding awkward silences
  • Making travel arrangements
  • Work-life balance
  • Presenting information formally
  • Writing a restaurant review

At the end of each theme, you have the option to complete an assessment, which consists of a 30-minute online test followed by a speaking assessment with a teacher. You are awarded digital badges that you can share on social media to celebrate each milestone.

Overall, this is an excellent online course for learning English because you have the opportunity to practice your speaking and receive personal feedback, accompanied by robust learning materials and additional grammar and pronunciation sessions.

Level progression

We mentioned that British Council uses CEFR levels to assess students and measure progress. These levels are:

  • A1 – Elementary
  • A2 – Pre-intermediate
  • B1 – Intermediate
  • B2 – Upper-intermediate
  • C1 – Advanced

At level C1 you should be able to speak English fluently, but even at B2 many learners have a sense of fluency and confidence holding natural conversations.

When you sign up you can select your level or take a quick placement test. Each level has between 54 and 84 lessons, but you don’t need to complete them all before moving up a level. You can progress to the next level whenever you feel ready. Your teacher’s feedback will also help with this decision.

British Council English Level Test

This also means that there is no fixed timeframe for completing each English level. Your rate of progress will depend on how many classes you take and the amount of extra time you spend studying.

At any time during your studies, you can download a digital Certificate of Attendance which is updated live with your level progress and study hours. This is helpful to add to your resume to demonstrate your ability to speak English to potential employers.

Combining these online classes with another English learning app could be a good way to cover more topics and progress faster.

Navigating the platform: Usability and design

The British Council English Online platform is user-friendly, with an organized and straightforward website interface.

It’s easy to book classes; just select the days and times that suit you and you’ll see a list of available classes. Add optional filters to search for:

  • Classes with your favorite teachers (you can create your own list of favorite teachers)
  • Classes on particular themes (for group classes)
  • Classes you have not taken before (for group classes)
how to book classes with British Council

Before your class starts, take some time to review the lesson preparation materials. This will help you get the most out of the time with your tutor.

From your dashboard, you can view upcoming classes and track your progress through each theme. You can also check how many class credits you have left for the month and view notes and feedback from teachers in previous classes.

Flexible online classes: Study at your own pace

Unlike attending English classes at school or university, most online courses let you study at your own pace.

This is great if you have a busy schedule and can’t easily plan ahead. With British Council English Online, you can log in any time of day and join a class that’s about to start. There’s no need to book far ahead unless you want a specific teacher.

However, if you know you might struggle to stay motivated and join classes regularly without a fixed schedule, this might not be the best learning method for you.

Another benefit of English Online is you can book group and private classes with different teachers – you are not limited to just one. In fact, it’s a good idea to learn with a variety of teachers from different countries – being able to understand different accents is a useful language skill!

online english teachers

Additionally, you can work through themes in any order you like and skip any that aren’t relevant to your learning goals.

If you need to take a break, there is the option to pause your subscription for one or two months. If you do this, no new credits will be added during the break but you can still use up any that are left. You can cancel anytime if you no longer feel you are benefitting from the course.

The verdict: Is British Council English Online worth it?

Given the high-quality courses, flexible learning options, and professional teaching materials used, the British Council English Online program is a valuable investment for those seeking to improve their English language skills.

The self-study course is good for those on a budget, but the real benefit comes from teacher-led lessons with the world’s English experts. For those wanting an intensive English course, the Platinum plan offers the best value for money.

If you are studying for your IELTS test, British Council’s coaching program is an excellent way to accelerate your learning and become more confident in how to approach the test.

Sign up now to get a free trial lesson or just explore the platform and check out the free materials.

British Council alternatives

If you’re not convinced after reading this British Council English Online review, what are your other options?


Another platform offering live online classes with English teachers is Preply. Benefits of Preply include:

  • Over 20,000 English tutors available 24/7
  • Private lessons starting from $5 per 50 minutes (up to $100 for more experienced tutors)
  • The option to study with a teacher who speaks your native language
  • Learning tools to practice your English skills between lessons

Preply encourages you to stick with one tutor rather than switching between different ones, which has its pros and cons.

You can explore tutors here and claim 50% off your first class.


Gymglish is an online English course that uses AI technology to keep the lesson content relevant to you. It is not teacher-led, so it does lack the interaction and speaking practice that you get with live online classes.

However, you get surprisingly detailed feedback after each lesson, and the course guides you to keep working on the areas you are struggling with.

If you want to focus on business English or other topics, you can select these when you register and the course content will be tailored to your preferences.

Try Gymglish free for one month or read our full Gymglish review here.

gymglish english lessons free 1 month trial


If you choose British Council’s English Online course, you can be confident of some of the best teachers who are experienced in teaching English as a second language online.

The platform is simple to use and it’s easy to book classes and track your progress.

Whether you’re a student, a professional, a traveler, or just someone looking to improve their English skills, British Council English Online offers a learning journey that’s tailored to your needs, helping you achieve your English learning goals and open up a world of opportunities.