15 Ways to Do Needs Analysis

By Alex Case
Exciting and innovative ways to check your students’ needs

1. Fill in a form or questionnaire

This is the most traditional and perhaps most boring way of doing a needs analysis. It can be made more interesting by students interviewing each other and filling in the form for their partner (how much help you will need to give them with question forms etc depends on the class) or designing the forms or questionnaires for other people to fill in.

2. Interviews

Especially in 1 to 1 classes, this is the other common way of doing needs analysis. You can make it more interesting by getting students to interview each other in pairs and then mark the interviewers by how much relevant information they got (e.g. giving points for questions they asked that no one else in the class did), or by doing it as a role-play job interview for a job that uses English, e.g. their own, and getting students to decide who is best for the job.

3. Combine with another lesson

This could mean by language point (see Adverbs of Frequency etc below for examples), or by skill (e.g. reading a text about ways of practicing English or speaking about your previous English studies as IELTS Speaking Part Two practice). If you combine it with ideas on becoming a self-sufficient language learner, you can even do further needs analysis in later lessons in this way, for example if their language was not a high enough level to find out much the first time you did the needs analysis or if you want to see if their needs and ideas about language learning have changed.

4. Adverbs of frequency

Students use “often”, “once a week” etc to talk about how often they use English in certain ways and do certain things to improve their English, e.g. “I occasionally take part in conference calls in English”. This can be a reading and writing task, or speaking and listening with them asking each other in pairs. Due to the easy language (mainly Present Simple), this is good with even low level classes.

5. Predictions/ possibility and probability

Students talk about their future needs for English, e.g. as a sentence completion task with “I will definitely… in English”, “Next year I might… in English” etc. They can then guess how their partner completed their sentences.

6. Modals

Students fill in the right modal verb for them in sentences such as “I __ read newspapers in English”, e.g. “can”, “should”, “need to” or “have to”. They can then compare in pairs, and see if the verbs their partner has put in are also true for them.

7. Functions review

Students match sentences to their functions, e.g. requesting, complaining, apologising, and then talk about how much they need to be able to do those things in English.

8. Ranking

Students rank things they need to do in English by how necessary they are and/ or how difficult they are. They can then get together in larger and larger groups and try to agree new ranking together in a “pyramid ranking debate”.

9. Guess the job

Students match descriptions of how and when people need to use English to the names of their jobs. They can then write similar description for themselves (or their partners after interviewing them), then the whole class can try to match the descriptions to the people in the class.

10. True/false

Students mark sentences about English use and studies true or false for them, e.g. “I need to write more than speak”. Variations include giving the sentences orally rather than on the page, or students making sentences that they think the other person will say “true” for.

11. Make it true

Students change sentences to make them true for themselves and/ or for everyone in their group or the whole class, e.g. changing “Most emails I write are to native English speakers” to “non-native”. If you design the task carefully, this can also be used as practice of specific language points.

12. Presentations

Students give a presentation about their own needs for English, past and present use of English and English studies. To make sure everyone is listening, other students must ask questions at the end and/ or must refer to what other people said when they do their own presentations, e.g. “Unlike Sergio, I almost never answer the telephone in English”. This is good if they need to study presentation skills.

13. Things in common

Students try to find (ten) things that are the same for both of them in their use and needs for English, e.g. “We both read English emails everyday”.

14. Needs analysis meeting

Run the needs analysis as a formal meeting with agenda and action minutes.

15. Syllabus negotiation

Students negotiate to decide how much time will be spent on certain topics and skills in the course. This is especially useful before or after doing the language of negotiations.

Written by Alex Case for Tefl.NET August 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
© Tefl.NET


  • Ros van Wyk says:

    Hi Alex, I have just completed my 180 hour TEFL course and am busy completing my next 2 courses, 1 to 1 and Business English. I appreciated your article, thanks. I’m looking for a form or template, with a list of questions to ask a 1 to 1 student, prior to me preparing the 1st lesson. Do you have something like that? Thanks, kind regards Ros (from South Africa)

  • Tracey Novick says:

    I am about to go online as a TEFL teacher. This information sounds a little complicated.Is there a needs analysis questionnaire prtotype that I can follow? Thanks.

  • Chester says:

    I suggest a Find Someone Who related to number 13.

  • Alex Case says:

    The Onestopenglish link I gave before is still working, but the other one should now be https://tefltastic.wordpress.com/worksheets/needs/ Hope it’s useful!

  • Ian says:

    Suggest you ask at https://www.tefl.net/forums/ :) Someone there may be able to help.

  • Aruna says:

    Looking for ideas to design a pre-class questionnaire for Business English and Intermediate English language students

  • Tayeb Ounissi says:

    Some of them were workable for some teacher to do so . but other it seems quite impossible to apply tem in EFL classrooms.

  • Reena Lal says:

    Looking for ideas to put in a needs analysisquestionnaire for 8-13 years old children and also for parents.

  • Alex Case says:

    Here is one example:


    There is also one of mine on Onestopenglish:


  • susan joy says:

    These are all very good ideas, but what do you do with a student one to one of whom you don’t know exactly the level? could be A1 or A2. I just need a regular needs analysis format, could you indicate where to go? Thanks.
    p.s. The web-site is very good.

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