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ESOL Skills for Life qualifications for learners

ESOL exams in UK

The ESOL qualifications listed on these pages consist of three Awards and are structured as follows (NB: The structure of qualifications offered by City & Guilds varies - see below):

  • Reading - 6 credits
  • Writing - 9 credits
  • Speaking and Listening - 12 credits
  • The full ESOL certificate - 27 credits

>> View our guide to the ESOL qualifications offered by different awarding bodies. 

These qualifications have been developed by a number of awarding bodies in the UK and outline details can be found below. For full details on the qualifications, please contact the awarding bodies directly. 

Find out more about:


Ascentis logoAscentis qualifications are externally set controlled assessments which are available on demand. 

Written with the learner firmly in mind, they have been designed to fit as closely as possible with your teaching.  Tasks within each assessment paper can be taken on separate occasions to suit you and your learners. Individual speaking and listening and writing tasks can be retaken to recognise your learners’ achievements. Preparation time before each speaking assessment allows learners to become familiar with the vocabulary for the topics involved.  Learners need to be registered 10 days before the assessment and results turn-around is usually within 4 weeks.

>> Find out more about the Ascentis qualifications

City & Guilds

City and GuildsCity & Guilds has sought to make its ESOL Skills for Life qualifications more flexible and responsive, whilst continuing to base them on the Adult Literacy standards and aligned to the ESOL Core Curriculum. 

The suite includes standalone Awards in Reading, Writing and Speaking & Listening, as well as 'full-mode' Certificates that combine all three. Assessments are either centre-assessed or available at as little as an hour’s notice. The units on which these qualifications are based are structured differently to those offered by other awarding bodies: 

  • Reading: Entry 1-3 - 9 credits; Level 1-2 - 11 credits
  • Writing: Entry 1-2 – 9 credits; Entry 3 and Level 1-2 - 11 credits
  • Speaking & Listening: Entry 1-2 - 11 credits; Entry 3 & Level 1-2 - 12 credits
  • Certificate-sized qualifications: Entry 1-2 - 29 credits; Entry 3 - 32 credits; Level 1-2 - 34 credits

>> Find out more about City and Guild's qualifications

Edexcel (Pearson)

The Pearson Edexcel QCF qualifications in English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) are designed to develop English language skills for the following purposes:

  • Language for work so people can access and succeed in employment
  • Language for learning to support individuals throughout the curriculum
  • Language for life to ensure people have the skills for day to day living

In order to support your centre’s delivery of ESOL qualifications, Pearson provide Sample Assessment Materials, Training and access to a Skills Subject Adviser who is available to answer your queries.

>> Visit Edexcel's website to learn more.


ESBESB produce unitised ESOL assessments in all 3 modes. Highlights of these qualifications include:

  • All Reading and Writing assessments are marked and moderated externally by ESB. 
  • Speaking and Listening exams are assessed at the learners' centres by ESB assessors.  
  • Past papers and videos of Speaking and Listening assessments at every level are available on the ESB website.
  • Exams can be booked 4 weeks before the Speaking and Listening exam date and 2 days before the Reading and Writing exam.
  • Assessment dates are at the centres' convenience. Speaking and Listening results are returned 5 working days from the date of the assessment. Reading and Writing results are returned 5 working days after receipt of papers at ESB or 10 working days in peak periods. Resits can be booked as soon as results are received. 
  • Candidates receive a personal Speaking and Listening report highlighting areas of good practice and areas for development.
  • Speaking and listening assessments are communicative and taken in pairs.  Learners may take individual awards at different levels or an overarching certificate covering all three modes. Training is provided at the candidates’ centre and ongoing support is available from an ESOL specialist.

>> Visit ESB's website to learn more

Gateway Qualifications

Gateway Qualifications ESOLGateway Qualifications’ ESOL offer is based on the Adult Literacy Standards and mapped to the ESOL Core Curriculum:

  • learners may take standalone qualifications in Speaking and Listening, Reading or Writing at the level that is most appropriate; or an overarching certificate at one level
  • assessment is available on demand through a bank of externally set assessment tasks
  • Entry level tasks may be taken on different occasions to fit in with a centre’s delivery pattern and teaching schedule
  • all entry level assessments and speaking and listening at levels 1 and 2 may be contextualized to meet the needs of different learner groups. 
Gateway Qualifications also provides sample assessments, training and access to a subject advisor who can answer your queries.

>> Find out more on the Gateway Qualifications website


NOCN logoNOCN pride themselves on their clear and user friendly assessment opportunities, which are supported by a clear and simple marking scheme.  They offers on demand paper-based assessments that are accessible just 5 working days after registration.  Offering competitively priced and purposeful qualifications which are designed to improve English abilities in English Reading, Writing and Speaking and Listening; they offer standalone components to allow learners to progress at their own pace towards overall certification at Entry 1 through Level 2.

>> For further information, visit the NOCN website 


SQA logoSQA's National Qualifications in ESOL develop the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking in learners whose first language is not English, so that they can understand and use English. These Courses develop learners’ language skills, so that they can apply knowledge of language in practical and relevant contexts. 

>> Please see the ESOL subject webpages for more information. 

Trinity College London

Trinity College London
Trinity's revised ESOL Skills for Life qualifications are mapped to the National Literacy standards and closely reference the Adult ESOL Core Curriculum so there should be no major changes to teaching focus. Qualifications are available at all levels from Entry 1 to Level 2. 

Trinity continues to offer many benefits including: 100% external assessment; authentic, practical tasks; competitive fees and on-demand booking options. 

Trinity has now published full details of the revised qualifications including sample materials. The revised qualifications are available to book now.

>> Visit Trinity's website to stay informed

>> View our guide to the ESOL qualifications offered by different awarding bodies.