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ESOL – Literacy – Numeracy

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English Speaking Board (ESB) ESOL Exams

The organisation where I work has all but dropped Cambridge ESOL exams and are offering exams from ESB (English Speaking Board).

Reading and writing

At the time of writing I am preparing a class for their ESOL Entry 3 reading exam. While the reading texts in the sample papers do not appear to be particularly difficult, the assessment method is very different from Cambridge ESOL.

For example, at Entry 3, there are 21 marks that are awarded across 7 different criteria. Candidates must achieve all 7 criteria in order to pass the exam and they have 3 opportunities to meet each criteria (i.e. 3 questions x 7 criteria = 21 possible marks):

  • 1.1 Identify the main points of short straightforward text
  • 1.2 Identify main events in short straightforward
  • 1.3 Use language features to identify meaning in short straightforward text
  • 1.4 Identify the meaning of words and phrases in short straightforward text
  • 2.1 Identify the purpose of short straightforward text
  • 3.1 Obtain information from short straightforward text for a given task
  • 4.1 Use first and second placed letters to order words in alphabetical order
How ESB differs from Cambridge ESOL is that with Cambridge, there was an overall pass mark of around 60% and candidates at Entry 3 also had to pass the section which examined alphabetical order. With ESB, candidates must get at least one mark in each of the 7 criteria in order to pass. So, in theory it is possible for a candidate to get 7/21 and pass becasue they met all 7 criteria, while another candidate could get 18/21 and fail becasue they didn’t meet one of the criteria. (This was confirmed in writing by ESB).

Here are the links to reading and writing sample papers:

Speaking and listening

Speaking and listening exam videos can be found on YouTube.

Links to speaking and listening exam syllabuses and sample papers can be found below:

The format of the ESB speaking and listening exams are similar to Cambridge. For example, at Entry 3, there are 4 parts to the exam: exchanging personal information (Q&A), an unprepared talk, a role play and the listening (with a discussion). The exam is done in pairs and takes an estimated 29 minutes to complete.

One difference between the 2 exams is the number of people in the exam room. In addition to the 2 candidates taking the exam, there is 1 examiner from ESB who also takes on the role of interlocutor. With Cambridge, there is one examiner from Cambridge and a separate interlocutor, who is usually a tutor at the candidate’s organisation.

I was able to sit-in on an ESB speaking and listening exam and my general impression was that the examiners are very friendly and do their best to encourage candidates to speak. With Cambridge, the exam feels much more formal, with the interlocutor having to follow a script and a strict time limit, with minimal participation from the examiner.

However, in terms of the method of assessment, ESB appears to have a much stricter set of criteria that candidates must meet in order to pass. For example, many candidates at my organisation found the criteria to use the past tense accurately particulary challenging and failed as a result.

entry 1entry 2entry 3ESBESOLexam materialslevel 1websites

spicytoothadmin • October 29, 2016


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