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ESOL QCF qualifications

Awarding body guide - which ESOL exam?

>> Download our 2016/17 guide to ESOL awarding bodies and their qualification offers.

ESOL qualifications in the UK are changing. From January 2015, the new ESOL QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) qualifications will replace the existing NQF qualifications. These new qualifications will consist of three Awards and will be 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

>> Find out more about top-up funding available for these qualifications. 

These new 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

>> Download the Ascentis presentation slides about their new ESOL offer

City & Guilds

City and GuildsCity & Guilds has sought to make its new 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 new 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.


ESBFrom January 2015 ESB will be producing unitised ESOL assessments in all 3 modes. Highlights of these new qualifications include:

  • Speaking and Listening assessments are conducted by external assessors 
  • Reading and writing assessments are marked and moderated externally by ESB
  • All  Speaking and Listening candidates receive a personal assessment report
  • Reading and Writing assessments should be booked 2 full working days before the assessment ,results will be returned within 5 working days of the receipt of papers
  • Speaking and Listening assessments should be booked 6 full working days before the assessment date, results will be returned within 5 working days.

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
  • reading and writing tasks may be taken online or provided as paper based
  • 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


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