Home Resources ESOL QCF qualifications ESOL exams: A guide to awarding bodies

ESOL exams: A guide to awarding bodies

ESOL awarding bodiesWith so many awarding bodies out there offering such a wide range of ESOL QCF exams, choosing the right suite of exams for your organisation and, more importantly, your learners, can be a little baffling!

Fear not! NATECLA has come to the rescue with a handy guide to help you choose. If you are still a little undecided, why not get in touch with some of the awarding bodies directly?:

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The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA): The SQA do not offer ESOL QCF qualifications so are not included in the guide below. Their exams are benchmarked against SCQF levels. Visit the SQA ESOL website for more information. 


Qualification modes offered by each awarding body

Qualification features offered by each awarding body

Further information about ESOL qualification features:

  • Ascentis - No minimum registrations, no wait or re-registration for resits, listening tasks can be sat as a whole class, certification within 4 weeks, accredited for learners aged 14+, regular free regional support and standardisation events, subject expert external quality assurers
  • City & Guilds - Additional information is available from the City & Guilds ESOL Skills for Life (4692) website 
  • ESB - 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 exams and 2 days before the reading and writing exam.  Assessment dates are at the centres' convenience. Results are returned 5 days  from the receipt of papers at ESB. 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. Centres receive general feedback for reading and writing. Speaking and listening assessments are communicative and taken in pairs.   Learners can take individual awards at different levels or an overarching certificate covering all 3 modes.
  • Gateway Qualifications - Contextualisation is permitted for Speaking and Listening at all levels, and for Reading and Writing at Entry Levels.  Online or paper-based assessments are available for Reading and Writing.
  • Pearson - Spiky profile is available through the individual awards, though not for Certificates.
  • Trinity - Free training provided for teachers and administrators. Two different speaking and listening components offered:  component 1: 1 to 1; component 2: group discussion. Other key features include: 100% external assessment; Clear guidance and resources and personal contacts for administrators and teaching staff



Registering your ESOL learners

Minimum number of learners required for assessments

Registration deadlines

Costs of ESOL qualifications