Trinity ESOL GESE (Graded Examinations in Spoken English)

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Who takes the Trinity GESE test?

As its formal (and lengthy) name suggest, the Trinity ESOL Graded Examinations in Spoken English is a test designed by Trinity College, London as a means of assessing candidate’s English speaking and listening proficiency. Though developed by a well-known center for higher education – and widely used by universities, colleges, and other schools around the world – because the exam is suitable for students of all skill levels the exam’s unique structure means that is also recognized by many multinational companies and even the UK Border Agency as evidence of English proficiency. As such it is ideal for almost anyone who has studied English as a second language.

Why should you take the Trinity ESOL GESE exam?

The Graded Examinations in Spoken English offer many practical benefits to test takers. First and foremost, unlike many other proficiency exams which measure a student’s performance in all aspects of English production – speaking, listening, reading, and writing – the Trinity ESOL GESE measures only a candidates’ ability in listening and speaking. This makes it ideal for students who need to prove only their ability in English language audio/oral communication for academic, professional, or social pursuits.

Moreover, as the exam offers a consistent structure across fully 12 different difficulty levels (which are subdivided into four broad stages), candidates of all skill levels can benefit from taking the exam. In fact, students as young as five years old are eligible – and encouraged – to take the exam. By providing these 12 grades Trinity’s stated goal is to provide students with measurement tool that enables learners to see progress over time. By focusing so finely and at so many levels, it is their hope that they can help students see progress (even in small steps) and thereby motivate further skill development.

What exactly is the Trinity GESE test like and what can I expect to see on it?

Unlike many other English proficiency exams which measure (and often times average) a candidate’s performance in all of the performance aspects of English, the Trinity ESOL GESE’s 12 grades focus on the development of linguistic competence from the absolute beginner (Grade 1) to full mastery (Grade 12) level.

At all levels it does this by engaging students on areas related to their personal experiences. The number of tasks – and the length of the exam – increases with its difficulty but in general progress on all tasks is measured by the candidates increasing levels of:

  • communicative fluidity,
  • complex grammar, and
  • independence of action.

This last point, of Independence, is crucial to success; though Initial and Elementary students may be led through the exam by the examiner, by the Intermediate and Advanced levels it is the student who must take initiative and lead discussion.

The following chart should help to illustrate how some of the functional tasks (and the length of the exam) differ at each level.

 Initial Elementary  Intermediate  Advanced

5–7 min

 10 min  15 min  25 min
Conversation Conversation Conversation Conversation
Topic discussion  Interactive Task  Listening task
Topic presentation & discussion Interactive Task
Topic presentation
Topic discussion

The four stages are meant to correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference. For example, Grades 2 and 3 of the Initial stage are mapped to the Basic User level of CEFR, grades 4 through 6 of the Elementary stage are meant to mark the transition from Basic to Independent User, and the Intermediate Stage is meant to illustrate the successful transition of students to the Independent User level. Exams at the Advanced stage are tied to the Proficient User level

Regardless of level, however, the value of the GESE proficiency levels is enhanced by the fact that they are further subdivided by certificate level. Successful test takers at all levels are eligible for Pass, Pass with Merit, and Pass with Distinction certifications according to their performance.

Where and When can you take the Trinity GESE exam?

For more information about testing centers be sure to check the official Trinity College website. From there candidates can learn about testing centers and times that may be available in their area.

>> Learn more about other English language exams