The 5 W’s of the Trinity ISE
(Integrated Skills in English)

Who takes the Trinity ISE test?

The Trinity Integrated Skills in English exams are a series of exams designed by the internationally renowned Trinity College London English for Speakers of Other Languages examination board in order to provide non-native English speakers with a consistent assessment device to demonstrate their level of English proficiency. Offered at five distinct skill levels, the Trinity ISE (as the exam sequence is more commonly referred) is ideal for candidates of all skill levels. Typical applicants include adolescents, young adults, university students, and others who need to certify their language proficiency for educational or professional purposes. Moreover, it is recognized by the UK Border Agency as proof of English proficiency for Tiers 1, 2, and 4 visas.

Why should you take the Trinity ISE exam?

Because there are actually five exam levels to chose from, the Trinity ISE exams offer students an exam structure that integrates all four functional components of English proficiency while simultaneously offering a clear and consistent pattern of assessment. This means that students can measure their progress over time in all aspects of English proficiency with the same kinds of tasks and exercises. Such a design, used in other Trinity ESOL exams, is meant to provide positive feedback to students by emphasizing incremental improvements over time.

In addition to the range of levels available, because the Trinity ISE exams feature a “portfolio approach” that requires tasks to be completed outside of the testing center prior to the day of the test students have the opportunity to include class work and demonstrate their abilities in non-testing environments.

Finally, as the on-site written examination itself utilizes computer-assisted (rather than pen-and-paper) for part of the writing exercises, students more accustomed to computer word processing will benefit.

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

As noted above, though the ISE exams are available at five distinct levels of difficulty, they all employ a consistent structure and design. Moreover, as these five levels are directly mapped to the Common European Framework of Reference, students are easily able to judge which examination (and certification) level is appropriate for them. Accordingly, the follow chart explains this correspondence:

Exam Level CEFR Level
ISE 0 A2
ISE 1 B1
ISE 2 B2
ISE 3 C1
ISE 4 C2

Across these levels, each individual examination has the same overall structure consisting of three components: a portfolio, a written exam, and an interview.

The Portfolio 20% of overall score

The portfolio requires candidates to submit three pieces of their written work that have been completed prior to the exam date. These pieces, known as tasks, are to be chosen from a published list of 15 tasks for each level. These 15 options are subdivided into three sections (of five options each) from which test takers must select. While candidates are able to choose their own tasks from this list, they must present one task from each section. This ensures that they are able to deal with the three different types of writing:

  • correspondence,
  • factual writing, and
  • descriptive writing.

Though similar in nature, as the level of examination increases so too does the level of rigor (and word count) expected of each portfolio piece.

The Written Exam 30% of overall score

Unlike the portfolio, which is to be completed prior to the day of the exam, the written exam presents a more typical testing metrics that assesses test takers reading and writing skills under real exam conditions. Comprised of a mixture of reading and writing exercises, the tasks on this section vary according to the skill level of applicants.

The Interview 50% of overall score

Like with other Trinity ESOL exams, the Interview is a one-on-one, in-person interview between a candidate and a trained examiner. At all levels the ISE Interview includes a discussion of the portfolio where the candidate and examiner discuss the content and/or process of writing the candidate’s portfolio. At higher levels more abstract and advanced tasks are assigned. For example, at higher levels the test taker may be share ideas and opinions or even debate issues with the examiner.

Across the five levels, each of the three components is weighted equally (although the specific number and nature of the tasks involved may vary). Accordingly, the portfolio always accounts for 20% of a students overall result, the written exam for 30%, and the interview for 50%. Depending on their performance, successful candidates are eligible for Pass, Pass with Merit, and Pass with Distinction certifications according to their performance.

Where and When can you take the Trinity ISE exam?

The Trinity ISE is offered at certified testing locations on fixed dates throughout the year. You can find a list of exam dates and locations on the Trinity ESOL website but please note that the ISE IV is not available with the same frequency as the other levels. It is important to check with the relevant testing center before finalizing any testing arrangements.

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