The 5 W’s of the Trinity SEW
(Speaking English for Work)

Who takes the Trinity SEW test?

The Trinity Speaking English for Work examination, a product of the Trinity College London’s English for Speakers of Other Language examinations board, is – as the name suggests – an English proficiency exam designed to meet the unique needs of non-native English speaking professionals. More commonly referred to by its acronym, the Trinity SEW is designed for anyone over the age of 16 who has (or is preparing to have) English-language work experience. Because it uses tasks and evaluative criteria based on real-life work situations, it is ideal for almost anyone who is interested in certifying their abilities in the use of English in a variety of professional contexts.

Why should you take the Trinity SEW exam?

While many other English proficiency assessments offer a one-size-fits-all approach to their design, the Trinity SEW measures only candidates speaking and listening abilities – and only in realistic workplace scenarios. This means that students are not penalized for weaknesses in other functional areas or, indeed, for failings in non-professional aspects of English comprehension. As a performance-based assessment it enables applicants to demonstrate what they “can do” rather than simply what they simple “know” or have memorized.

At the same time, the Trinity SEW offers customization in a number of other ways. First and foremost, the SEW is offered at four distinct skill levels (to be discussed in more detail below), allowing students to take the assessment that is right for them. Also, because the content and structure of the exams are consistent across levels, students can see their growth over time thanks to a reliable set of metrics.

Better still, the exam offers candidates the choice not only of level but also of industry. Based on the theory that “people usually prefer talking about the type of work that they are interested in” the examination board offers applicants the choice of 12 different industries on which to base their discussions and presentations:

  1. Advertising & Media
  2. Design & the Arts
  3. Education & Training
  4. Health & Public Services
  5. Hospitality & Tourism
  6. IT & Communications
  7. Law & Government
  8. Management & Administration
  9. Manufacturing & Engineering
  10. Marketing & Public Relations
  11. Retail & Finance
  12. Science & Technology

Finally, because certifications show not only their proficiency but also this, their chosen industry, the connection between the exam’s result and a student’s chosen career could not be stronger.

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

The four levels of the Trinity SEW are named for (and directly mapped) to the Common European Framework of Reference. Though each subsequent level demands more from applicants, the general structure of the exam is the same across all four levels. Indeed, at each level candidates are asked to complete three types of tasks:

The length and number of tasks vary by level but the following chart illustrates these differences:

Level Total Length Telephone Task Presentation Work-Based Discussion
B1 13 minutes 1 task, 3 minutes 1 task, 5minutes 1 task, 4 minutes
B2 20 minutes 2: tasks, 1 for 3 minutes, another for 4 minutes 1 task (3 minutes) and 1 discussion [examiner-led] (4 minutes) 1 task, 5 minutes
B2+ 23 minutes 2: tasks, 1 for 3 minutes, another for 4 minutes 1 task (5 minutes) and 1 discussion [examiner-led] (5 minutes) 1 task, 5 minutes
C1 27 minutes 2: tasks, 1 for 4 minutes, another for 4 minutes 1 task (8 minutes) and 1 discussion [candidate-led] (5 minutes) 1 task, 5 minutes

At all levels these interactions take the form of one-on-one, in-person exchanges between a candidate and a trained examiner. Higher levels are differentiated not only by increased task length but also by increasing expectations of linguistic range and conversational independence. Specific performance descriptors are available from Trinity College to provide students with guidance on evaluative criteria. Students who successfully completion the exam will receive a certificate that details not only their grade and proficiency level but also the specific industry they chose to discuss.

Where and When can you take the Trinity SEW exam?

For more information about testing centers and to obtain detailed information about exam options in your area, be sure to check the official Trinity College website . From there applicants can also obtain more information – and see example responses – about each of the tasks outlined above.

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