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ESB Level 1 Awards in ESOL Skills for Life

Overview: ESB’s ESOL Skills for Life qualifications are designed for people above the age of 16 years’ old who live, study or work in the United Kingdom.

ESB Level 1 Awards in ESOL Skills for Life are aimed at learners who have a very good literacy knowledge or experience in English. These qualifications are based on the National Standards for Adult Literacy and aligned to the Adult ESOL Core Curriculum. They are also regulated by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations (Ofqual) and Qualifications in Wales (QW).

ReadingWritingSpeaking & Listening
Assessment methodAssessment by external assessors
Accreditation start date1st of February, 2015
Cost per learner£15.00£15.00£46.00
Guided Learning Hours (GLH)6090120
Total Qualification Time (TQT)70100130
Qualification number601/5473/1601/5474/3601/5465/2
Age range14-16, 16-19, 19+
An ESB International learner may be anyone who speaks English as an acquired language, e.g.
  • a learner at an FE college or Local Authority learning centre
  • a learner in a community ESOL programme
  • a learner enrolled at university
  • a learner attending a private training organisation
  • a Job Centre Plus learner
  • a learner on a workplace learning course
  • a young learner on a discrete ESOL course
  • Reading

    The assessment is a 60-minute formal assessment paper which consists of three tasks. There are 18 questions in the paper. Question types, text types and assessment criteria are listed in the Level 1 Reading specification. To achieve a Pass, learners are required to achieve all the assessment criteria listed under Learning Outcomes 1-3 in the Level 1 Reading specification.


    The assessment is a 90-minute formal written assessment paper which consists of three tasks. Tasks and assessment criteria are listed in the Level 1 Writing Specification. To achieve a Pass, learners are required to achieve all the assessment criteria listed under Learning Outcomes 1-3 in the Level 1 Writing specification.

    Speaking & Listening

    The assessment is approximately 31 minutes, completed in pairs and it consists of four sections:

    • Exchanging and presenting personal information
    • Giving a presentation and taking part in a discussion
    • Taking part in a role play
    • Listening to a text and taking part in a discussion

    To achieve a Pass, learners are required to achieve all the assessment criteria listed under Learning Outcomes 1-4 in the Level 1 Speaking and Listening specification.


    There are 18 questions in the Level 1 Reading Skills for Life paper. The questions may include:

    • Multiple-choice
    • Table completion
    • Matching exercises
    • Cloze
    • Open response

    The texts may be any of the following:

    • Narratives
    • Newspaper articles
    • Webpages
    • Advertisements
    • Emails
    • Leaflets and posters

    Task One consists of a Form that is intended for an employer, organisation or official. It should be approximately 150 words in length.

    Task Two consists of either an Email or letter for a friend, relative, colleague, tutor or official. It should be approximately 150 words in length.

    Task Three consists of a narrative, account, article, leaflet or report to be read by either an official or general audience. It should be approximately 200 words in length and requires a written plan.

    Task One requires the learners to ask their partner for personal information about their life, such as work, studying, past events and future plans. The assessor will then encourage more discussion by asking questions about their responses (6 minutes).

    In Task Two, the assessor will ask one learner to give a pre-prepared presentation about a topic of their choice lasting for 3 minutes. Their partner will ask three relevant questions to demonstrate their understanding.. The process is then repeated for the second learner.  (10 minutes)

    In Task Three, the assessor describes a situation and gives instructions for a role-play. The situation is an everyday context within the learners’ experience and may involve complaining, making an argument or asking for information. The learners discuss the issue, and make a plan to resolve it. (5 minutes)

    Task Four introduces a listening task and instructions. The assessor plays the audio and then asks a gist question with a yes/no answer. The assessor will then give each learner two questions testing detail, which they answer after listening to the text for the second time. Texts are dialogues or monologues in everyday situations, including those from work-based or training situations. In the final part of Task 4, the assessor leads a discussion about a topic related to the listening task. (10 minutes)

    What support is available to deliver Level 1 Skills for Life assessments?

    ESB International offers a wide range of resources at Level 1 designed for both ESOL Tutors to deliver effective learning for their groups and for learners to give them the English language skills they need to achieve their aspirations.

    We also offer support for centre organisers booking our assessments and tutors preparing both their learners and centre for assessment day.

    What funding is available to my centre to help deliver Level 1 Skills for Life assessments

    We are incredibly passionate about providing accessible qualifications to as many learners as possible to enable them to fulfil their potential. We understand that in order to provide assessments for learners, centres may need an extra helping hand to assist them with the cost. We not only promote external funding options that centres may be able to utilise, but also provide financial support to centres through our Christabel Burniston Fund. To find out more, please use the links below.

    Frequently Asked Questions about our ESOL Skills for Life qualifications

    1. Do you have any qualifications for people who are just starting to learn English?

    Yes. We provide a Pre-Entry assessment in speaking and listening. This is a non-regulated qualification that is a stepping stone to the ESOL Skills for Life regulated qualifications. For many learners, it will be their first experience of an assessment in many years, and will be an opportunity for them to experience an external assessment in a supportive, positive environment.

    2. Does the Home Office recognise ESOL Skills for Life qualifications?

    No. The Home Office requires a Secure English Language Test (SELT) taken in a SELT centre. See here

    3. Where can I take an ESB ESOL Skills for Life assessment?

    Speaking and Listening assessments take place at your centre and are delivered by our team of supportive, experienced assessors. Reading and Writing assessments are also completed at your centre and sent to be marked by ESB International. This allows you more time for teaching and learning.

    4. What if my speaking skills are much stronger than my writing skills?

    That’s fine. If your centre allows it, you can enter for a writing Award at one level, and a Speaking and Listening Award at a higher level.

    5. Can I do the S&L assessment if I have a hearing / speaking / processing impairment?

    Yes! Learners with specific needs are able apply for reasonable adjustments to be made to the assessment. If you have any specific questions about reasonable adjustments, please email us. For further information about our policy in relation to access arrangements, please visit: our Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations Policy.

    6. Do your learners need prior knowledge, skills or experience to complete these qualifications?

    There are no prior learning or formal qualification requirements for ESB ESOL Skills for Life qualifications. Learners can be entered for the Speaking and Listening, Reading or Writing Awards appropriate for their ability and needs.