AO of the year

Graded Examinations in Speech – Secondary Level

Our Graded Examinations in Speech are designed to help learners to flourish in their ability to communicate with confidence and enhance their presentational skills and interpersonal communication. 

Just as literacy and numeracy are important foundations for reading, writing and maths; oracy is a vital foundation for successful speaking, listening and communication.

Confident and effective interpersonal and communication skills are key for employability.


Our ESB Awards in Speech provide opportunities for learners to develop their speaking, listening and learning skills through a range of assessment activities across four sections. Here are a sample of these activities from across our qualification range for Secondary level. Please see our specifications for more detail, which are available on our Resources pages.

Section 1

  • Level 1 (Speech to Perform Pathway): Curriculum Talk – learners deliver a talk, with knowledge and enthusiasm, on any aspect of the performing arts.
  • Level 3 – Oral Presentation – learners research and deliver a presentation about a piece of equipment or IT application. In doing so, they explain how it works and its effect on society.

Section 2

  • Level 1: Speaking by Heart – learners introduce their piece of poetry, drama or prose by outlining what factors determined their choice or explaining its context. They should then present their memorised piece, sharing the content with the group and assessor.
  • Level 2 (Speech for Employability pathway): Taking part in an Interview – learners take part in an interview with the assessor, based on their Section 1 talk and CV.

Section 3

  • Level 1: Reading to Listeners – learners should prepare 12-15 pages (containing dialogue) of a book, from which the assessor will choose an extract to be read aloud. They must also introduce the book, placing their chosen section of the book within the wider context of the story.
  • Level 2 (Presentation Focus): Analyse a Real Life Speech – learners choose a recent or historical speech from real life. They begin by introducing its writer or the person who delivered it. In doing so, they give its context and significance, and comment on its style and delivery. They then read the speech, or an extract from it to the group and the assessor.

Section 4

  • Level 1 & Level 2: Listening, Responding and Exchanging Views – learners listen and respond to questions from the group and the assessor in relation to the first three activities. They should also actively contribute to the group discussion by asking questions and offering comments.
  • Level 3: Questions and Discussion – learners respond to questions and feedback from the group and the assessor about any section. They should be prepared to contribute ideas and opinions to develop others’ discussions.


ESB gives us a qualification to work towards. It focuses us on the speaking skills that would doubtless be pushed to one side otherwise. It gives students a valuable platform for airing their views. 

Jayne Schofield, Principal at Thistley Hough Academy

We, at St Margaret Ward, are always so impressed with the impact that ESB assessments have on developing our students’ self-confidence. Public speaking is not a skill many of our students come to naturally, so it is always a pleasure to witness their oratory skills progress as they practise for the assessment.

ESB Organiser at St Margaret Ward

Learner Focussed

Our assessments are developed with learners’ interests at heart and are carried out in groups, so the learners can support each other and feel comfortable as they speak and listen together.

Fantastic Assessors

From the moment our team of skilled assessors meet your learners, they will feel encouraged, supported and assured that their work will be appreciated. Our assessors come from all walks of life but share a common aim to bring out the best in every learner and are sympathetic to each learner’s situation and background. Their input is an invaluable part the ESB experience, as they really put your learners at ease and make the experience.

Our assessors are trained and standardised annually, and moderated regularly to ensure that their marking is consistent and they bring a passion for ESB International’s core values of providing enjoyable assessments.


Here at ESB, the learner is not a performer of studied pieces, but a person taking their place in society as an active citizen. We not only assess what the young person knows or says, but what they have become. Below are just some of the benefits of ESB Speech qualifications (for further examples, see the ‘Four Sections‘ page in the relevant qualification specification pages, available on our Resources pages).


  • present information succinctly
  • carefully select vocabulary to impart their message
  • utilise a range of tier 1, 2 and 3 vocabularies
  • develop critical analysis skills: collecting, interpreting and presenting qualitative and quantitative data.
  • increase learner agency by taking ownership of their own learning

Speaking by heart

  • explore different forms of creative language
  • practise memory and recall techniques
  • speak from memory, allowing learners to focus on the rhythm, cadence and subtleties of language.

Reading aloud

  • encourage reading for pleasure
  • rehearse a piece of text to be read aloud, build confidence, and develop a natural reading rhythm and fluency
  • being able to rehearse, practise, and prepare a reading can allow nervous readers to feel less anxious

Questions and answers

  • develop higher-order questioning and thinking skills
  • learn more about peers and gain appreciation and respect for their points of view
  • encourage learners to be reflective, able to adapt and modify their own views as a result of discussion
  • autonomy of choice in each section encourages reluctant speakers to feel ownership of their material and gain confidence in their responses

What happens next?