GESE: For all walks of life

GESE: For all walks of life

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BY: Academic Support Team
20 September 2021

You probably already know that Trinity's Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE) are perfect for younger learners and teenagers, but did you know that they are also regularly taken by young adults and adults all around the world?

While the Initial and Elementary stages are often taken by children and teenagers, they are also frequently taken by adults too. Meanwhile, the Intermediate and Advanced stages are particularly suited to older teenagers and adults of any age.


Example candidates

We are going to meet five people who are taking a GESE exam. We will see the different levels, ages, and their reasons for taking it.





Paola (5 years old, GESE Grade 1)

Paola is 5 years old. She goes to English classes twice a week where they play games and paint. She loves her teacher who reads them stories and lets them run around sometimes. This year she’s taking her first GESE exam; Grade 1:


Examiner: Touch your nose…. show me your hands… point to your eyes… what colour are your eyes?

Paola: My eyes is dark brown.

Examiner: What colour are my eyes?

Paola: Your eyes is green.

Examiner: And the monkey? What colour are her eyes?

Paola: Her eyes is…er... purple.


As Paola is so young, the examiner has brought a toy monkey into the exam room. She gives it to Paola as something to hold onto and cuddle, and uses it to elicit the language of the grade. Lovely for a 5-year old but not so suitable for a 25-year old!

The great thing about GESE exams is that they are personalised. While the functions being tested remain the same, the way that they are elicited can differ to suit the candidate. For example, at Grade 2, the conversation includes months, cardinal numbers, describing people and stating simple facts. The same exam could be taken by a 7-year-old, a 37-year-old or a 70-year-old.



GESE by online delivery

In response to the situation created by COVID-19, Trinity has developed a digital alternative method of offering GESE and ISE speaking and listening exams. Candidates are now able to take their one-to-one assessments online with an experienced Trinity examiner via video conference in registered exam centres. See the video above to learn more.





Deniz (7 years old, GESE Grade 2)

Deniz is 7. He’s learning English at school but also goes to extra classes twice a week. He feels really proud of himself because he can actually have a conversation with his teacher, who’s from London! They talk about his friends, his home and what he does in his free time. He feels very grown up because he’s taking Grade 2 this year:


Examiner: Who lives in your home?

Deniz: In my home is my mum, my sister and me.

Examiner: Your sister, what is her name?

Deniz: Her name Buse.

Examiner: When is her birthday?

Deniz: Ummm. Ummm. I don’t know.

Examiner: You don’t know? Oh no! Ha ha. When is your birthday?

Deniz: My birthday is in April.

Examiner: Ok, and how old is your sister?


Deniz doesn’t know when his sister’s birthday is so the examiner asks another question; when his birthday is. She personalises the question for him. As we said before, candidates of different ages can take the same exam. Let’s meet someone else also doing Grade 2 below.





Fran (37 years old, GESE Grade 2)

Fran is 37 and she has lived in the UK for a year. She arrived with her husband who had secured a job in engineering. She’d forgotten most of her school-girl English but has been going to classes and can now have some basic conversations. She needs to take the government approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) for her visa requirements. She is taking Grade 2:


Examiner: Who lives in your home?

Fran: I live with my husband and with my two children.

Examiner: Your children, what are their names?

Fran: The girl she is Eva and the boy is Asti.

Examiner: When are their birthdays?

Fran: Eva is in March and Asti is today actually.

Examiner: Really? Well, happy birthday to Asti! How old is he today?


As you can see, the language produced by Deniz and Fran is essentially the same. They both talk about their families and birthdays which is nice because they are able to bring their real lives into the exam room. At the Initial Stage, there is only one part to the exam – the ‘Conversation Phase’ which we have seen. From the Elementary Stage upwards, there is another element, which is the ‘Topic Phase’. Here the candidate can choose their own topic to discuss with the examiner. This makes the exam suitable for any age of candidate as they are free to choose whatever is interesting and relevant to them.





Markus (42 years old, GESE Grade 6)

Markus is 42. For many years he worked in industry but a few years ago, he decided to retrain as a teacher. In order to broaden his job prospects, he is brushing up on his English and trying to get his B1 certificate. The GESE exams are mapped to the CEFR scale and B1 is equivalent to GESE 6. We see him doing the ‘Topic Phase’ of that exam:


Examiner: What are we going to talk about today?

Markus: I going to talk about technology in the classroom. Did your teacher use technology in the classroom when you were child?

Examiner: No. I went school quite a long time ago.

Markus: Me also. My teacher didn’t used any technology, but now everything is changed.

Examiner: In what way?

Markus: Well, now all the classrooms have a smartboard instead of chalkboard. We can use like chalkboard but must use special pens to write. It’s fantastic. Also the students can see the coursebook on the tablet computer. When we have to use coursebook, they can put all answers in there directly.


Markus’s topic is well-suited to this grade. A teenager might also choose the topic of technology but would likely have a quite different perspective on it and would therefore cover the functions in a different way. Teenagers and adults who have enough English are able to have increasingly complex conversations. We’ll move now from the Elementary Stage exams up to the Intermediate one.





Chathawee (17 years old, GESE Grade 7)

Chathawee is 17. She has been doing GESE exams since she was a child but is a little nervous because she’s taking her first Intermediate Level exam this year; GESE 7. At this stage, as well as the ‘Topic Phase’ and ‘Conversation Phase’, there is also the ‘Interactive Phase’ in which the examiner will tell her something and then she will need to ask questions to find out more information and make comments. It will be her responsibility to keep the conversation going:


Examiner: About six months ago, some new neighbours moved in next door to us. They’re very friendly, but we’ve had a few problems and I’m not sure what to do.

Chathawee: Oh. What problems are you have?

Examiner: Well, one problem is that they sit in the garden in the evening and chat loudly.

Chathawee: It’s a problem? Also my neighbours talk loudly in night but it’s the same in all place, do you think?

Examiner: Maybe, but I can hear them at 1 o’clock in the morning during the week.

Chathawee: Oh, it is late. And… er…. you have to…. go to work the next day?

Examiner: Yes, that’s right.

Chathawee: Hmmm, have you tried talking with them? When I had problem with neighbour, I talked with them and although it was difficult and I felt nervous,… er… it really helped situation. Can you discuss problem with your neighbour?


Chathawee asked questions and brought her own experience into the discussion. Her teacher had been right; it was like a normal conversation. However, we may sometimes have a conversation in a more formal setting. We will now look at the final stage of the exams – the Advanced Stage – which begins with a formal ‘Topic Presentation’, again on a subject of the candidate’s choice.





Jae-woo (27 years old, GESE Grade 11)

Jae-woo is 27. He graduated from university and then went travelling for a couple of years. He has now decided that he wants to become a Nature Conservationist. He’ll have interviews in English and will also be required to give the occasional presentation and workshop. He is taking GESE 11:

Jae-woo: Today I’m going to talk to you about climate change. In my opinion, this is an incredibly serious issue which can only be dealt with globally. However, there are barriers to solving it. First, I am going to talk about why it is so important, then I will look at some ideal solutions, then talk about the objections to those and finally set out the improvements that I believe can realistically be achieved.


Jae-woo has chosen a discursive topic (rather than a purely descriptive one) and this will help to generate interesting back-and-forth in the ‘Topic Discussion Phase’. Although he was really nervous, he feels good because he has developed his skills in giving a presentation and defending his ideas. He’s now much more confident about embarking on his new career.


We have met six quite different people. They have all brought their lives into the exam room and have all had a personalised experience of the GESE exam. We have seen that the Elementary and Initial exams can be suitable for any age, while the Intermediate and Advanced ones can even help to develop skills important at any stage of life.


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