ESOL Skills for Life Speaking and Listening (Online)

Ready, Set, Go!

The above video is a useful tool that provides an overview of running ESOL Skills for Life speaking and listening exams by online delivery at registered exam centres.

Frequently asked questions

We have prepared some answers to common questions about the online delivery of Trinity’s ESOL Skills for Life speaking and listening exams.

If you have any further queries, do not hesitate to contact your named Trinity coordinator.


They are Trinity's usual ESOL Skills for Life speaking and listening exams. However, instead of interacting with the examiner in person, candidates interact with the examiner on a desktop/laptop via Zoom video conferencing software in a registered exam centre.

See how this works in our video.

Yes - the exam content and skills assessed for speaking and listening exams taken online remain the same, and the results and certificates will be issued in the same way as for our standard format ESOL Skills for Life exams.

No – candidates must choose an image depicting the theme they want to discuss from the Trinity Photograph Bank before the exam. They should personalise the picture when they talk. For example, if they choose a picture showing a family or an event, they should talk about their own family or any event that they attended.

Candidates should prepare for their English language speaking and listening exam and exam tasks in the usual way. They are also advised to practise talking about image themes in relation to their own lives and their own personal experiences 

Candidates are advised to practise using Zoom in class before the exam, so that they feel familiar with waiting rooms and talking to people onscreen.

Yes - candidates can still bring an object into the online exam room if it is small and simple enough for the examiner to see and understand what the object is onscreen. Bringing an object to the exam room must be in line with school rules and guidelines and must adhere to local restrictions and guideline policies. 

At the start of the exam task the examiner asks the candidate to state the number on their chosen picture from the Trinity Photo Bank. The examiner then shares that photo onscreen, so that they can both see it as they talk about the theme that the candidate has personalised in relation to their own lives.

See our video to learn more.

Candidates should choose a photo from the Trinity Photograph Bank. There are many images that represent various processes for the candidate to access before the exam so that they can prepare. The candidate should choose one picture which they can use as a starting point to explain to the examiner how to do something. The examiner will ask the candidate the number of the picture they have selected and then share that photo onscreen, so they can both see it during the task

Candidates can still bring an object into the online exam room if it is small and simple enough for the examiner to see and understand what the object is onscreen. Bringing an object to the exam room must be in line with school rules and guidelines and must adhere to local restrictions and guideline policies. 

Yes - the examiner will share a photograph with the candidate onscreen and ask them questions about it. Candidates will not see the Task 2 picture before the exam.

There are no changes to the way the Task 2 is conducted.

There are no changes to the way the role play is conducted.

No - candidates cannot show PowerPoint slides. They should prepare notes as bullet points using the Presentation Notes Template. Centre staff should paste the bullet points into the Zoom chat box for the examiner to see and refer to before the exam starts.

Candidates should type their presentation notes as bullet points on to the Presentation Notes Template before the exam. Centre staff should then copy and paste these into the Zoom chat box before the exam starts for the examiner to see. Candidates must not send the document as an attachment (the examiner will not be able to open it).

Yes – centre support staff should enter this information. 

No, the candidate must not have full written notes or read from a script.

The group discussion will be between two instead of three candidates. The candidates will appear onscreen from separate physical rooms in the exam centre. Only one candidate is allowed per physical room. The examiner facilitates the onscreen group discussion.

After the candidate has completed their one-to-one interview, the examiner will tell them how long they need to wait for the group discussion. The examiner will return the candidate to the virtual waiting room. The candidate will see a screen asking them to wait until the examiner is ready.

The first candidate will need to wait for the second candidate to finish their individual exam before both candidates can have their group discussion. The first candidate will wait for:

  • Entry 1: 6 minutes
  • Entry 2: 9 minutes
  • Entry 3: 9 minutes
  • Level 1: 11 minutes
  • Level 2: 15 minutes

The second candidate at all levels will wait 1 minute for the group discussion to start. Exam centres should reassure candidates not to worry if the waiting time overruns.

Candidates should stay online and wait alone quietly for the examiner to let them back into the virtual exam room when it is time for the discussion. Exam centres should reassure candidates not to worry if the waiting time overruns.

The examiner will admit both candidates from the virtual waiting room to the virtual exam room for the group discussion. The examiner will ask the candidates to introduce themselves to each other, before prompting the group discussion. The discussion will then proceed as normal between the two candidates, with the examiner facilitating where necessary. The examiner will bring the discussion to an end after the allocated time.

The length of the individual exam is the same as for standard format exams:

  • Entry 1: 5 minutes
  • Entry 2: 8 minutes
  • Entry 3: 8 minutes
  • Level 1: 10 minutes
  • Level 2: 14 minutes

Changes to the timings of the group discussion have been made. See below.

As there are only two, instead of three candidates, the length of the group discussion for online exams is shorter than the standard in-person format for:

  • Entry 1: 4 minutes
  • Entry 2: 5 minutes
  • Entry 3: 6 minutes
  • Level 1: 7 minutes
  • Level 2: 8 minutes

All cases are considered individually. Please register details of needs in the usual way. For visually impaired candidates, for example, the examiners can enlarge visuals on screen, though there may be limitations due to screen size. Visit our special needs provision page for language exams.

Zoom is the video conferencing software that Trinity is using for these exams. Exam centres simply download the Zoom app once from the internet to their desktop/laptop. See also Technology and equipment requirements, which are also detailed in the Additional Information guidance for centres.

No - Zoom is the only video conferencing software that can currently be used to take a Trinity exam. To participate, it is essential that exam centres download the Zoom app, though they do not need to create a Zoom account.

Exam centres can request training on how to set up and run an exam session online. In the meantime, you could practise by downloading and opening the Zoom app and practise using Zoom.

On exam day you will select ‘Join a meeting’ at the recommended time in advance of the session as advised in your instructions from Trinity, then:

  • Enter the examiner’s meeting ID provided for the session  
  • Enter the candidate’s first and last name  
  • Ensure the full name is entered exactly as it appears in the timetable. The examiner has been instructed to only allow candidates into the exam whose full name matches their timetable.
  • Select ‘Join’ to enter the waiting room 
  • Wait for the examiner to admit entrance to the virtual exam room 
  • The examiner should then be able to see and hear the candidate and start the exam

The exam centre is responsible for presenting the correct candidate and ensuring that the spelling of the candidate’s uses the exact spelling as the booking entry. At the start of the exam, the examiner will ask the candidate to confirm their name. If the name does not exactly match the timetable/booking the examiner will not allow the candidate into the room. Please check the Additional Information guidance provided to exam centres for full details.

Usually there is no one else is in the online virtual exam room. However, on occasions, Trinity will monitor examiners to ensure the consistent application of assessment criteria and exam procedures, so there may also be an examiner monitor in the virtual room, who you will not be able to see or hear.

The examiner can see the name of candidates and that they have signed in, but the examiner cannot hear what the candidate is saying or see what the candidate is doing in the waiting room.

No - Candidates cannot take this exam from home because this exam delivery method is designed for delivery at registered exam centres. 

Exam centres must be equipped with appropriate hardware, software and internet in order to administer online exams. Details are outlined in Additional Information guidance for exam centres available at

Specifically, exam centres must have: 

  • An internet connection, broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE).
  • For exams to be delivered continuously and without disruption, exam centres should ensure they have a wifi speed of 10mbps download, and 5mbps upload. It is the responsibility of the exam centre to check they meet these requirements. This can be checked here
  • A laptop or desktop with speakers and a microphone, either built into the desktop/laptop or through a USB plug-in.
  • Power cable and power for laptops. Laptops/PCs need to be connected to AC power at all times during the session.

Exam centres need to use a desktop/laptop with either a webcam and an inbuilt microphone or a headset with working microphone. If you are using headsets, you will need to ensure you adhere to local health and safety measures for hygiene and sanitisation. Please note that tablets, such as iPads and mobile phones are not suitable devices for these exams. 

No - You need to have both working audio AND video to be able to take an exam on Zoom.

No - The SfL speaking and listening exams cannot be taken on mobile devices as they are not suitable for certain parts of these interactive exams. 

Check that the web camera lens is not obstructed and that the audio is unmuted. If this does not work, try checking that your microphone or camera is not connected to another app, such as Skype, as this can prevent Zoom from connecting. Try leaving the meeting, closing the Zoom app, re-entering the meeting code and going through the audio and video checks again. 

First, exam centre staff should sign in the Zoom meeting ID using the name ‘Exam support’ or ‘Centre staff’. You can then communicate with the examiner via Zoom conferencing or the Zoom chat box. If the issue is not quickly resolved within your exam centre, please contact your Trinity representative.

First, exam centre staff should contact their Trinity representative. If you experience technical difficulties and your exam session is outside of office hours, please do wait for the examiner to call you. This call may come from an unidentified number. The examiner is instructed to call you 5 minutes before the session if you are not online. Please make sure your contact details on the Trinity online system are up to date.

Please contact your Trinity representative immediately if the problem can’t be resolved within the timescales advised in your training materials and the exam will be rescheduled. (Note the examiner has the exam centre contact details and knows to contact the centre representative if there are technical difficulties.)

Exam centres can:

  • Sign into Zoom with 'Exam Support' or ‘Centre Staff’
  • Email UK&I Ops staff

A score would not be affected by a bad internet connection. Our examiners are trained to identify the difference between difficulties with Zoom / internet / latency / microphones / webcams and English language-related issues, such as poor fluency, or not remembering the words needed to complete a sentence, for example. If the internet connection is poor and affects exam delivery, the exam will not proceed.

Exams are booked via Trinity’s online exam portal which is available to Registered Exam Centres. All bookings must be made by the closing date (21 days before exam date).

Candidates are enrolled to Trinity’s online exam portal which is available to Registered Exam Centres. All candidate enrolments must be confirmed by the exam centre at the 21-day closing date.

Trinity’s online exam portal will create your timetable for you once your exam session is booked.

Yes - you can make changes to the running order any time up to 72 hours before the exam, at which point no more changes will be possible.

No - you are not required to print mark sheets or report forms for these online exams

You will need two rooms, each with a desktop/laptop (see Technology requirements above).

Yes - stewards and a supervisor will be required. Stewards will steward candidates in and out of the exam rooms, login candidates to Zoom using the candidate’s exact name used for enrolment. Stewards also enter candidates’ notes for presentation (Level 2) into the Zoom chat box.

See our guide for stewards.

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