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About the Trinity Integrated Skills in English (ISE III) exam

Trinity's (ISE) examinations assess all four language skills – Speaking, Writing, Listening and Reading.

The ISE III exam corresponds to C1 level on the CEFR and is considered to be comparable to an IELTS band 7.5 or Cambridge ESOL CAE.

The exam has 3 parts:

  • Portfolio:

You are required to produce 3 pieces of written work before the exam date. These should be selected from a list of tasks supplied by Trinity College London.

  • Controlled written exam (2 hours 30 minutes), composed of 3 tasks:

Task 1 - Reading into writing task ( 300 words)

Task 2 - Correspondence task (250 words)

Task 3 - Creative writing task (250 words)

  • Spoken Interview:

This is a one-to-one, face-to-face interview with a Trinity examiner.

The interview will last 20 minutes and has five assessed phases:

- Formal presentation of a topic (up to 4 mins) which you must choose and prepare beforehand.

- Discussion of the topic presentation (up to 4 mins)

- Interactive task (up to 4 mins),

- Listening Task (up to 3 mins)

- Conversation with the examiner including a discussion of your portfolio AND one subject area chosen by the examiner (up to 5 mins)

We would advise candidates to attend an ISE Preparation class before taking the examination. However it is possible to enter without attending classes beforehand.

Preparing for the Trinity ISE III examination – Guidelines for candidates

To prepare for the ISE III examination you can to use Trinity website

On the website you can access all the documentation associated with the three components of the ISE III examination outlined below. You can also look at the ISE Syllabus for more detailed information about the ISE III examination and how to prepare. Read the ISE III section of the syllabus to give you the best possible chance of passing your exam.

The exam components :

1. Portfolio

This is a collection of your best written work. The tasks you choose MUST be selected from the  list of ISE III tasks for 2015

(Please make sure you use the correct list of tasks for this year). You must present three tasks - one task from each of the three sections on the list. You must not include more than three tasks in your portfolio. The portfolio MUST contain your own work. Present these three pieces of work on three separate pieces of paper. You can use dictionaries, online resources and a word-processor to ensure that you are presenting the best quality work you can. The portfolio must contain your own work and no one else's. You may quote other work in it, but this must be clearly referred to as a quotation and attributed to its author. Candidates must NOT copy a piece of written text from any source and present it as their own. Candidates who do so will score zero in the assessment of the task. Accurate word counts must be provided for each task  and clearly stated on the portfolio cover sheet. Please write out the task descriptions on the portfolio cover sheet in the separate sections provided for each task.

Trinity recommends that you spend 6-12 weeks preparing your portfolio, but the overall time it takes will depend on other demands on your time. Students can work on their portfolio tasks up to the day before their interviews are due to take place.

The completed portfolio must be ready for submission by 8.30am on the day of the exam.

(If you cannot attend preparation lessons for this exam you can send your portfolio to English Exam Centres up to 10 am on the Monday before the exam date for our portfolio checking service and you will receive feed back on a feedback form. This costs £30. Each piece can receive feedback once before the portfolio is given to the examiner)

On the Trinity website you can download examples of portfolio tasks with assessors’ comments to help you to prepare for this part of the examination.

2. Controlled Written Examination

You must arrive at the centre by 8.30am. If you arrive later than this you will not be able to take the exam and you will lose your place. The controlled written examination is a test of your reading and writing skills taken under examination conditions. The examination starts at 10am and the time allowed is 2 hours 30 mins. The use of dictionaries and other language aids is not permitted. You must write in blue or black pen and you may not use correction fluid.

The controlled written examination at ISE III has three written tasks that have equal weighting. You must complete ALL tasks. There is no choice given.

TASK 1Reading into writing task (approximately 300 words): You are asked to synthesise information from a variety of text types and from a number of different sources and then complete a written task (an article or a report) using the information provided. Information is also presented in the form of graphs, tables and diagrams.

TASK 2 – Correspondence task (approximately 250 words): You are required to write a formal or semi-formal letter in order to present a point of view, criticise and/or request action.

TASK 3 – Creative writing task (approximately 250 words): You are required to display your ability to use the language imaginatively to convey emotion and personal perspectives.

Managing the time available during the examination is your responsibility, but we suggest that you spend 70 minutes on Task 1, and 40 minutes each on tasks 2 and 3. Please be aware of the need, within the time available, to organise your thinking and writing as well as paying attention to grammar, spelling, vocabulary and punctuation.

Please note there is a 10% tolerance above and below the stated word length range.

The following resources are available:

Subject areas for the portfolio and the controlled written examination are: Roles in the family, communication, the school curriculum, youth behaviour, use of the internet, designer goods, international events, equal opportunities, social issues, the future of the planet, scientific developments, stress management.

3. Spoken Interview

This is a one-to-one, face-to-face interview with a Trinity examiner. The interview will last 20 minutes and has five assessed phases:

i) Formal oral presentation (up to 4 minutes)

  • The examination begins with a formal oral presentation of a topic of your choice which you should prepare before the examination takes place. The examiner does not interact with you during this phase. As this is a formal presentation, it should have a clear structure which engages and maintains the examiner’s interest.
  • Your presentation must be no longer than four minutes, and you are required to produce brief notes in the form of a handout which should be given to the examiner before the presentation. Personal notes do not have to be shown to the examiner.
  • You may use technical aids (e.g. powerpoint), but remember, all aids must be set up prior to the examination and be ready for immediate use as there is no time allowed for this in the actual examination.
  • Please note presentations which extend beyond 4 mins will be stopped and the candidate’s performance will not be rated highly.
  • Please note the topic should not be chosen directly from the lists of subject areas for the Conversation phase (see part v) below), or linked to any of the tasks in the portfolio. Instead, candidates should prepare a personalised topic.

ii) Discussion of the topic presentation (up to 4 minutes)

  • This will then lead into a discussion of the presentation which you must initiate by inviting questions and comments from the examiner. You are responsible for engaging the examiner in the discussion and must be prepared to ask and answer questions. The discussion should be about the actual presentation rather than on the general theme.
  • Please note a candidate who fails to prepare a Formal topic presentation cannot be assessed for this phase or the Topic discussion. These two will be voided and this will result in a fail being awarded for the examination as a whole.

iii) Interactive phase (up to 4 minutes)

  • The next stage is ‘the Interactive phase’. Examiners initiate the phase by reading out a prompt. It is then your responsibility to ask questions and make comments in order to develop and maintain a conversation based on the initial prompt.
  • At the Advanced stage, in addition to expressing the language functions of the grade, you are expected to demonstrate control of grammatical items of the grade.
  • For practice, you can download sample prompts. These documents also provide guidance on how to prepare for this phase.

iv) Listening task (up to 3 minutes)

  • The next stage is the Listening task. The examiner will read aloud three listening passages. You are required to either suggest a suitable ending to the passage or answer a question about the participants, contexts or settings. Please note the examiner will not repeat the listening texts even if they are requested to do so.
  • For practice, you can download sample tasks. This document also provides guidance on how to prepare for this phase.

v) Conversation with examiner (up to 5 minutes)

  • The examination ends with a discussion of your portfolio and a conversation on one subject area selected by the examiner. You must ask the examiner at least one question about your portfolio. This must relate to the content and must not be designed to find out the examiner’s opinion of your work.
  • You will also have a detailed discussion of one subject area as selected by the examiner from this list: The media, advertising, lifestyles, the arts, the rights of the individual, economic issues.
  • In the Conversation phase, ISE III candidates will be expected to: engage the examiner in a meaningful discussion on complex and abstract topics, influence the direction of the exchange, maintain the flow of the exchange, demonstrate their ability to use a range of complex language flexibly and effectively.
  • Please see the summary of language requirements for ISE III (this outlines the language functions, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation expected at this level). The language requirements are clearly shown in the ISE Syllabus

Sample ISE III interviews can be found on the Trinity website. Watch the ISE III videos for Edoardo and for Lorenzo. From those links, also read the ISE DVD 2008 notes for Edoardo and the ISE DVD Assessment and Rationales 2010-2013 document for Lorenzo, to understand how each of these candidates was marked by the examiner and what grade each candidate received and how they could have scored a higher grade; note why they didn’t receive higher marks. Study these notes carefully, alongside reading the ISE III section of the syllabus (available above) to fully understand what is required in your ISE spoken interview. Read these documents and watch the videos together as part of your preparation. Remember, these interviews are not scripted and they are never exactly the same. Viewing these videos together with the two documents listed will give you the best chance of passing in this section of the exam; but they should be used together. With these videos, you can see the structure of the interview and see the kind of interaction between the candidate and the examiner so you know what to expect when you are in the interview.

We strongly recommend that you read the ISE III section of the ISE Syllabus for all parts of this exam in order to be fully prepared.




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