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

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

The ISE IV exam corresponds to C2 level on the CEFR and is considered to be comparable to an IELTS band 9.0 or Cambridge ESOL CPE. Examinations at this level demand an extremely high level of language proficiency and conversational ability. Candidates are expected to be mature and experienced enough to handle abstract concepts and contribute to discussion on matters of major importance in today’s world.

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 (3 hours), composed of 3 tasks:

Task 1 - Reading into writing task ( 350 words)

Task 2 - Reading into writing task (300 words)

task 3 – Critical/analytical writing task (250 words)

  • Spoken Interview:

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

The interview will last 25 minutes and has five assessed phases:

- Formal presentation of a topic (up to 5 mins) which you must choose and prepare beforehand.

- Discussion of the topicpresentation (up to 5 mins)

- Interactive task  (up to 5 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 6 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 IV examination – Guidelines for candidates

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

On the website you can access all the documentation associated with the three components of the ISE IV examination outlined below. You can also look at the ISE Syllabus for more detailed information about the ISE IV examination and how to prepare.

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 IV tasks for 2014

(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 9am on the day of the exam.

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

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 3 hours. You must arrive at the centre by 9.00am. If you arrive later than this you will not be able to take the exam and you will lose your place. 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 IV has three written tasks that have equal weighting. You must complete ALL tasks. There is no choice given.

TASK 1 – Reading into writing task – text synthesis  (approximately 350 words): You are required to synthesise information from a wide variety of abstract, structurally complex or highly colloquial texts and then must produce a clear, written exposition of this information (a report or an article). Texts at this level are complex and information is presented in different formats, such as graphs and diagrams.

TASK 2 – Reading into writing task – text transformation (approximately 300 words): You are required to understand and interpret a wide variety of complex and highly colloquial texts in order to produce a piece of writing in a different format or genre, thus showing an appreciation of subtle distinctions of style and register, as well as implicit and explicit meaning. The task requires you to produce a report, article, review, proposal, letter, e-mail or blog.

TASK 3 – Critical/analytical writing task (approximately 250 words): You are required to respond to a quotation and then present a case with an effective logical structure in a way that will inform and engage the target reader. This task requires you to produce a discursive, critical and/or analytical essay.

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

Managing the time available during the examination is your responsibility, but we suggest that you spend 75 mins on Task 1, 60 mins on Task 2 and 45 mins on Task 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.

On the support pages for the Controlled Written examination you will find resources to help you plan and prepare for the Controlled Written examination.

The following resources are available:

Please note that there are no specific subject areas for the ISE IV portfolio and controlled written examination.

3. Spoken Interview

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 five 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). 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 not presentations which extend beyond 4 mins will be stopped and the candidate’s performance will not be rated highly.

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.

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 ISE IV, the tasks are designed to provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to express not only the functions of ISE IV but also your control of the grammatical items listed for all levels.

For practice, you can download sample prompts. These documents also provide guidance on how to prepare for this phase.

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.

The examination ends with a discussion of your portfolio and a conversation on one topic area that the examiner deems appropriate. 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. Please note there are no specific subject areas for ISE IV. At this level you are expected to be able to enter into discussion on any subject that the examiner chooses.

Please see the summary of language requirements for ISE IV (this outlines the language functions, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation expected at this level). The language requirements are clearly shown in the ISE Syllabus





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