English as a Second Language

Senior school > Curriculum > English as a Second Language

IGCSE English as a Second Language is sat by many overseas ESL pupils in conjunction with English as a First Language. It should be chosen as an option subject. This course is topic based and aims to expose pupils to a significant amount of English to help them achieve well across the curriculum.

Examinations are taken in the summer of Year 11 and comprise reading, writing, listening and an optional speaking element. Texts are culturally neutral and are suited to pupils who are new to living in the UK.

This IGCSE qualification is split into three papers:

Paper 1: Reading and Writing is worth 66 2 /3 % of the total. Externally assessed.

Typical tasks include:


  • Skimming and scanning skills.
  • Reading for both gist and detail.
  • Following a line of argument or discussion.
  • Reading for detail.


  • Writing a short piece of writing in response to a given situation. The writing can take the form of a letter, email or postcard and students may have to both provide information and ask for required information.
  • Constructing a factual piece of writing based on own knowledge and interests. The writing can take the form of a report or article.
  • Responding to one or two short texts of 500 words in total to produce a summary for a given purpose and reader.

Paper 2: Listening is worth 33 1/3 % of the total. Externally assessed.

  • Listening to short extracts; identifying the item, place or event being described. Listening for detailed information.
  • Following a discussion or argument; identifying attitude and opinions of speakers; following instructions.
  • Listening to a complex argument or discussion; understanding the overall message; identifying attitudes and opinion.

    The IGCSE ESL English as a Second Language qualification is accepted by some British Universities as satisfying their English language requirements.


    This qualification is required by some universities in Anglophone countries as proof of competency in English for speakers of English as a Second Language. The top score in each of the four papers (reading, writing, listening and speaking) is 9.0. A typical entrance requirement for a Russell Group university is a minimum of at least a 7.0 in each of the four papers with an overall score of at least 7.5. It is imperative that year 13 pupils check the IELTS scores required by their chosen universities before they complete their UCAS application. It is recommended that pupils obtain email confirmation of the IELTS requirements for their chosen courses from each individual course admissions tutor. The test fee is £200.00. Kindly note that the fee increases on an annual basis.

    View more subject choices

    A level
    IB Diploma