Bolton School Girls’ Division Newspaper


The ESB: To Speak or Not to Speak?

What is the ESB?

The ESB, or English Speaking Board exam, is an assessment comprised over three parts in order to test your literacy and delivery in front of an audience. It truly is a test of nerve for every year 8 student; speaking to your peers about a topic of your choice, whether that’s ‘the great barrier reef’ or ‘conspiracy theories about the moon landing’ is no mean feat.  

Then there’s the challenge of reading a book… with expression. You just had to hope that you didn’t look up and make eye contact with your friend in the audience because, once you started laughing, it was impossible to stop. I would know.  Your final section is a poem, or a news article depending on the level of ESB you’re completing and with it comes a test of your memory as well as your communication skills, which definitely struck fear into the heart of my twelve-year-old self.


The ESB is not however meant to scare you or become a chore for you to complete but instead focuses on building the skills necessary to carry you through later in life. Representing yourself with confidence through developed verbal skills is the basis for any job interview or networking event you attend during your career and ESB sets you up to thrive in this kind of situation. 

“At ESB, we believe oracy to be at the heart of any learning experience.” – ESB Website 

Delving into Personal Experiences

The ESB or EnglishSpeaking Board Exam was first introduced to me when I was in year 6, enjoying my lack of responsibilities and wet play times, when I was told that I had to complete a presentation on a topic of my choice… on my own. I was so indecisive, and stressed about being indecisive, that my first topic was chosen by my brother, whose choice of ‘smartphones’ wasn’t exactly the most riveting option. Running out of time however, I wrote my presentation, chose a poem and a book to read from and set out to complete my ESB.  


Looking back, I think I did enjoy it, since although I found the process stressful, it gave me a chance to talk without anyone else interrupting me, and I loved talking. Hearing the presentation choices of everyone else and feeling truly challenged by some of the questions I was asked by the examiner created an experience that I truly valued, and that helped me grow in confidence as I progressed to senior school. 

Then came year 8, and it was time to do the exam again. Feeling a little more confident that my initial experience, I was happy to participate, as evidenced by my own choice of topic this time. 

I chose to do the benefits of music therapy, talking about companies such as Nordoff Robins in the UK and my thoughts on the subject. Although I’m sure it wasn’t the most interesting to everyone in the room, I delivered my presentation with enthusiasm, and it showed in the distinction I gained finishing the award, which I was extremely proud of! 

My final experience of ESB is actually underway at the time of writing this article. A few Year 12 members of English Enrichment at school are undertaking the grade 8 level ESB, with presentation topics ranging from ‘Animation in Film’ to ‘LGBTQ+ Representation in Literature’. 


Grade 8 ESB (Year 12)

For this year’s exam I chose to talk about fairy tales; a topic I also wrote an article on for our newspaper earlier on in the year. The standards for delivery at this level include fluency and a good connection with the audience, emphasised especially in the questions that will be posed to you at the end by everyone watching. 

The second section is once again a piece of literature that must be either read or recited out loud, while making the audience aware of the themes and nuances of the text. Having studied it in my first year of A Level English Literature, I have chosen the Great Gatsby as my book, and am working on bringing a conversation between two male American characters to life.

Our final section this year is the discussion of a news article chosen by the candidate, who will lead the discussion, asking the other participants probing questions and summing up the viewpoints of the group at the end. 


It is an exercise in leadership and flexibility, as well as requiring you to keep a cool head when timing is of the utmost importance. 

Through a practice session I and a few others from my group completed recently in front of an ESB examiner, we were able to glean much constructive feedback on our completion of each section, especially in the discussion area since we hadn’t done much practice beforehand. Nervousness aside, I genuinely think that this qualification will be beneficial to me in the future, not only to put on a personal statement, but also to develop skills that I can utilise in daily life. 

Should you do the ESB?

If given the opportunity, I think that doing the ESB could only be a positive addition to your skillset, whether you think you’re naturally suited to public speaking or not. I’m incredibly glad that school offered us the chance to explore this qualification early on, and I think that any year 8 students, and those introduced to the exam later on, should really make use of the knowledge it gives you. 


By Ananya Ajit

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