This month’s issue of “Language Testing” includes a review of IELTS.  Like… the whole test.  Test reviews are the best part of that journal, and this one is no exception.  Check it out for an overview of the test, its history and its validity argument.

It isn’t exactly a glowing review, as the author raises some interesting questions regarding the validity of the IELTS as a test for immigration in four countries with multiple classes of immigrants which sometimes experience abrupt changes in immigration policy.  The author also highlights some of the compromises that have been made in allowing the academic and general training modules to share speaking and listening sections.

The review also highlights how testing organizations “can lose control of how their test is used” by discussing how Australian immigration officials have gradually cranked up score requirements mostly to control the number of visa granted (instead of attempting to reflect the level of English needed to participate in society).

The author seems to have a mixed opinion of the validity of each of the specific sections of the test.

It isn’t all negative.  I don’t want you to think that. There are some kind words about the potential for positive washback here.

What I find most striking is that the IELTS is, to some extent, a test stuck in the late 1980s.  Consider how ETS managed to modernize itself by introducing the TOEFL CBT in 1998 and the TOEFL iBT in 2005. Consider also how they are currently (and successfully) trying to do the same thing with at-home testing.  IDP, in contrast, seems much slower to adapt to the changing world.

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