It appears that test takers can now register for “IELTS Online,” which is a version of the IELTS test that can be taken from home. The registration page is right here. It appears that the speaking section is offered only on Wednesdays, while the rest of the test is offered only on Thursdays. Yes, that means the test must be completed across two separate days. The cost seems to be $229 USD.
Sadly, registration seems to be limited to certain countries. I’ve used my VPN to confirm that IELTS Online is currently available in Japan and Korea. I have confirmed that it is not available in the United States and India. Those are just the countries I have tested so far. I’ll run a few experiments to figure out which other countries I can register from.
Honestly, though, don’t be surprised if this changes in the near future. I don’t see any details about this on the main IELTS page, and I only know about the registration page because it was sent to me. The only additional details provided right now seem to be in Japanese.
Update: A test-taker guide to the Online Test is now available.
Update: IDP has some unlisted YouTube videos with more information. Find them here:
The British Council recently funded a study comparing the IELTS Academic Test and the Duolingo English Test. You can read the study here. The authors of the report suggest that the DET has some weaknesses. They conclude:
Our analysis demonstrates that, compared to IELTS, DET test tasks under-represent the construct of academic language proficiency as it is commonly understood, i.e., the ability to speak, listen, read, and write in academic contexts. Most of the DET test tasks are heavily weighted towards vocabulary knowledge and syntactic parsing rather than comprehension or production of extended discourse, though the recent addition of Interactive Reading addresses this lack somewhat.
But they do note that:
Scores on the two tests are correlated, which might suggest that DET is a reasonable substitute for IELTS, given its accessibility and low cost. Of course, knowledge of lexis and grammar are essential enabling skills for higher-order cognitive skills, and a test that focuses on these lower-level skills can be useful for making broad distinctions between low, intermediate, and high proficiency learners. However, potential test users should be aware of the limitations of DET in terms of predicting academic success.
The study was done by researchers working out of Georgia State University.
It has been announced that IDP CEO Andrew Barkla will step down in September. He has served in that position since 2015. This means that both ETS and IDP will be getting new leadership around the same time.
Barkla made headlines in 2019 when he became the highest paid CEO in Australia, earning about 38 million dollars in compensation.
The bottom line is that Barkla’s tenure as CEO has been an astounding success. He took the company public in 2015 with a value of $3.40 per share, and brought it to a high of $38.88 in November of last year. Everyone involved has made a lot of money.
That said, I can’t help buy wonder why the IELTS didn’t get a permanent computer based version until 2017, and why it still doesn’t have a home edition. That sort of technological tardiness has surely cost the firm some amount of shareholder value over the past few years.
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.
An update for those waiting for the IELTS Online (aka the home edition). The IELTS website has been updated and now says “IELTS Online will be available in 2022 in limited countries.”
It used to say “IELTS Online will be available from early 2022.“
I think we can read this as a delay to the roll-out of the new test.
Also notable is that the website now says “you will receive your results 3-6 days after taking IELTS Online.“
The original version said “you will receive your results 3-5 days after taking IELTS Online.”
On Friday, IDP Education followed the lead of the British Council and suspended its administration of the IELTS in Russia. That means that at this time the TOEFL, IELTS and PTE tests are not available in that country.
Tracking a weird split in Russia. It appears that the British Council has suspended IELTS testing in Russia, but people can still book an IELTS through IDP in Russia. One quirk of the IELTS that some people don’t know is that test-takers can book the test through either of those companies.
Here’s an interesting story. British Council has sold its stake in IELTS in India to IDP. As you probably know, IELTS is a partnership between British Council (non-profit), IDP (for-profit) and Cambridge University. British Council netted 130 million GBP (180 million USD).
Some people are unhappy. Others, presumably, are quite happy.
Note that British Council has sold only the operations in India. I guess it still retains its stake in the test outside of India.