The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an internationally recognised test for English language proficiency. Originally used by schools and universities to check if a potential student had a good enough level of English to study, it has spread to become the standard used by companies and even immigration authorities.

These new uses are now being questioned, however:

…some language assessment experts are concerned that a test designed to evaluate candidates’ performance in English in an educational setting could be a less effective measure of the skills people will need at work or as they settle in new countries. There are also signs that some immigration authorities are starting to question their dependence on Ielts.

The article goes on to say:

According to Kieran O’Loughlin, senior lecturer at Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Ielts’s dominant role in the visa system has fuelled its wider uptake in Australia. He says that the test provides a good measure of the proficiency of users of English who are in the competent-to-good range, but it is less discriminating at lower levels of proficiency.

“Governments, educational institutions and professional associations have been far too quick to adapt the test for whatever agenda they have. Its suitability for these purposes needs much stronger scrutiny,” he said.
But Australia’s reliance on Ielts could be about to change if an evaluation of other tests, launched by the government last year, is successful. The Department for Immigration and Citizenship (Diac) says that it is considering other tests in response to lobbying from exam providers and because of concerns that demand will not be met by Ielts alone.

It will be interesting to see what impact this has, especially on migrants.

Read the full article here.