IELTS Online

A brighter future: broadening access to higher education with IELTS Online





Date Published

06 February 2023

IELTS Online has landed – a flexible new way to take IELTS Academic. Future students now have greater access to our globally recognised assessment. They can take IELTS Academic in a test centre on paper or on computer, and online, at home. This increases opportunities for test takers and broadens access to the student market for institutions.

In this article we explain why we chose to innovate; how we ensure fairness and trust for everyone; and how institutions can take advantage of broader access with IELTS Online.

Greater accessibility for international test takers

IELTS helps people change their lives through education. Over the last 30 years, our tests have been taken more than 30 million times, acting as a gateway to work, study and life abroad for people all over the world.

IELTS Online is a new way to take the test, but it is the same IELTS test, backed by academic research and trusted by institutions and test takers worldwide.

With more reach and greater possibilities, IELTS Online helps universities and colleges that receive IELTS Academic results expand their international student recruitment.

IELTS Online: the flexible new way to take IELTS Academic

IELTS Online gives test takers the chance to take their IELTS Academic test from home or any private space with a reliable internet connection. While many test takers will still choose to sit the paper-based or computer-delivered versions of IELTS Academic in a test centre, IELTS Online improves accessibility and offers increased flexibility and choice for test takers.

It is difficult for me to find time to get to the centre, I have a child, so it is better and more convenient to take the test at home!

IELTS Online test taker

The same test, delivered differently

IELTS Online delivers fair, accurate and secure assessment, as well as trustworthy and meaningful scoring.

  • Covers all four English skills – listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
  • Offers an online Speaking test with a human Examiner.
  • Is marked by official IELTS Examiners (Writing and Speaking tests).
  • Safeguards results with multi-layered security.
  • Uses the same Results Verification Service.

I performed as well as expected in the test. I can use my own keyboard in a relaxing environment.

IELTS Online test taker

Research shows IELTS Online is reliable and well received

As we are introducing tests in an online environment, we have worked hard to ensure that IELTS remains fair and relevant for everyone.

To allow us to administer the IELTS Speaking test remotely, we carried out an exhaustive, in-depth research programme testing video-call technology in a test centre. Thanks to this study, we know that the video-call Speaking test is as effective and as accurate as in-centre testing.

The results concluded that:

  • There is equivalence of scores between face-to-face and video-call Speaking.
  • Each test version measures the same type of content.
  • Examiners are confident the technology allows test takers to demonstrate their proficiency.
  • Test taker perceptions of the IELTS Online Speaking test are positive.

A more convenient test

One of our main aims is to make sure the IELTS experience is right for our test takers, and the only way we can do that is to speak to them directly. We surveyed 2,444 online test takers to understand their views on all aspects of the online testing process.

We found the following insights:

  • Test takers had positive perceptions towards at-home testing.
  • Respondents noted that convenience was one of the main benefits of taking the test at home.
  • Communication between test takers and Examiners was a key factor in successful test delivery online.

IELTS Online – secure online English language testing

It is also essential that IELTS is safe and instils confidence in test takers and institutions alike. Thanks to multiple layers of security before, during and after a test, IELTS is trusted by universities, colleges and students around the world.

Our multi-layered approach to test security

1. Pre-test2. During test3. Post-test
Unique test versionsSecure platform: Inspera Exam PortalPre-release results check
Unique test-takers IDsIELTS-trained proctors available for whole test durationPlagiarism check
Stringent ID verificationContinual monitoringInvestigation of suspicious activity
360° scan of test environmentAI augmentedAuditing process
ID rechecks

Phase 1: pre-test

IELTS Online has a number of checks in place to verify official identification (ID) throughout the testing process. These take place:

  • during the booking and test administration process to make sure the test taker is who they say they are
  • as part of the login process (the test taker must take a photograph of the same ID document for verification)
  • during the Speaking test to ensure the same person has completed both parts of the test. In this verification phase, the greeter also scans each test taker’s room to check if it meets regulations.

Phase 2: the platform

IELTS Online uses the exclusive and purpose-built Inspera Exam Portal (IEP).

The IEP isolates and locks down the test taker’s device at the operating system level. This means test takers cannot access the internet or any other program during the test.

The Speaking test is given live online and administered by an IELTS-trained Examiner. The video-call Speaking software is fully integrated with the platform, ensuring a good testing experience.

Phase 3: proctoring for support and security

Test takers are monitored in real time by specially trained IELTS proctors for the full length of the test. This means anyone who needs help will receive a quick response.

Artificial intelligence also supports proctors by flagging suspicious activity. If needed, the proctor can seek a second opinion from their supervisor before taking appropriate action. Tests may be halted and test takers banned if there are any serious security breaches.

Further security measures

Test content

Each test taker is given a unique test. This minimises the chance that they can share usable information afterwards.

Pre-release results check

Statistical analyses uncover unusual scoring patterns or suspicious scores – and guarantee the accuracy and validity of each test.

A plagiarism check compares all written responses for each IELTS Online test, and our investigation teams then check any suspicious submissions. Any tests flagged for suspected malpractice are validated and withheld before the results release date.

Continual auditing process

IELTS Online is continually audited so that new threats and challenges are identified.

North Carolina State Grad School: a case study

Lindsay Gentil has been the Director of Admissions at North Carolina State Grad School for around 17 years. And for more than a decade, she has been working with international students specifically – helping them get through the admissions and visa process.

It is no small task. Approximately 65% of applications to North Carolina State are from international students:

“We get about 16,000 applications a year. It’s pretty busy! And since 2021, we’ve definitely seen a post-Covid bump in student applications.”

NC State has been working with IELTS for approximately 15 years – and Lindsay heard about IELTS Online through the newsletter.

“I think the online version will help future students – it makes the process easier: the more options there are, the better. As a trusted test, working with the organisation, I feel pretty confident that this is just going to be another addition to what IELTS offers to the candidates.”

A better test taker experience

When it comes to test taker experience, Lindsay is positive too.

“Students can save time and don’t have to travel, if that was a burden for them. People tend to be more comfortable at home too, there’s less anxiety. Tests can be very nerve-wracking for them.”

In terms of security and efficacy, she is happy that time was invested into getting things right.

“It’s good to see IELTS didn’t launch the online test too fast – that’s about security, making sure results are accurate, and being fair to the students.”

Expanding market opportunities

Lindsay hopes to see the market open up. “Avoiding travel is a huge advantage. It helps broaden our diversity of international students and perhaps open admissions up more to South America, giving future international students the opportunity to take a test.”

Final thoughts

IELTS offers more choice to test takers and increased opportunities for universities to reach more people internationally. With a secure and reliable system, we are proud to be able to broaden access to educational opportunities for test takers all over the world.

Receiving IELTS Online results is easy

If you are using our E-Delivery Service, then you will automatically receive IELTS Online results electronically (no paper Test Report Forms will be issued) via the IELTS Online Results Verification Service, unless you update your account details to tell us otherwise.

If you would like to receive IELTS Online results but are not signed up to our E-Delivery Service, you can also do this by updating your account details.