Student with her hand up in the university lecture hall

IELTS – helping universities to recruit students with the right skills





Date Published

19 April 2023

When students arrive for their first day at university with the skills they need for success, it’s very rewarding for the institutions, for student recruiters and for the students themselves. But recruiting students with these skills can be a big challenge for universities all over the world.

If your students can communicate effectively in English, they are likely to find their classes much easier and less stressful, especially at the start of their courses. They will also have a greatly reduced need for language support from the university. We design the IELTS Academic test to cover the full range of English language skills your students need in their first weeks and months at your university. This gives them the ability to understand sophisticated spoken and written language, to write effective arguments and to contribute to discussions on academic topics.

University-ready students

IELTS Academic doesn’t just test students’ grammar and vocabulary. It covers a wide range of language skills which students need for academic study – skills such as reading and summarising complex information, writing essays, presenting their ideas in class and collaborating with fellow students.

This focus on the skills students really need is one of the factors which make IELTS ideal preparation for higher education. In fact, research by Anthony Green at the University of Bedfordshire shows extensive similarities between the tasks in an IELTS test and the way students use English in their studies.i

From understanding to communicating

When students prepare for IELTS Academic, they get a lot of practice in speaking and writing English, thus building their skills and confidence. This is important because using a foreign language can be stressful for students, especially when traditional teaching methods emphasise accuracy over fluency. This is one of the reasons why many students may lack the confidence to join in with seminars and other discussions and may be too cautious about expressing themselves fully in writing.

An investigation by David Allen at Ochanomizu University in Japanii shows that preparing for IELTS Academic improved students’ speaking skills, giving them a lot of opportunities to practise and to improve their ability to use the language more actively. This can be enormously useful in preparing to study in English, particularly for students whose previous experience of language learning may have concentrated mainly on understanding the language in speech and writing.

Putting it all in order

One of the key skills that students need is to be able to organise their ideas and opinions in essays and term papers. This is something that new students can find difficult because they are not used to thinking in this way.

This is another area where IELTS can improve students’ skills. Dr Tony Clark of Cambridge has highlighted how the IELTS Academic Writing test helps students to develop not just their language skills, but also the ability to organise their ideas in the way that English-medium universities expect.iii

Students from many cultures are often unfamiliar with the way English-medium universities expect them to write, and they often struggle to learn this skill.

Dr Tony Clark

Supporting students beyond the learning environment

It’s important to remember that good English language skills go beyond improving academic performance and can really help with student well-being. Students who have good English language skills find it easier to integrate into university life and the wider community in the country where they are studying.

This is yet another area where IELTS can help. The live Speaking test with a trained Examiner ensures that students have the confidence to use their English in everyday conversation, as well as in a university context.

IELTS tests draw on more than 30 years of research and consultation with universities all over the world. Our specialists continually investigate and refine the test to ensure that it has a positive impact for test takers, for the organisations which use IELTS scores and for society as a whole. Our goal is to help your students to succeed.

Join over 12000 organisations who trust IELTS. Learn more.

iAnthony Green (2007) Washback to learning outcomes: a comparative study of IELTS preparation and university pre‐sessional language courses, Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 14:1, 75–97
iiInvestigating Japanese undergraduates' English language proficiency with IELTS: Predicting factors and washback
iiiTony Clark & Guoxing Yu (2021) Beyond the IELTS test: Chinese and Japanese postgraduate UK experiences, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 24:10, 1512-1530, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2020.1829538