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What are IELTS researchers working on?





Date Published

25 March 2024

The impact of generative AI (GenAI) on assessment, best practice for English test development, and how IELTS can remain fit for purpose in the 21st century, are just some of the key areas the IELTS research and validation team are working on, according to Dr Tony Clark, Head of IELTS Research at Cambridge University Press & Assessment.

Dr Tony Clark, Head of IELTS Research, presenting to students and HE professionals at London UCL

Dr Tony Clark, Head of IELTS Research, presenting to students and HE professionals at London UCL

IELTS research: behind the scenes

At a recent seminar at University College London, UK, Dr Tony Clark gave a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the team.

‘IELTS remains at the forefront of English language assessment and continues to provide life-changing opportunities for millions of test takers around the world,’ commented Dr Clark. He continued: ‘Supporting test takers with high quality testing on this scale requires an advanced testing infrastructure underpinned by a global research programme. Whether it’s finding new ways to test English in a changing world or improving our existing capabilities, the IELTS research team is involved with several important studies all over the world.’

The event brought together researchers and representatives from the higher education sector. Dr Clark showcased how the team’s research helps to explore new ways to deliver the test, ensure fitness for purpose, and detect malpractice. He also introduced the work of the cross-partner IELTS Research Group, a team of researchers from the British Council, IDP IELTS, and Cambridge University Press & Assessment.

Supporting IELTS test score users with research

Dr Clark shared some practical and ongoing examples of the work his team does. He said: ‘Our research is also used to help IELTS test score users such as universities, to decide which scores to set for their programmes and courses. We work to support admissions departments to define relevant scores so that the students they admit will be able to engage at the appropriate level as soon as they start their course.’

Dr Tony Clark, Head of IELTS Research presenting about current trends in language assessment at London UCL

Dr Tony Clark, Head of IELTS Research presenting about current trends in language assessment at London UCL

A changing education landscape

The seminar was also a chance to discuss the changing education landscape, and what this means for English language assessment. Dr Clark commented: ‘It’s an exciting time to be involved in English language assessment. The rise to prominence of technologies such as AI are really shaking up the world of education, and having a big impact on how we communicate with each other. To understand what changes like these mean for English language assessment, our researchers are continually reviewing the latest innovations. It is essential that these are fit for purpose especially when it comes to high stakes testing. Once we can prove they are ready, we will further incorporate such developments into our future testing procedures without compromising the validity and reliability of the assessment.’

Learn more about how the IELTS test is designed to provide a reliable and valid assessment of English language proficiency, helping you select the right students for your institution.

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Interested in conducting an applied research project related to IELTS? Applications are now open for our IELTS joint-funded research programme.