This study investigates the relationship between three variables in the oral IELTS test – planning, proficiency and task – and was designed to enhance our understanding of how or whether these variables interact. The study questioned whether differences in performance resulted from one or two minutes of planning time. The study also aimed to identify the most effective strategies used by candidates in their planning.
Ninety candidates, in two groups – intermediate and advanced – each undertook three tasks with no planning time, one minute or two minutes’ planning time. All tasks were rated by two raters, and the transcripts of the speech samples subjected to a discourse analysis.
Neither the analysis of the scores, nor the discourse analysis revealed any significant differences in performance according to the amount of planning time provided. While this suggests that planning time does not positively advantage candidates, we argue that one minute of pre-task planning should continue to be included on Task 2 of the IELTS test in the interests of fairness, and to enhance the face validity of the test. The report concludes with a discussion of possible reasons for the null findings and proposes avenues for further research.