An Investigation of the Predictive Validity of IELTS amongst a Group of International Students studying at the University of Tasmania


Fiona Cotton

Frank Conrow

Date Published:

2nd May 1998

The purpose of the present research study was to investigate the relationship between IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and academic outcomes, as well as the extent to which IELTS predicts the kinds of language difficulties international students experience while studying in Australia. Data was collected over one year from questionnaires returned by thirty-three students, from interviews with twenty-three of these students, and from surveys returned by thirty-four academic staff, two international student advisers and two English support tutors.

Correlations were calculated between the IELTS scores of the student group under investigation and three measures of academic achievement: Grade Point Averages, academic staff ratings of student performance and students' self-ratings of performance. No positive correlations were found overall. However, the reading and writing subtest scores correlated at 0.36 and 0.34 with staff ratings of academic achievement, and 0.46 and 0.39 with students' self estimates of academic performance in second semester.

No positive correlations were found between IELTS scores and language difficulties students reported with aspects of their coursework. Qualitative data indicated that language difficulties are one of many variables affecting academic achievement. Several key intervening variables were briefly investigated, namely, the amount of English language tuition received, motivation, cultural adjustment and welfare difficulties experienced by international students. In addition, students and staff reported their views of IELTS, which was generally perceived to be a fair test.

Final discussion focuses on some of the problems inherent in working with a small sample and on how the results may be interpreted. Recommendations are made for further research.