This report presents the results of a preliminary exploration and comparison of test-taker and examiner behaviour across two different delivery modes for an IELTS Speaking test: the standard face-to-face test administration, and test administration using Internet based video-conferencing technology. The study sought to compare performance features across these two delivery modes with regard to two key areas:
- An analysis of test-takers’ scores and linguistic output on the two modes and their perceptions of the two modes.
- An analysis of examiners’ test management and rating behaviours across the two modes, including their perceptions of the two conditions for delivering the speaking test.
Data were collected from 32 test-takers who took two standardised IELTS Speaking tests under face-to-face and internet-based video-conferencing conditions. Four trained examiners also participated in this study. The convergent parallel mixed methods research design included an analysis of interviews with test-takers, as well as their linguistic output (especially types of language functions) and rating scores awarded under the two conditions. Examiners provided written comments justifying the scores they awarded, completed a questionnaire and participated in verbal report sessions to elaborate on their test administration and rating behaviour. Three researchers also observed all test sessions and took field notes.
While the two modes generated similar test score outcomes, there were some differences in functional output and examiner interviewing and rating behaviours. This report concludes with a list of recommendations for further research, including examiner and test-taker training and resolution of technical issues, before any decisions about deploying (or not) a video-conferencing mode of the IELTS Speaking test delivery are made.