IELTS as a predictor of academic language performance, Part 2


Andrea Paul

Date Published:

27th April 2007

This study analyses whether the language behaviour of a sample of students in the academic context is similar to that denoted by their IELTS entry tests.

The study’s aim was to establish whether language behaviour of the students in the four case studies is similar to that produced for, and denoted by, their entry IELTS band score. It addresses three questions: (i) did the IELTS test results predict the students’ language behaviours in real-life academic contexts; (ii) is the students’ language adequate to meet their academic tasks; (iii) are there implications for raising or lowering IELTS entry requirements into university courses?

This exploratory study complements the previous report in this volume (Bayliss & Ingram).

The spoken and written language of four participants from the initial study recorded in their qualifying IELTS Test was compared with language produced in their first semester in a range of university programs. This provided an illustrative analysis of actual language production at both the micro level and macro level in relation to task.

The findings on language production in the four case studies demonstrated that for three participants, language production in writing is generally similar or improved, when averaging out variation across tasks. Spoken language production is generally similar, although two of the subjects demonstrated a lower level in some important aspects of the academic speaking tasks. 

However, issues were raised with regard to this finding when correlating student language behaviour to evaluated success in task completion. Language production at a micro level similar to that in IELTS tasks is not necessarily an indicator of overall language adequacy at a macro level or successful task completion; and different aspects of production have varying effects on the completion of specific task types. The findings lead to recommendations to institutions and, acknowledging the limitations of this study, suggestions are made for further research.