Investigating test preparation practices: Reducing risks


Phil Chappell

Lynda Yates

Phil Benson

Date Published:

1st March 2019

Standardised language tests can have a crucial and long-lasting impact on the study, work and life trajectories of globally mobile people.

Test companies, therefore, have a responsibility to ensure that potential candidates have access to the right kind of information about their test so that they can prepare adequately and provide a snapshot of their proficiency that is reliable and has face-validity. Failure to do this can spawn negative attitudes and demotivate test-takers. However, there has been insufficient documented evidence to-date of the range of test preparation experiences among IELTS test-takers: what they know about the test, how they prepare to use test-taking strategies or the activities they undertake in their daily lives to improve their English in preparation for the test. This report addresses these questions.

The study involved two stages. First, a questionnaire with a series of questions about test-taker experiences with IELTS Test preparation was administered to over 750 candidates from more than 80 different countries of origin. Twenty-seven of those respondents were then interviewed in-depth to further explore their responses.

The report includes a discussion of a range of factors that impact on preparation for, and perceptions of, the Test, and concludes with some implications for all stakeholders to consider in the interest of counteracting potential negative attitudes, and better supporting test-takers as they prepare for the test.