Since its launch in December 1989, IELTS has established a significant profile in Australia while still facing opposition in some circles and competition from other tests which eat into its potential candidature. Many universities run their own English tests for entry into programs possibly as an incentive to lure students to their university. Other institutions may use IELTS but with little understanding of what an IELTS score actually signifies and what level of predictive validity it offers.
This research project was conceived and designed to investigate some major issues relating to tertiary level English language testing generally and ascertain the attitude of the end users of these tests, ie the universities and TAFE colleges, in an attempt to piece together an overall picture of test usage. It was decided to target the institutions both at the Admissions level and l also within individual faculties on a one to one basis, in particular those accepting large numbers of overseas NESB students, to ascertain views on the test. It was felt that opinions should be sought on a range of issues, from the product itself (ie the level of English competence that an organisation can expect from a student offering an IELTS score) to matters relating to test administration (eg the positive aspects and/or shortcomings of IELTS in terms of speed of results and cost to candidates). The overall objectives of the research were:
- To establish which institutions are using IELTS as their main instrument of assessment of English proficiency for incoming NESB students.
- To establish to what extent IELTS is serving the needs of these receiving institutions.
- To establish what other language proficiency tests are being used for assessment of English proficiency.
The research also posed the question as to whether Australia needs the variety of tests, which are currently being used/offered by institutions, and what effect this diverse choice may be having on overall educational standards across the Australian education sector.