The assessment of pronunciation and the new IELTS Pronunciation scale


Lynda Yates

Beth Zielinski

Elizabeth Pryor

Date Published:

3rd April 2011

Using a mixed method approach, this study explores how examiners view the revised IELTS Pronunciation scale in general, and how they used the scale to award Pronunciation scores to candidates at IELTS-assigned scores of Bands 5, 6 and 7. In general, the examiners preferred the revised Pronunciation scale to the previous one, and they were largely positive about how easy the descriptors and increased number of band levels were to use. They also reported feeling confident about assessing the different features of pronunciation covered in the Pronunciation scale descriptors, and most confident about making global judgements of intelligibility and listener effort, which were the features they considered to be the most important when awarding a Pronunciation score. However, when using the scale to award Pronunciation scores, there was considerable variation between the scores awarded and the features identified as contributing to the assessment of the candidates’ pronunciation. The distinction between Bands 6 and 7 seemed to be particularly problematic, and there was a tendency to award a 6 to Band 7 speakers. The examiners expressed concerns in relation to the specificity of the descriptors at Bands 3, 5 and 7 and the overlap between the Pronunciation scale and the Fluency and Coherence scale.

These findings suggest that further revision of the descriptors and documentation related to the scale may be useful and that increased attention to pronunciation in the selection, training and professional development of examiners.