An analysis of the evolution of the IELTS test and an investigation of its face validity

by Teresa Thiel

Institution: University of Tasmania
Year: 1995
Keywords: International English Language Testing System; English language; English language; English language; College students
Record ID: 1032476
Full text PDF: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/21947/1/whole_ThielTeresa1995_thesis.pdf


First, the purpose of this study was to analyse the evolution of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), an internationally recognized language proficiency test, within the context of developments in language proficiency testing in the last decade. Approaches to the validation of language proficiency tests are discussed with particular reference to face val.idity and washback validity. Second, the purpose of this study was to determine the face validity of the IEL TS test from an investigation into international students' perceptions of the test. To these ends, a questionnaire was administered at the University of Tasmania to international students (n=40) who had taken an IELTS test. A focus group interview was also conducted with students who had taken both the IELTS test and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). It was found that the IELTS test generally had high face validity amongst the sample of international students in this study. Positive washback effects appeared to reinforce the face validity of the IELTS. Test preparation was perceived to be relevant to the target situation of academic study. It was also found that an English language proficiency score of IELTS Band 6 may be an unrealistic minimum entry level in meeting the linguistic demands of some courses of study at the University of Tasmania. Tentative conclusions from this study suggest that both the overall band score and the diagnostic profile of IELTS test results should be examined carefully when admitting international students to tertiary institutions. In addition, there are also non-linguistic factors which can affect the potential academic success of international students. Recommendations concerning the key role of English language support and study skills courses conclude this study.