IELTS is the International English Language Testing System.
IELTS conforms to the highest international standards of language assessment. It tests the four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking. IELTS is a secure, valid and reliable test of real-life ability to communicate in English for education, immigration and professional accreditation.
Candidates can sit an IELTS test in over 900 centres and locations around the world. This global test has the highest levels of quality control.
IELTS is jointly owned by IDP: IELTS Australia, British Council and Cambridge English Language Assessment and delivered through more than 900 test centres and locations in over 135 countries.
IDP: IELTS Australia is one of the world’s leading international education and development organisations offering international student placement, English language training and testing services, and the management of international aid projects on behalf of government sponsors. IDP Education was established in 1969 by Australian universities and has placed more international students into Australian educational institutions than any other organisation.
IDP Education, through its subsidiary IELTS Australia, manages a network of IELTS test centres in more than 30 countries.
IELTS is at the cutting edge of English language testing. The effectiveness of IELTS has been proven since 1989. IELTS test design has continued to incorporate advances in applied linguistics, language pedagogy, language assessment and technology.
Through decades of progressive change, IELTS has remained committed to assessing all four language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) with a face-to-face speaking component. This continues to set IELTS apart from other English language tests.
IELTS – a history of innovation
The forerunner to IELTS was the English Language Testing Service (ELTS) introduced in 1980. The test had an innovative format that reflected changes in language learning and teaching theory and developments in language testing. In particular, the ELTS was influenced by the growth in ‘communicative’ language learning and ‘English for specific purposes’. Test tasks were based on an analysis of the ways in which language was used in academic contexts and were intended to reflect the use of language in the ‘real world’.
Ongoing research and development by the British Council and UCLES EFL (now known as Cambridge ESOL) led to a revised testing system and broader international participation with the involvement of the International Development Program of Australian Universities and Colleges (IDP), now known as IDP Education Australia.
IDP, British Council and UCLES formed an international partnership, reflected in the new name for the test: The International English Language Testing System.
IELTS 1989 – 20 years of setting the standard
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) first became operational in 1989. From 1989 IELTS candidates took two non-specialised modules, Listening and Speaking, and two specialised modules, Reading and Writing.
Further modifications to the test were implemented in April 1995. In keeping with this history of innovation, the IELTS partners continue to be committed to the ongoing development of the test. A revised IELTS Speaking Test was introduced in July 2001. New assessment criteria for the Writing Test were operational from January 2005. A computerised version of IELTS was also introduced in 2005 at a number of IELTS centres. Information on all these projects can be found in past issues of the IELTS Annual Review, and in Cambridge ESOL’s quarterly publication – Research Notes.
The current test retains many of the features of the 1980 ELTS including the emphasis on the comprehension of extended text in the receptive papers (Reading and Listening), and the direct testing of performance through a face-to-face Speaking test and the use of the essay and report formats in the Writing test.
Ongoing research and development
International teams of writers contribute to IELTS test materials. Ongoing research ensures that IELTS remains fair and unbiased – wherever and whenever the test is taken – and that IELTS encourages, reflects and respects international diversity and is fair to anyone who sits the test, regardless of nationality, background, gender or lifestyle.
The rigorous processes used to produce the test materials ensure that every version of the test is of a comparable level of difficulty, so that candidates’ results are consistent wherever and whenever they take the test.
These and the other benefits of IELTS today build on our history of English language testing over many decades.