IELTS Insider: The Six Stages of Exam Development

Looking to improve your chances of IELTS UKVI success? Familiarize yourself with the little-known aspects of the high-stakes test!

Find out why IELTS is one of the most trusted English proficiency assessment exams in the world. Discover how the exam guarantees fair, accurate, and secure language evaluations. Learning about these aspects of the test will help you acquire a better understanding of its structure and development. Ask your IELTS center instructor about these things or conduct your own research.

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How the IELTS test is developed

All IELTS tests—from general versions like the IELTS Academic and General Training to location-specific versions like IELTS UKVI andIELTS Life Skills—undergo a series of rigorous development and validation processes. Among other things, these procedures make sure that every IELTS exam facilitated around the world…

      ·         …provides a fair and accurate assessment of the examinee’s listening, reading, writing, and speaking abilities.
      ·         …evaluates language skills; not specialist knowledge. IELTS achieves this by only including general-interest topics that test takers of all ages and backgrounds can relate to.
      ·         …features exam questions that are fair and appropriate in all cultures. IELTS achieves this by conducting extensive trial tests with people from various cultures.

To achieve these results, IELTS exams undergo the following six development phases.

     1.    Commissioning
IELTS commissions language experts from all over the world to develop test items. Guidelines and requirements are given to each participant to ensure the quality and consistency of their submissions.

     2.    Pre-Editing
At this stage, IELTS makes sure each submission conforms to the set specifications. Questions that missed some of the requirements (e.g., the question’s topic, cultural consideration, etc.) are returned to their makers with feedback for revision. IELTS center coaches recommend the same level of attention to detail when taking the writing test.

     3.    Editing
Once the question makers revise their work according to the given feedback and resubmit it, IELTS will reassess their output. If it meets all the set requirements, the materials are approved for pretesting. If it doesn’t, the output is once again returned for further revision. 

     4.    Pretesting
Representative test takers from all over the world take the approved materials. IELTS gathers and examines the results to help them make informed decisions about the test’s development and determine if the material can be included in the final test.

     5.    Standards Fixing
IELTS evaluates the difficulty levels of the recordings and texts in the listening and reading exam. They make sure that the band scores in all the test versions—from IELTS Academic to IELTS UKVI—indicate the same level of ability.  

     6.    Test Construction and Grading
All the approved materials are condensed and finalized in a single exam. IELTS runs last-minute evaluations to make sure all the components conform to their requirements.
Get to know the little-known aspects of the IELTS exam. Enroll in an IELTS center to learn more and elevate your chances of reaching your desired band score.

“Ensuring Quality and Fairness.” IELTS. Accessed November 28, 2017.
“How We Develop the Test.” IELTS. Accessed November 28, 2017.
“Test Security.” IELTS. Accessed November 28, 2017.

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