A Brief History of International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The history of IELTS can be date back to 1976 when the test was about to evolve from ELTS (English Language Testing Services) and it was used to assess only post graduate student`s English competency.

In Australia, there seemed to be an urgent demand to introduce ELTS for undergraduate candidates for a decade up to 1988 when the British Council undertook initiatives to change the basic structure of ELTS and make it more globally acceptable legitimate test.


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From 1989 onward, IELTS (International English Language Testing System) starts it`s journey by replacing ELTS with two modules: Academic & General.

The academic module`s reading and writing section were in three categories: A, B & C to justify skills of particular field of study named science & technology, life science & social science.

Since the day of launching, the IELTS test gain popularity with about 200 test centers around the world with continuous supervision and maintenance from the International Development Program (IDP) of Australia, the British Council and the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate.

These mentoring body later decided to make some further reform in April 1995. The 3 subsets are diminished with one academic reading & writing modules.

The subject matter of this revised version were chosen to fit with candidates from different academic background.

Moreover, the poor performance in the reading section was compensate with introducing more universal content in those two sections in order to fit with students from different cultural contexts or tradition.

Before 1995, all four section of IELTS were taken in the same day. As a result, it become increasingly difficult to accommodate students for speaking session.

The problem was solved by introducing different date for speaking test followed by two days after writing, speaking & listening test. An additional web-based system was also developed later on to check the result online within one month of the results being published.

Optical mark reader sheet also approached for routine data collection by UCLES for facilitating further research in order to ensure continuous development and worldwide monitoring of the test.

The test materials are supplied to centers for use of maximum six months and then new versions are forwarded by withdrawing older versions.

The centers are not allowed to reuse same material in any test for security purpose. To maintain a general standard in IELTS centers all over the world, UCLES has developed a computer package to maintain registration, assigning band scores, delivering test report forms. All the data in different test centers can be send to UCLES from this software alone.

The data collected from this procedure so far shows that about three forth of IELTS test taker took their test at South-East Asia & Australia with age ranging from 21-25.

IELTS remains a high stack test in today`s world with these continuous supervision, monitoring & improvements in administrative, theoretical & technological issues.

All these rigorous protocols are making it one of the most acceptable language aptitude test where a number institutions in USA and Canada are adding IELTS every year with their previous TOEFL requirements.