Session highlights

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is jointly owned by British Council, Cambridge Assessment English and IDP Australia, and is recognised by 10,000 organisations worldwide as a valid and reliable indicator of ability. A presentation explored the role of language tests in opening opportunities and the four principles of language assessment; reliability of results, validity (testing the right thing), impact (consequence of its use) and practicality. “If you don’t design the questions well you might get feedback that is inappropriate and misleads you. We go to great lengths to minimise the chances of that,” said Andrew Blackhurst, Principal Research and Validation Manage, Cambridge English 

Session summary

Strong English language skills boost educational and professional mobility, and language assessments are the key to these opportunities.  In this session we explore the importance of ensuring that language tests adequately assess the high-level language skills needed. Otherwise students may pass the tests only to struggle, perhaps fail, because they are hampered by poor communicative ability.

We look at the four essential test qualities, Reliability, Validity, Impact and Practicality and how they are represented in the IELTS test, noting especially the relationship between test, test- preparation and real-life language use.

New language tests have become available.  Competition is good provided the consumer can make a discerning choice. The major consideration is the extent to which the various tests prioritise the different test characteristics, in particular by using technology to deliver gains in practicality, but posing questions about what they are actually testing, the range of language being sampled and how it is being assessed.


The desire to increase accessibility is laudable and we discuss IELTS’s introduction of Video Conference Speaking as an example of using technology without losing validity.


Andrew Blackhurst, Principal Research and Validation Manager, Cambridge Assessment English (IELTS)