Without question, language testing has moved up the economic, educational and socio-political agenda worldwide over the last twenty years, not least within the fields of education and research. Concomitantly, stakeholders, be they test takers, teachers or test score users, rightly expect to be provided with explicit evidence of how test developers are meeting the demands of validity in the tests they offer in the public domain.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), itself a pioneering international collaboration between the British Council, Cambridge English Language assessment and IDP:IELTS Australia has emerged over the last twenty-five years as the predominant screening test for non-English-speaking applicants admission to undergraduate and post-graduate programmes taught in English, and for international migrants seeking admission to professional bodies. Since 1995 the IELTS partners have committed to a programme of continuing research and validation of the test, including external research sponsored by IDP: IELTS Australia and the British Council, with active support from Cambridge, to secure additional information on issues relating to the quality of IELTS and to help IELTS stakeholders to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of the test.
The joint funded programme has drawn in scholars from around the world. In this session we will offer a synthesis of recent projects undertaken through the funded research programme by researchers in Australia, North America, and the United Kingdom, which have focussed on aspects of the cognitive validity of the test – the extent to which the activities incorporated into the test elicit mental strategies analogous to those employed in real world language-usage tasks encountered beyond the test.
This session both showcases the IELTS-related research which will be of interest to those using the test and the role of the Joint Funded programme in supporting a multi-national community of scholars engaged in the critical evaluation of language assessment.