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
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
IELTS – a history of innovation
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
Ongoing research and development by the British Council and UCLES
EFL (now known as Cambridge English Language Assessment) 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
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
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 English Language Assessment'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.
on the history of IELTS