IELTS Smart Learning helps improve spoken English capabilities in China

For many students in China with ambitions of studying at a university overseas, achieving good scores on the ZhongKao and GaoKao are top priorities. 

While the ZhongKao and GaoKao assess students for reading and writing, it has only been recently that speaking tests were also requested for middle and high school students.  

To better understand the landscape in China for young teens learning English, the IELTS Partners undertook extensive research and identified that spoken English was a key area of improvement for 14-16-year old students. The research was backed IELTS data which showed that the lowest average score for Chinese students was in the Speaking component, whereas the reading and writing scores were generally much higher.

The research also found that for large class sizes sometimes made it harder for teachers to offer one on one support. 

It became clear there was an opportunity for a new approach to help students to learn and improve their English skills. To tackle this, the IELTS Partners launched IELTS Smart Learning – an AI learning and practice app specifically designed for Chinese students. Using iFLYTEK’s leading AI speech technologies, the IELTS Partners designed and developed a formative assessment product.

The IELTS Smart Learning team has focused engaging with public and private schools as well as language schools, education conferences and technology exhibitions. 

This approach led to the adoption of IELTS Smart Learning by 10 leading schools and colleges, including Suzhou Foreign Language School and Chongqing University, which incorporated the app into their English learning programs for students.  

Lina Qian, Associate Professor at Hefei Normal University highlighted that the research determined there was a clear opportunity for a new approach to helping students learn to speak English. 

“With national policies aimed at improving spoken English skills and a gap in the market for a new approach, the team engaged with schools, families and businesses to understand how they could develop a product to address their concerns and focus on improving English language capabilities. 

“The app has several levels. The initial placement test assesses and determines the student’s language capability. Using this information, the app then determines the right level to help the student improve their skills. 

“For each task, the student receives personalised feedback on how they performed and what they should focus on, while the teacher portal allows teachers to assign tasks to each class or student and review their individual or class progress through comprehensive reporting,”
Lina said.

IELTS Smart Learning has been gaining momentum with more schools opting to use the app as word spreads of its success. 

The IELTS Partners – British Council, IDP Education and Cambridge Assessment English – are pleased with how the app is already helping students achieve their goals. 

“We have seen an improvement in users’ pronunciation and fluency, level of speed, sentence flow, word choice and grammar. More than 1,500 students have provided feedback, with 72 per cent of students ranking the app five out of five in helping to improve their speaking capabilities and building their confidence,”
Warwick Freeland, IDP’s Managing Director – IELTS, said.

“With encouraging results and uptake so far, the team are exploring gamification options and are in the process of listing on various app stores, which will mean they will be able to expand their distribution and sell the product direct to students and parents,”
said Mark Robson, British Council’s Director English & Examinations.

For more information on IELTS Smart Learning, visit