The importance of understanding test-takers’ perspectives has been emphasised in the language assessment literature (e.g., O’Sullivan & Green, 2011; Weir, 2005). This study explored test-takers’ perspectives on the current practices in IELTS in relation to the global pandemic situation. It further examined any differences in their use of test preparation resources across learners’ geographic locations and proficiency, as well as test types.
A total of 241 potential IELTS test-takers participated from three different geographic regions: South Korea, China, and the United States (approximately 80 from each country). They completed a survey which took about 60–90 minutes, and included background questionnaires, online and offline resource use, test-taker’s learning strategies, and their pandemic-related concerns. All participants were asked to provide brief online interviews at the end. Descriptive statistics, Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA), factorial ANOVAs were performed to examine general patterns and mean differences of perceptual and attitude scores.
The results showed that no significant main effects or interactions emerged for country, test type, or proficiency. This indicates that the pandemic impacted all groups of test-takers to a similar degree when considering impacts as a group. On average, most of the participants mentioned that they thought about delaying IELTS or had to delay/cancel IELTS at some point, i.e., near the midpoint (50 on the 100-point scale). U.S. participants reported using websites (k = 113) more than Chinese (k = 55) and Korean (k = 83) participants. The most frequently reported websites were ielts.org and several news sites (e.g., BBC, CNN, VOA). However, all participants from the three countries seemed to use online resources every day and find them useful.
Overall, the findings offer important implications for test development and administration, and language assessment and learning.