This research project seeks to address the areas of perceived confusion or misunderstanding that candidates sometimes have when attempting to comprehend the rubrics of the IELTS Academic Reading and Listening sub-tests. In the project a sample of actual test question papers and candidate answer papers are analysed and students interviewed in order to determine the extent and nature of the problems of misunderstanding that candidates may have.
Whilst the IELTS specifications are now quite clear, and the rubrics standardised, concise and as simple as possible, the tests that were analysed demonstrate that great care has to be taken over the working of the rubrics. However, it was found that relatively few students misjudged the requirements of the rubrics; often it was the working and style of the questions themselves that caused the greatest difficulties. In terms of the rubrics, IELTS can be applauded for the reasonably low level of misunderstandings generated by the rubrics.