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Guidelines for applying

IELTS joint-funded research programme 2019

As part of their on-going commitment to IELTS-related validation and research, the British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia are once again making available funding for research projects commencing in 2020. Research proposals should reflect current concerns and issues relating to the IELTS test in the international context. 

A recent list of research studies which have received grant funding since 1995 is available in the Research Reports section. This research makes an important contribution to the monitoring and test development process for IELTS; it also helps IELTS stakeholders (e.g. English language professionals and teachers) to develop a greater understanding of the test.

All IELTS research is managed by a Joint Research Committee, which agrees research priorities and oversees the tendering process. In determining the quality of the proposals and the research carried out, the Committee may call on a panel of external reviewers. The Committee also oversees the publication and/or presentation of research findings.

Areas of interest for 2019

This year, the IELTS Joint Research Committee particularly encourages applications to undertake research studies which fit within these three broad areas.

Test development and validation issues

Research in this area would include:

  • Studies investigating the essential language knowledge, skills, and abilities in domains where IELTS is used (e.g. for migration, employment, academic study)
  • Studies investigating the cognitive processes of IELTS test takers
  • Studies investigating IELTS General Training Reading and Writing tests
  • Studies investigating the Writing and Speaking features that distinguish IELTS proficiency levels.

Issues relating to contexts of test use

Research in this area would include:

  • Studies on the use of IELTS for purposes of migration, citizenship, professional registration, exit testing and employment
  • Studies on the use of IELTS and IELTS scores in specific local contexts
  • Studies to establish appropriate IELTS score levels in specific contexts.

Issues of test impact

Research in this area would include:

  • Studies investigating the attitudes and perceptions towards IELTS among users of test scores (e.g. test takers, teachers, admissions staff, etc.)
  • Studies investigating the impact of preparing for IELTS on various stakeholders
  • Studies investigating the role of interactive communication in IELTS Speaking or Writing tests and its impact on candidates’ preparedness for communication in training or study contexts
  • Studies on English language progression among students, including studies on the relationship between hours of study and typical score gains
  • Consideration will also be given to other issues of current interest in relation to IELTS.

Access to IELTS test materials and score data

Access to IELTS test materials or score data is often not possible for a variety of reasons, e.g. test security, data confidentiality. However, researchers may have access to a range of other materials and data:

  • a limited amount of retired material (e.g. Writing test prompts).
  • IELTS official practice materials, IELTS Scores Guide and other published practice tests
  • Cambridge Assessment English writing scripts and Speaking test recordings for the purposes of analysis,
  • instruments and procedures for investigating the impact of IELTS on materials and on the teaching/learning context.

These are available for use by researchers following consultation with Cambridge Assessment English (and subject to an appropriate research agreement).

Who can submit proposals?

Proposals are welcomed from researchers and institutions with expertise in language learning and assessment research, especially researchers and organisations with a direct and ongoing connection with IELTS, e.g. consultants, examiners and IELTS Administration Centres.

Research ethics and confidentiality

All applications should follow necessary ethical clearance and confidentiality codes as required by your university, organisation and/or region.

What level and duration of funding available?

The maximum amount of funding which will be made available for any one proposal is £45,000/AUD$70,000  (including institutional overheads/taxes). The proposal should make it evident why the requested term of research and amount of funding are justified/appropriate (e.g. there is a longitudinal dimension to the study); otherwise, the chances of a successful application may be affected.

Please note that applications for extensive travel or large items of equipment are not encouraged.

Researchers funded under this round will commence research in January 2020, and the research study will need to be completed and a full report submitted by the end of December 2020 (one year programmes) or December 2021 (two year programmes). 

Submitting a proposal

Proposals for funding should take the form of a typed/word processed document of no more than 10 pages, and be accompanied by the completed application forms.

The Grants Application Form (download PDF version,100KB or download Word version,265KB), and a sample proposal (Word, 35KB) are also available from the British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia – see below for contact details. 

Applicants should submit application forms and project proposals in electronic form either the British Council or IDP: IELTS Australia who are equal funding bodies for the IELTS Research Programme.

Contact details

IDP: IELTS Australia British Council

Jenny Osborne
IELTS Research Coordinator
IDP Education

Mina Patel
Research Administrator
British Council

Who will evaluate proposals?

All research proposals will be evaluated by the IELTS Joint Research Committee.  This comprises representatives of the three IELTS partners, as well as other academic research experts in the field of applied linguistics and language testing.

What criteria will be used to evaluate proposals?

The following factors will be taken into consideration when evaluating proposals:

  • relevance and benefit of outcomes to IELTS
  • clarity and coherence of proposals rationale, objectives and methodology
  • feasibility of outcomes, timelines and budget (including ability to keep to deadlines)
  • qualifications and experience of proposed project staff
  • potential of the project to be reported in a form which would be both useful to IELTS and of interest to an international audience.

Timescale for submission and evaluation of proposals

The following timescale will apply:

30 June  Deadline for submission of proposals
July/August  Preliminary review of proposals by IELTS partners
October  Meeting of Joint Research Committee to evaluate and select successful proposals
November  Applicants notified of the Committee's decision