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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

IELTS: How has the pandemic hit test takers

The organising authorities boast about IELTS being accepted by nearly 11,000 organisations in over 140 countries.

Written by Deeksha Teri | New Delhi I |
Updated: March 10, 2022 12:44:14 pm
IELTS, English proficiency test, International studentsEducational institutes usually have a minimum set score (on a scale of 1 to 10) that they require from international students while assessing their admission applications. (Representative image)

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test to check the English language proficiency of non-native English language speakers. The test is accepted as one of the main eligibility criteria for international students, and people looking to migrate from non-native English regions to other countries.

It started roughly 40 years ago and was designed by English language experts from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.

Types of IELTS

IELTS is held in two formats — IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

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IELTS Academic

immigration image

The IELTS Academic has been developed for those looking to study at university or college as an undergraduate or postgraduate student, or want to join or gain entry into a professional institution. The organising authorities boast about this test being accepted by nearly 11,000 organisations in over 140 countries.

Educational institutes usually have a minimum set score (on a scale of 1 to 10) that they require from international students while assessing their admission applications.

IELTS General Training

This test is usually applicable for people trying to migrate to English-speaking countries from non-native English language regions. It is also sometimes required for entry into secondary education, a college or educational training centre.

IELTS test sections

The IELTS test has four sections—writing, reading, listening and speaking. While the writing and reading sections are different from Academic and General tests, speaking and listening tests are almost the same for the two types of tests.

Changes due to Covid-19

While there has been no major change in the test content, structure, marking or security, there has been a slight change in the speaking part of the exam. “Earlier the exam was always in person and the examiner used to discuss a topic with the student and grade him on that. However, sometimes a student’s speaking test is conducted through a video call. The timings of the video call are intimated to the student when the test venue details are sent to the student by email,” Parul Mittal, Director, International Placewell Consultants Pvt Ltd, told indianexpress.com.

“Also, the speaking test has rapid-fire questions where, during the discussions, the examiner can ask quick questions and the student has to answer them promptly,” Mittal added.

This is a part of the launch of an online format exam. This has given “students the ability to take the test at their homes or wherever is suitable for them. The new online test will be delivered through a purpose-built platform loaded with security features to ensure test integrity,” Lucia Figar, President and CEO of The Global College in Spain’s Madrid told indianexpress.com.

However, candidates should keep in mind that not all universities are accepting the IELTS indicator, which is the online or “at home” version.

Setback amid Covid-19

The IELTS test takers and organising authorities were also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the organisers tried their best to come up with solutions. “Pandemic did affect candidates for a brief period due to the restricted movements and temporary shutdown of the test centres. Given the importance of the test in a candidate’s study abroad process, we wanted to come up with a solution that’d still allow them to take the test during the pandemic,” Piyush Kumar, Regional Director (South Asia) of IDP Education told Indianexpress.com. “We launched the IELTS Indicator, an online test for study abroad aspirants that could be taken from the comfort and safety of the home during those tough times. The Academic test was available for a limited time while IELTS testing was suspended in its standard formats due to COVID-19.”

In India, a lot of candidates used to rely on IELTS coaching classes, especially in the northern region of the country. As Covid-19 spread across the country and shut down all educational institutes and coaching centres, the IELTS coaching too took a hit.

“The pandemic has definitely caused hiccups in the preparation of students for IELTS. Before the pandemic IELTS coaching centres used to have big batches of students and helped them in the preparation,” said International Placewell’s Mittal. “However, with the lockdown, the coaching has slowly shifted online. Most IELTS coaches now give classes online either in groups or individuals. The advantage is that it saves the commuting time of the student. Also, students living in the smaller towns can now get coaching from IELTS coaches based in metro cities without travelling,” she added.

An IELTS coach from Panchkula in Haryana told indianexpress.com on the condition of anonymity that a lot of his students at his institute have come back to the classes after phased reopening but their “skills have taken a turn for the worst”.

“One needs to practice every day and that too in the presence of an expert. This is especially more important for people who come from rural areas. However, with the Covid shutdown, many students lost that practice and that led to some of my students not being able to crack the exam this time. While some cleared, some need more practice now,” he said.

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