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May 04, 2009

Academia's leading English language exam being reexamined

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TOEFL is the leading English language exam taken by Japanese students before studying overseas. However, IELTS, is currently the leading exam of this kind internationally and is more widely accepted by universities and immigration authorities in some English-speaking countries . Last year 1.2 million took the IELTS test and just under 1 million took TOEFL.

According to a report in The Guardian, the dominance of IELTS is currently under scrutiny. 'Some language assessment experts are concerned that a test designed to evaluate candidates' performance in English in an educational setting could be a less effective measure of the skills people will need at work or as they settle in new countries. There are also signs that some immigration authorities are starting to question their dependence on IELTS.'

One example is in Australia. 'Since 2001 all applicants for Australian student visas have been required to present scores from either IELTS or the Occupational English Test, a specialist test for health professionals......but Australia's reliance on IELTS could be about to change if an evaluation of other tests, launched by the government last year, is successful.'

In Canada, Janna Fox, associate professor of applied language studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, who along with other assessment experts in Canada has been urging CIC to adopt home-grown tests that reflect Canadian culture and language, agrees that IELTS's global reach gives it a big advantage but said, 'Canada needs to pull in people from all over the world, but the academic nature of IELTS is such that it may not advantage certain groups that we want to attract, such as skilled tradespeople.'

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