Interview with IELTS Expert, Don Oliver from IDP

In the tenth segment of the interview, Don explains the history of IELTS and the drastic improvements that the test has overcome. He later states that IELTS will continue to make improvements as well.

10.The drastic changes in the history of IELTS

Interviewer: Next, what I would like to ask is the prospect of IELTS. I don’t know how much you can address it. Just the general idea will be fine. What improvements of the IELTS test can we expect?

Don: Yeah, I can’t really be specific about those things, but I can guarantee that improvements will come because that is the history of IELTS. Yeah, as I said earlier, when I started being involved in IELTS in the early 1990’s, it was a very different test. It was a different test in terms of content, in terms of the way it was administered, the Speaking Test was a very different test. And the trend over all of those years has been for the test to become more valid. In other words, it’s really testing what it says it’s testing to become more reliable. That is, you can be assured that the score that you get is the score that you should get and that it will be the score you get if you do it next week as well. There’s more reliability and I can guarantee that whenever there is an element that is found to be not so valid, or that leads to some unreliability, it will be changed, but that’s as much as I can say, really.

Interviewer: Is it possible if you can address any major changes that have occurred?

Don: Well, in the history of IELTS, it evolved out of a test called ELTS, which was without the I. And a lot of the intention and in the earliest stage was that there should be a test that was aimed very much at university entrance into Australian universities. So a lot of the main impetus was from Australia in the early development of IELTS. And there were three different forms of IELTS. There was a science stream and a humanity stream. And I can’t even remember what the other stream was…and the Reading and Writing were very much connected in the early IELTS test. Well, we changed that. We found that that did not really work. So then, it became an academic test, the general sort of academic test, not related to any specific academic field, and the Reading and the Writing were separated, which made it easier to mark the Writing and maybe easier to mark the Reading. And then a few years later, it was found that a General Training Test was required because this Academic Test was being used for purposes which were not academic. In other words, people using it for immigration purposes, for employment purposes, and other purposes. Now, there’s a test developed for them, the General Module. Then after that, it was found that the Speaking Test was not quite as valid as it could be and we changed the Speaking Test. We changed the assessment criteria a little bit for Speaking and Writing. So all of these things have happened. So when I say that the trend is towards improving the test, it’s true! The history of IELTS shows you that and it can continue to improve. No test is perfect, but the desire, the will, and the expertise to improve is there.

Interviewer: Thank you for addressing the history of IELTS and I think the process of how IELTS has changed shows the IELTS’ intention of being very honest and wanting to improve, and be transparent. You know, first it had several formats, including Science and the Humanities. That fact alone really shows how drastic IELTS has improved.

About Don
1: Why did you become an IELTS Expert?
2: The tasks of an IELTS Expert
3: The tasks done for IDP
4: Teaching experience in Oman and Vietnam
5: The factors that helped IELTS establish its worldwide trust
6: Test design process for IELTS
7: The linguistic studies and observations used for IELTS
8: About IELTS’ scoring system
9: The importance of IELTS’ Speaking Task
10: The drastic changes in the history of IELTS←you’re here
About second language acquisition

11: Important factors for second language acquisition
12: Important factors for beginner-level learners of English
13: Important factors for mid-level learners of English
14: Important factors for advanced-level learners of English