Fairness of IELTS Test Scores in University Admission

  •  Motahar Khodashenas Tavakkoly    


In recent years there has been growing theoretical interest in exploring the relationship between the interpretation
and use of high-stakes proficiency test scores. In these discussions, the role of institutional test users (or test score
consumers) has received only limited attention. This may be due, at least in part, to the lack of consensus in the
literature about the degree of responsibility test users have for the valid and ethical interpretation and use of test
scores. To date, there has also been very little empirical research on the work of these stakeholders. This article
reports on a study focusing on how the International English Language Testing System was used in the selection of
students in an EFL context at an Iranian university and the knowledge and beliefs that test users (administrative and
academic staff) had about the test. The central issues raised for readers by this paper is the possibility that
judgements made on the basis of IELTS may not correlate with the subsequent performance of students, and that
flaws or strengths in these performances may be correlated with IELTS scores and the ensuing entry judgements.
The results suggested that there were a number of serious flaws in the interpretation and use of test scores at this
institution. Recommendations are made for improving the use of English proficiency evidence and the assessment
literacy of staff in universities in Iran or other places around the world.

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