How The IELTS Exam Is Developed - IELTS University (Singapore)

How The IELTS Exam Is Developed

Many candidates who have to take the IELTS exam as part of their work or study requirements are often concerned about how accurate the test is. They have some doubt as to whether their scores will be a fully accurate reflection of their true language skills. In this article, we will take a closer look at how the IELTS exam is developed and why this meticulous process ensures that there is no room for error when it comes to evaluating your linguistic abilities.

How Is The Test Developed


The test has a thorough development process and multiple stages dedicated to quality control.

The test is developed by Cambridge University and each year they commission experts from around the world, to participate in this process so that the exam can reflect real-world situations from across the globe. This is done so that there are no biases in terms of which part of the world you take the test in.

Stages Of Development


As mentioned before, a team of language experts are commissioned from different native English countries to prepare the questions for the exam. They base their work on a specific set of pre-determined criteria for the exam. Using these guidelines they begin the process of selecting suitable material for the test.


During pre-editing the material that is initially selected for the test is sent for rechecking in order to ensure that they meet the testing criteria, (e.g. topic, level of language, style of writing, level of task, the focus of task). Items that do not meet these standards are sent back to the writers for further editing.


During this stage, the testing material is re-evaluated and edited until they all meet up the required specifications.


A sample set of test takers from around the world, who also are preparing for the IELTS exam are asked to answer the new test questions. The data from their responses are collated and analysed to determine if the questions were of the correct level of difficulty.

Standard Fixing

Standard fixing involves assigning the correct scores and corresponding band score to the newly tested materials, based on the data analysed from the sample test takers.

Test Construction And Grading

The final versions of the test papers are developed and take into account the following:

  • mean difficulty of the test version and the range of individual item difficulties
  • range of language skills tested
  • balance of task types
  • balance of topic and genre
  • range of cultural perspectives
  • range of voices and accents in the Listening versions

Apart from this, data from actual IELTS exams are also continually collected to see if the initial conclusions about the levels of difficulty of the test and grading were accurate. Therefore the IELTS test development is an ongoing process.

Now that you know about the great amount of effort that goes into preparing for the IELTS exam so that it maintains its unparalleled level of quality, you can rest assured that your test will be fair and unbiased.