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Literacy practices in the professional workplace: implications for the IELTS Reading and Writing tests
Tim Moore, Swinburne University of Technology; Janne Morton, University of Melbourne; David Hall, Swinburne University of Technology; and Chris Wallis, Swinburne College, Australia
This study analysed the reading and writing practices required of graduates in a range of vocational contexts, in particular management/admin, engineering, accounting/finance and information technology. It considered the extent to which these corresponded to the reading and writing items in the IELTS test.
- The assessment of the IELTS Writing test displays many of the requirements asked of graduates in the workplace: the relevance of information, clarity of ideas, appropriateness of tone, grammar, spelling, punctuation and structuring of information.
- The need to be brief and concise is valued in the workplace and while this isn’t directly assessed in the IELTS test, it is noted that a written sample of a certain length is asked for and assessed accordingly.
- The use of ‘plain English’ and the ability to ‘de-technicalise’ specialised language are also highly valued in the workplace. Although these are not assessed directly in the IELTS test, it is understood by employers that graduates need to make adjustments when moving from study to new professional contexts.
- Challenges of workplace reading include being able to extract key points and understand what is required to move to the next stage. These skills are assessed in the IELTS Reading component, and more so in the IELTS General Training test than the Academic test.
The researchers highlighted that it was important to recognise that IELTS was designed principally to test readiness for education, employment and migration, and that test takers would often need to develop further skills once in the workplace.
Significantly, many employers who participated in the study agreed with this latter point, and wanted graduates who were equipped with basic reading and writing competence. They accepted that on entry graduates would have little familiarity with specific reading and writing practices within their work context.
This IELTS Research Report, along with more than 100 others, is available in full for free on our website.
Every year IDP: IELTS Australia and the British Council fund and support IELTS-related research that investigates issues relating to the IELTS test in the international context. The findings from this research make an important contribution to the monitoring and test development process for IELTS and also help IELTS stakeholders to develop a greater understanding of the test.