Many people think that to be an IELTS examiner; you just have to be a native English speaker. This, however, is not the case, as IELTS examiners have to pass tests before they can examine.
Although most IELTS examiners are native English speakers and experienced English teachers, this alone does not qualify them to examine!
To the surprise of most, IELTS examiners have to undergo training in both speaking and writing and pass exams in both subjects, before they are allowed to examine. Furthermore, their marking is regularly monitored by a senior examiner, to ensure they are continuing to mark correctly. This is one of the main reasons for recording all speaking tests!
Examiners who mark incorrectly will have to attend more training, and if it persists, they may be prevented from examining in future.
The training is designed to ensure that all IELTS speaking and writing tests, wherever sat are assessed to the exact same standards. If any native English speaker were allowed to examine these tests, without strictly following set guidelines, the test would become ineffective as a measure of an individual’s English speaking, and writing abilities.
If for instance, a score of 6.5 was the requirement to enter a particular university, but the level of ability varied massively between individuals with that score, then the whole system would be worthless!
The secret to a high IELTS score, therefore, is understanding the marking guidelines! Unfortunately, they are largely a secret, known only to examiners. Some information is available.
Public versions of the Band Descriptors, used by the examiners when assessing tests, are available online. There are three sets, Speaking, Writing Task 1, and Writing Task 2. Unfortunately, these public versions are not quite the same as the examiner Band Descriptors, but they do provide some assistance and are certainly worth reading carefully.
The band descriptors, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. The ‘Instructions to Examiners’, provide the real detailed instructions and explanations of the rather short and often cryptic details contained in the Band Descriptors.
There is such secrecy around Instructions to Examiners and Band Descriptors that examiners are only allowed to view them when testing or at an official IELTS site. They have to be signed out and back in and are never allowed to be taken off the premises by an examiner.
It is, therefore, not difficult to understand why most IELTS training organisation cannot provide comprehensive training for IELT speaking and writing. They don’t know the full testing requirements!
Only experienced IELTS examiners know the full assessment instructions, as they are the only people who have access to them!
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