People often ask us: can examiners teach IELTS? Unlike most of the questions we handle at Highway IELTS, this one has a very simple answer: no. In this article we will be describing the role of examiners, their training, and their place in the IELTS system. Certainly, nothing here will entail any disrespect to trained IELTS examiners. Quite the contrary, in fact. The examiners work under stringent protocols and deliver high-quality services around the world. This work forms part of the reason for IELTS’ global reputation for quality and accountability. It is also because of the work that they do, and not in spite of it, that you should not approach examiners with questions about the exam. An active examiner cannot coach exam candidates on the IELTS exam. Let’s take a look at why this is.
Examiners or Invigilators?
Exam candidates often mistake examiners for invigilators, and vice a versa. In reality, these two roles could not be any more different. Invigilators are the people who control the exam room and supervise the delivery of the test. They will register you at the door, show you to your place, hand out the test papers, lead you to and from your speaking appointment, and assist you throughout the day. The invigilators form a kind of administrative army that works tirelessly before, during and after each exam session. As you can imagine, test security for IELTS is very important. Invigilators receive stringent training in quality control and exam procedures in order to be able to work at test centers. You can get an idea of what being an invigilator is like here.
Examiners, on the other hand, are the people who assess the writing and speaking tests. These people undergo totally different training. IELTS examiners have nothing to do with the administration and management of the exam. There is a very strict division of roles, which ensures fairness and reduces the possibility of corruption. IELTS examiners are generally recruited from academic institutions focused on language teaching and training. The authorities that control IELTS maintain very high standards in the selection of candidates for examiner training. Examiners also undergo frequent monitoring and quality control, which is one of the reasons your speaking exam will be recorded.
What do Examiners do?
Examiners have to pass through an intensive training period. During this time, they learn the rubrics for writing and speaking. They are tested on their ability to apply these rubrics accurately to derive fair band scores. An examiner will only receive a license after demonstrating that he or she can do this consistently. Applicants who do not succeed in this do not qualify as examiners. In addition, every examiner must re-train at specified intervals to ensure continuity and consistency.
Thereafter, new examiners begin working in a test center under strict supervision. Monitoring will continue throughout an examiner’s tenure and any lapses in quality can result in withdrawal of his or her license. Examiners have no connection to the reading or listening tests. They only work with the speaking and writing tests. Depending on your test center, your writing script might be sent to a central hub for marking, or marked on site. A human examiner will score your writing even if you take the computer-based exam.
Why can’t Examiners Teach IELTS Candidates?
From what we have said so far, you can see that examiners work under strict conditions. One of these conditions is a contractual agreement that forbids examiners to train IELTS test candidates. This exists to avoid conflicts of interest. If an examiner knows you personally, he or she may not examine your speaking or your writing. Even with the best of intentions, a personal or professional relationship between you and the examiner will color his or her assessment of your test performance. This will compromise the fairness and consistency on which IELTS credibility rests.
Unfortunately, many test candidates approach examiners seeking assistance. This is very unfair, because by doing this, they are jeopardizing an examiner’s job. Any infringement of these rules can result in disciplinary measures against the examiner, and may also have an effect on your experience of IELTS. Similarly, an examiner who approaches a candidate and forms an improper relationship is acting in breach of a legal contract, discovery of which can have negative implications for both parties.
But Examiners have the Information I Need
It’s true that examiners have a great deal of knowledge and experience that is useful for test candidates. However, they have no particular knowledge of the reading and listening tests. Furthermore, much of the information you need about the speaking and writing tests is publicly available. Furthermore, the restrictions we have discussed only apply to active examiners. People who have worked as examiners in the past, but have passed the mandatory “cooling off period” after ending their contracts, are allowed to coach IELTS candidates. If lapsed examiners teach IELTS, they are not in violation of any standing contract and they actually perform a valuable service in helping more people to engage fruitfully with IELTS.
Highway IELTS employs many lapsed examiners for research, development and the delivery of our tutoring services. Our academic team also includes linguists and researchers who stay on the cutting edge of IELTS research, identifying trends and problems that candidates are encountering. This gives us the flexibility to adapt and customize all of our services to address candidates where they are. This is precisely what is lacking in the generic, one-size-fits-all approach of our competitors.
So Where Should I Go?
If you are taking the IELTS exam, you need focused, professional guidance. You also need accountability. Through our in-person workshops, and our development courses, Highway IELTS is in an ideal position to meet you where you are in your IELTS journey. You really don’t need to arrange clandestine meetings with the examiners at your local test center to get the inside scoop. Whether you’re a first time test taker or a veteran, our team is ready to help. Get in touch and let’s start learning.