English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal 30.1
Volume 30 No 1 24 English Australia Journal Reading strategies in IELTS tests: Prevalence and impact on outcomes James Chalmers & Ian Walkinshaw Griffith University This pilot study explores whether and to what extent IELTS Academic Reading test-takers utilise expeditious reading strategies, and, where employed, their impact on test outcomes. In a partial replication of Weir, Hawkey, Green, and Devi’s (2009) exploration of the reading processes learners engage in when tackling IELTS Reading tasks, participants in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses underwent a mock IELTS Academic Reading test. They then completed a written retrospective protocol and a focus group discussion to probe their reading strategy use and tease out any underlying rationale. The analysis revealed that participants responded to time pressure, unfamiliar vocabulary and demands on working memory by employing a range of expeditious reading strategies which focused less on textual comprehension than on quickly locating correct answers. Their comprehension of texts often remained at the ‘local-literal’ level rather than the ‘global- interpretive’ level (Moore, Morton, & Price, 2012). Their test scores did not necessarily increase as a result. The findings, though preliminary, support further enquiry into test-taking strategies to understand the extent and the direction of impact on test scores. Introduction Recent years have seen a sharp increase in studies exploring academic reading skills as measured through the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (e.g ., Krishnan, 2011; Moore, Morton, & Price, 2012; Weir, Hawkey, Green, & Devi, 2009). IELTS is widely used by Australian universities to screen international student applicants for English language proficiency. International students are expected to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency reflected by their IELTS band scores, normally an overall score of 6.5 or higher with no sub-score (Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing) below 6.0 . This high-stakes situation may cause international students to focus on entry scores instead of English language proficiency. While the IELTS is only an indicator of proficiency, the accuracy of the test as a measure may be compromised by international students’ focus on test results.
English Australia Journal 28.2
English Australia Journal 31.1