|dc.description.abstract||This thesis examines the impact of the high-stakes International English Language
Testing System (IELTS) across different stakeholders in Pakistan, and on Pakistani
education, society and economy more broadly. The global profile of IELTS means
that washback and impact studies (both comparative and country-specific) are now
increasingly carried out by Cambridge ESOL (Hawkey, 2006; Moore et al., 2012).
These are undertaken not simply with a view to improving the test, but with a view to
investigating how it is used and perceived. In Pakistan, as elsewhere, IELTS has
assumed great significance on account of its gate-keeping function in emigration,
higher education abroad and professional registration. Demand and candidature grow
daily. However, specific conditions that pertain in Pakistan, mainly political
instability, and major disparities in wealth and development, have a particular effect
on the role of IELTS in the country.
The current impact study employs a sequential exploratory concurrent embedded
mixed methods design to assess the impact. Phase 1 is a preliminary survey of 20
IELTS preparation institutes, followed by an in-depth qualitative study of two IELTS
preparation centres. The qualitative study employs classroom observations, semistructured
interviews with teachers (N=2), informal conversational interviews with
test-preparers (N=20), and pre- and post-study testing to assess the efficacy of IELTS
preparation. Phase 2 analyses questionnaires from a further ten preparation centres.
Respondents comprised 200 IELTS test-preparers, 100 IELTS test-takers and 10
IELTS preparation teachers. The survey was supplemented by a focus group with
four test-preparers and semi-structured interviews with five employers and five
The initial survey of the private English Language Teaching industry in Pakistan
showed a radical expansion of IELTS preparation courses. Yet the in-depth study of
two specific centres showed that the courses are not effective in improving the scores
of students. Courses, although relatively expensive, are very short and most testpreparers
enter them with lower English proficiency than is appropriate for IELTS.
Questionnaires and interviews showed that IELTS test-preparers and test-takers are
primarily motivated to take the test for emigration and study abroad. The test
preparers have high expectations from the course regarding improvement of their
English proficiency which are generally not met. Disappointed test-takers hold some
beliefs that their IELTS course and test will be of benefit to them in Pakistan.
Although English ability is always considered as part of recruitment, employers
interviewed for this project confirmed that an IELTS certificate is never explicitly
required. It is likely that the local uses of IELTS that are emerging in Pakistan are
much more indirect. I argue that because public education is not meeting the
demand for English, IELTS is now perceived as a route of English education and
general certification, and a badge of middle class status if not actual material gain.
These findings have implications for both providers of state education in Pakistan,
and providers of the IELTS test (Cambridge ESOL). The former needs to address the
lack of publicly funded English education and English qualifications; and the latter
needs to consider whether IELTS is appropriate for large numbers of low proficiency
candidates, and for purposes other than admission to universities abroad and