How online technology is disrupting English Proficiency Tests

Not long ago, someone wanting to work or live in an English speaking country such as Australia had to take an appointment for an IELTS exam, wait first for her turn and then wait a few more weeks for the results.

How online technology is disrupting English Proficiency Tests
© image from IELTS

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IELTS had a near monopoly on the English Proficiency Testing market for immigration purposes.

While exams such as TOELF have been popular for proficiency testing in more academic environments, IELTS by far remained the most preferred choice and often the only alternative for hundreds of thousands test takers each year.

However, the landscape has changed drastically in the last couple of years. The Pearson Test of English has finally emerged as a viable alternative to IELTS. What sets this exam apart is the use of technology at the core.

PTE Academic a fully automated exam that is evaluated entirely by a computer algorithm. Even tasks such as Speaking and Writing which could earlier only be understood by a human examiner, are now evaluated by Pearson’s Artificial Intelligent system. This technology has completely disrupted the market.

Instead of waiting weeks, test takers now book their PTE appointments online and get the results often within a couple of days. According to Sure Way English, a leading provider of PTE Academic courses and coaching programs, PTE has several other advantages than merely the quick result turnaround.

IELTS has often be thought of having a human bias in its evaluation. The IELTS speaking exam is a personal interview of a non-native speaker by a native professional examiner. For most of these test takers this is their first encounter with a native speaker. They often end up nervous and that reflects in their unexpected poor results. Quite often the assessment is too subjective and IELTS has been blamed for the lack of standardization in this respect.

Compared to this, PTE is conducted entirely on a computer. As long as a person can use a computer with ease, he has nothing to worry about in the exam. There is zero human intervention. Scoring of the written essays is done by a computer program. Even the spoken responses are evaluated and scored by the software for factors such as pronunciation and fluency. This has resulted in a much more standardized and predictable outcomes for the test takers.

Furthermore, coaching providers such as Sure Way English have also made it easy to prepare for this exam through their fully online PTE Courses. Artificial Intelligence is expected to play an increasingly bigger role in our lives and there is no shortage of people who are apprehensive about it. But, when one sees its usage in scenarios such as English proficiency testing, one can’t help but acknowledge the huge positive difference it has made for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.

IELTS acknowledges the need of time and has announced its own plans to move towards fully automated testing. But training computer algorithms to assess human written and spoken responses across a wide range of accents is a time taking and often a tough problem to crack. We can only wait and see how IELTS solve it.

Till then there is no stopping companies like Pearson and Sure Way English from revolutionizing the way people have been learning English language!

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