IELTS economic washback: a case study on English major students at King Faisal University in Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia

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Introduction: The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardized high-stakes test, which is used for the purpose of measuring the language proficiency of candidates who wish to study or work in an environment where English is the language of communication (IELTS introduction. Retrieved from Last accessed 2 Nov 2017.). This study aims to explore the economic washback of the test, since it is an under-researched area in the literature. Case description: A qualitative approach was adopted to conduct this study, and, therefore, data were collected from 94 participants through the means of semi-structured questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews were conducted for six participants. Data were analyzed inductively by employing a computer program called Nvivo. Discussion and Evaluation: The findings have shown that the participants were financially affected by the test. In the questionnaires, the participants reported that the test was expensive, and its cost kept rising from time to time. Students who were most affected financially by the price of the test were those who had to repeat the test because they could not achieve the minimum requirements. Interview results revealed that all the students in the focus group repeated the test at least four times. In addition, most students explained that they were dependent on their family to pay for the cost of the test. Furthermore, some students had to travel to a different region or country, since the academic module was not offered in their test center. Finally, the interview results indicated that the preparation courses were an additional financial burden on these participants, especially because the participants were not sure when they would be ready to take the test and whether the training that they have received would be enough to help them achieve the required test score. Conclusions: Apparently, the IELTS Test created a negative economic washback on these students. To lessen this financial effect, the participants of this study recommended that the test price should be reconsidered, the test should be modular and the best result in each module in any two or more IELTS Tests taken in the last two years should be accepted.




Alsagoafi, A. (2018). IELTS economic washback: a case study on English major students at King Faisal University in Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia. Language Testing in Asia, 8(1).

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