14 April 2009

English language testing for Australian visa application may have new automated system

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The Australian visa application process may have a new competitor in the English language testing arena. According to The Australian, global publishing company Pearson has created an automated scoring system to test basic levels of English language ability for Australian visa application purposes.

Many Australian visa applications need applicants to prove a predetermined level of English language ability before their Australian visa application can be approved.  This can be as easy as proving citizenship of an English-speaking country, or passing a certain level on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which is an independent global company.

This week, for example, the Australian Government raised the level of English language requirements for trades and chefs lodging an Australian visa application for the Subclass 457 visa.  This means that these applicants need to prove a higher level of English (a score of 5 rather than 4.5) before their Australian visa application will be approved by DIAC.

While the IETLS has a monopoly on testing Australian visa hopefuls, Pearson is hoping to snatch a slice of the 30 million per year market.  The Pearson test will use digital technology and a 30 second sound bite that will let students introduce themselves.

"The thing we liked about the (new) Pearson test is the automated scoring system," said Anthony Bowers of the Academies of English, within the Academies Australasia group.

Association for Academic Language and Learning president Alex Barthel agreed that the new test will be a welcome entrant to the market, if DIAC allow them to be recognised as an official English language ability tester.

"(Pearson) will be a serious competitor to IELTS, even more so than TOEFL here in Australia," he said.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australian visa application.

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