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US pushes IELTS demand above 1.7million

More than 1.7 million sat the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test in 2011, making it the world’s most popular English language test according to its owners. The figure was up 12% on 2010 and threefold on 2005, with the USA, interestingly, showing most new demand.

The US was also IELTS' fastest growing market for people taking the test within the country

In a statement, IELTS’ owners said demand in India, Australia and particularly China had remained strong in 2011, with these countries again administering the highest number of tests.

However, the USA was said to be the fastest growing market for the test, followed by East Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka). There were notable increases in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well.

Stephen Carey, Marketing Manager for IELTS at the British Council, said: “The US is both a driver of growth in number of tests and in itself is also IELTS’ fastest growing market for tests.

“The number of international students enrolling in US higher education is rapidly increasing. At the same time, the number of US higher education institutions accepting IELTS scores is also rapidly increasing.”

He said, however, that this was just one side of the equation. “The other side is that the US was also IELTS fastest growing market for people taking the test within the country… There are large number of students going to study various foundation programmes in the US from countries where IELTS is very popular and traditionally used,” he said, citing Saudi Arabia and Turkey as examples.

He said other factors, such as students in certain markets preferring to take paper-based rather than online tests, could also be at play. IELTS can only be taken on paper.

Global taker volumes were not available for IELTS’ main test rivals, TOEFL and Pearson’s PTE Academic, however both reported significant growth in 2011.

Pearson reported a hefty 501% increase in demand for the relatively new PTE Academic

A spokesperson for ETS, which owns TOEFL, said that in some countries growth had been as high as 46%. Pearson reported a hefty 501% increase in demand for the relatively new PTE Academic. A spokesperson said this was a result of increased demand from institutions and key testing markets such as China, India, the UK and Nigeria.

Carey said that growth in other markets such as East Asia had owed much to the US effect. “We’re seeing on average a 50% increase in the number of people in East Asia taking IELTS to qualify for US higher education.”

John Belleville, director of IELTS for IDP: IELTS, added that while the primary reason cited for taking the test was entry to an academic institution, migration was also a driver. “For many, IELTS is a requirement for migration to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom and the test can be taken in any one of 800 locations worldwide,” he said.

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