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Any native English speakers who have taken the IELTS?

Discussion in 'IELTS - CELPIP - TEF - TCF - Language Testing' started by USNick, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. OK. As I understand it, the rules for applying for permanent residency (at least for the Canadian Experience Class, which is the one I'm targetting) changed a couple of weeks ago, so that now a letter is no longer sufficient to prove proficiency in English, even for native English speakers. Every applicant must now sit for an IELTS exam.

    Should be a breeze for native English speakers, right? (Except for the added $300 or so to the cost of applying for PR status.) But as I've been doing some research about the IELTS exams, I'm starting to get a little concerned. As one poster on another forum wrote: "The IELTS exams were never designed to test native speakers – they are designed to demonstrate how closely an applicant’s English is to that of a native speaker." I'm starting to wonder whether I should be presuming that I will get the "expert speaker" scores that I would naturally expect, if indeed the exam is not really geared to be administered to those who are native English speakers.

    Of course I'll study up on the test so that I'll know what to expect before I take it. But other than that, I wonder if there are any other native English speakers who have taken the IELTS exam, and what their experiences were.

    Too -- it's my understanding that that IELTS exams are geared toward British English, and that the recordings and reading passages may include speakers with British dialects and use British idioms. As an American citizen, I'm concerned that this may prove a difficulty for me, even though I am a native English speaker. I also wonder if the IELTS exam markers expect only British/Canadian spellings. In other words, does anyone know if I will be marked lower if I spell the word "center" rather than "centre" on the exam? Should I be boning up on my "-re"s and "-our"s?

    Much thanks for anyone's help and advice.
  2. You can find some free practice tests at http://www.canadavisa.com/ielts/free-practice-tests.html Maybe you will not get everything right but as a native speaker, I doubt you will do so badly that you will fail to reach the sufficient scores.
  3. Hi USNICK

    Wonder if you can help me!!! I'm English born and bred, both parents are! Grew up in England....do i have to sit this test???
    regards Paul
  4. Yes Paul, you do have to sit this test. The reason is that immigration was very tired of glowing proficiency letters stating how awesome people's English is because they are native English speakers or grew up in English speaking countries or went to school in an English speaking country or even just learned a bit of English at school at some point that they decided that it's simpler for them to make everybody take IELTS. You can't argue with that :)
  5. Yes, Leon, I do understand CIC's desire to standardize somehow the way proficiency in English can be proven, especially if the "letter of proficiency" option was being abused by applicants who did not in fact have either English or French as their first language, as native speakers were the only group CIC "strongly suggested" should avail themselves of that method of proving their language proficiency. I imagine CIC was having a hard time trying to judge fairly those letters and avoid even the appearance of being prejudiced against any language groups or ethnicity.

    However, you can also understand my frustration, being now required to spend hundreds of dollars and somehow find time to take off work and go to a different city to sit for a test to prove my proficiency in a language that is basically (since I have also studied French) the only one I've used in my life. And since the application also still requires me to submit my transcripts from university and graduate school, my documentation of all the addresses in English-speaking countries at which I've lived my entire life, and my letters of reference from my employers which attest to my language skills, you can understand my frustration in being quite certain that even without submitting a separate letter of proficiency that CIC would have little doubt as to my ability to communicate in English.

    More importantly you can also understand my concern that, rather than "evening out the playing field," as it were, in terms of applicants' ability to prove their language proficiency, I wonder if CIC hasn't now effectively put native English and French speakers at a distinct disadvantage. We are now being required to sit for a test that is not constructed to assess our language skills; it is designed to evaluate the language skills of non-native speakers. I imagine it would be like asking a university mathematics student who is studying differential calculus to sit for a test in arithmetic. Since that student would have been using a calculator or a computer for the past few years in their mathematical work, chances are great that they would make some simple mistakes if suddenly asked to add a series of numbers in an exam situation. Should they be able to excel at that exam? Absolutely. But would careless or "exam stress"-related errors on an arithmetic test be an accurate evaluation of their ability to do calculus? Absolutely not. I just hope that CIC will monitor this issue for the next few months, to make sure that native English speakers aren't being placed at a disadvantage. NOT that I'm arguing that applicants for PR from English-speaking countries should be given preferential treatment, or valued more as immigrants; I believe that people from all over the world should be valued as potential new citizens of Canada. But if indeed proficiency in one of Canada's two national languages is a requirement for application for PR, it would just be ironic if the new rules were found to make it more difficult for the very people who most fulfill that basic requirement.

    Anyway. As I say: I would just really like to know if anyone knows of experiences native English speakers have had taking the IELTS exam. Perhaps I really am making a mountain out of a molehill.
  6. Glad you asked this question USNick. I'm in the same boat...US citizen, English is my first (and only language)

    I am just at the pass mark of 67 points to apply for the Skilled Worker's Visa so am concerned about the test as well! Not to mention the cost. If I miss the one in Philadelphia in August I will likely have to drive 2.5 hours for another one, in northern NJ. I haven't registered yet as I just submitted my fingerprints the other day and that could take months to be returned to me. :( I am having to play it by ear and keeping my fingers crossed that the cap is not reached by the time I can get my application in.

    Maybe the best thing to do for now is take all the practice tests you can. Hopefully someone will post their experience so we know what to expect.

    Best wishes to you!
  7. Per the IELTS instruction guide, both British and American spelling are acceptable (http://www.ielts.org/pdf/Information_for_Candidates_2007.pdf) so you can't use that as an excuse if anything goes wrong ;D

    In terms of accents, they use a mix. There's been reports of American, Canadian, British, Australian, and New Zealander speakers for the listening section. Luckily, as far as I can tell they try to use "plain-vanilla" versions ... can you imaging having all sorts of American English - Texas, Cajun, Ebonics, Boston, Midwest in there?

    More seriously, this is nothing that you shouldn't have learned in Middle or High School English classes (5 paragraph essay, anyone?). It's much simpler than the SAT or ACT. That being said, if you haven't taken an exam in a while it would behoove you to go through a few practice tests since the timing is quite tight and you don't want to waste time becoming familiar with the exam during the exam.
    By section, a few key tips:
    - Listening: do NOT get distracted and if you do just skip forward and cut your losses. Pre-read the questions when they tell you to. Also, become familiar with the types of questions they ask and the instructions for each (e.g., fill in the blanks have maximum number of words allowed).
    - Reading: write clearly within the boxes (and remember that unlike listening, you won't have time at the end to transcribe your answers to the answer sheet so do it as you go along).
    - Writing: use the 5 paragraph essay structure, write fast but clearly. Read through the band descriptors at: http://www.ielts.org/pdf/UOBDs_WritingT1.pdf and http://www.ielts.org/pdf/UOBDs_WritingT2.pdf. As you practice, it helps if you (i) become familiar with the length of the word limits on the answer sheet and (ii) give yourself 10-15 minutes less than you'll actually have - that way the day of the exam you won't feel as pressured and will find you have time to proofread.
    - Speaking: Remember they are testing for English speaking ability, not historical accuracy so keep it simple and structured. Read through the band descriptors at https://www.teachers.cambridgeesol.org/ts/digitalAssets/114292_IELTS_Speaking_Band_Descriptors.pdf

    In terms of timing - the test takes 2.5 hours from start to finish (assuming you take the speaking section the same day).
  8. I think you are making a big deal of something that shouldn't be.

    So you are now at the disadvantage that you have to spend some 300 for your test and take a day off work. Well.. so does everybody else.

    As for preparing, if somebody was studying higher math and had to pass a test of arithmetic, they would prepare, am I right? Just like the foreigners are preparing for their IELTS using different websites, so can you. However, I find it unlikely that a native speaker could mess up the IELTS so much that you don't get your immigration. If that were to happen, you can do what the foreigners do and prepare better and try it again.

    There is just no way for immigration to know for sure if English is your native language or not. Even if you have grown up in England and your address history reflects that, you could have immigrant parents, have grown up with another language, possibly in a neighbourhood full of people speaking that language and therefore your English would not be completely native.
  9. You're absolutely right, Leon: there's just no substitute for practice and preparation. Thank you for the link to the practice tests on this website; they've already been very helpful.

    In terms of preparation, if anyone who is native English speaker has taken the tests, I would still love to know their experiences and get their advice for things to watch out for.

    Thank you, OhCanadiana, for the bit about UK/US spellings. I had read those instructions, but obviously missed or forgot that. (Note to self: practice reading for comprehension.)

    As for my frustration, well...I guess I'm just venting, and wondered if anyone in the same boat could empathize. I guess this really isn't the proper forum for commiseration. But speaking of "empathizing," it's good to know that I can spell it that way without being marked down. However, in taking one of the practice tests on this website, I was marked as incorrect for writing "4:00 PM" instead of "4pm." That's the kind of stuff that worries me. And frustrates me that it then claims to measure proficiency...which it may very well do for non-native speakers. But again, I'm not frustrated that native speakers are required to prove their proficiency. I'm frustrated that they are now required to do so using a test that is not designed to be able to assess them.

    And while I may be frustrated, I'm not just whining. I was just about ready to send in my application when I discovered this change in the law. And since I'm applying under the Canadian Experience Class, which measures eligibility in part based on the period of work done in Canada in the past 36 months, I am actually working on a deadline. But whereas I started out with an eight-month window to submit my application, because I now have to wait at least a month to schedule an IELTS exam and get the results, I will have maybe a one and a half month window. By which time my police check from the FBI will be over 3 months old, so I'll have to get fingerprinted again and request a new one. All to prove my proficiency in a language that last month I would've been considered quite obviously proficient in. Yeah, poor me. But that's my story.
  10. wideopenspaces, your inbox is full so I can not reply to your message. You will have to delete some messages to be able to receive more.
  11. Thanks Leon, guess i'd best do some revision! Cant help but feel its OTT, if i claim i can speak English, then proceed to the next phase and have an interview then I'd understand if they showed me the door if i was spluttering in broken English...hey if i was applying for residency in Brazil, i'd quite understand if they wanted me to have some ability to speak Portuguese!
  12. But they don't do interviews with all the I don't know, 40,000 people a year who are approved under the skilled worker program. They want a way to know how good your English is with the least effort to them.
  13. Hi

    CHC/CIC doesn't assess English ability at an interview. But if there is an interview and the IELTs/TEF scores don't reflect the abilities of the applicants, i.e. received a high score, yet can't communicate, they usually will be referred for another IETLS.
  14. Hi

    Can someone help me. Do I still have to sit the test if I applied before JUNE 26 2010 or can I still submit a written submission as per the old rules which were in existence when I first applied. I'm confused!

  15. I have a colleague who was just ready to submit his first application when the new rule came out. He has done the exam and scored in the good-very good bracket!

    He is english born and bred with english parents but he was scored low for his accent (northern england but not so thick you can't understand him!) and for his spoken he had 1 minute to prepare a 2 minute presentation on his favourite topic at school - which was some 25 years ago!!

    It seems the test is geared towards students and the questions towards people who have been in education recently.

    The assessors were all second language english speakers so i don't know if that makes any difference but seems a little odd.

    Don't know if the information helps any but might help those preparing for an IELTS

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