Identifying the appropriate IELTS score levels for international medical graduate applicants

What were the key findings?

Although the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) provides an adequate measure of English language ability for overseas medical practitioners seeking to register with the GMC, the study findings suggest that the current minimal level of proficiency required – an overall IELTS score of 7.0 – is no longer adequate.

Drawing on the results of a standard setting exercise, the study recommends that the overall level be increased to 8.0 and that the thresholds for the four individual components, listening, speaking, writing and reading, also be increased.

Why did we commission this research?

We previously commissioned research on appropriate IELTS score levels in 2004. This study focused on the writing and speaking components of IELTS but did not consider scores for the reading or listening components.

To ensure that our policies continue to draw on the latest available evidence, we decided to commission further research, looking at all four components of the test, in 2012.

What did the research involve?

Eleven stakeholder panels were held with groups of doctors, nurses, patients and the public, allied health professionals and responsible officers / medical directors. Each panel was asked to review IELTS test samples to identify the IELTS band most suited to the ‘minimally competent candidate’.

The individual judgements of participants were averaged to provide a score for each panel. In the case of writing and speaking, multi-faceted Rasch measurement was used to lend additional weight to the resulting scores. A final panel (with representation from each of the groups set out above) then analysed the initial panels’ findings to draw together final recommendations.

I want the full report

Identifying the appropriate IELTS score levels for international medical graduate applicants to the medical register.