Construct validity in the IELTS academic reading test (2008-2009)

A comparison of reading requirements in IELTS test items and in university study

Tim Moore, Janne Morton and Steve Price
Research Grant (IELTS)

The study was concerned with the issue of test development and validation as it relates to the IELTS Academic Reading Test. Investigation was made of the suitability of items on the test in relation to the reading and general literacy requirements of university study. This was researched in two ways - through a survey of reading tasks in the two domains, and through interviews with academic staff from a range of disciplines. Tasks in the two domains were analysed using a taxonomic framework, adapted from Weir and Urquhart (1998), with a focus on two dimensions of difference: level of engagement, referring to the level of text with which a reader needs to engage to respond to a task (local vs global); type of engagement referring to the way (or ways) a reader needs to engage with texts on the task (literal vs interpretative). The analysis found evidence of both similarities and differences between the reading requirements in the two domains.