IELTS: Fingerprints

Dear All,
IELTS (International English Language Testing System)is English language. It is taken by students who go to a country where they main language of instruction is English, by workers going to work abroad (even if their mother tongue is English), and immigrants. Today IELTS requires test takers to submit their fingerprints (in addition to taking a picture of the person). This measure is justified by security reasons. However, how this ensures security or prevents from cheating is not clear.

Once in our conversation with an IELTS representative she mentioned that this measure may help if a person had a twin and wanted to cheat. However, it is unclear how exactly this is going to help since IELTS is likely to be the only database storing this person’s fingerprints and there is nothing to compare them to. Moreover, how many people who take IELTS have a twin and how many of those twins can actually pass the test better than their twin brother/sister?

According to an official IELTS representative, “these are an integral part of the test’s anti-fraud measures which allows IELTS results to be trusted worldwide”. However, IELTS was a trustworthy language test even without the fingerprint taking practice and would continue being so because fingerprints are not the reason why IELTS is trusted.

Other tests such as CELPIP (Canadian English Language Test) and TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) do not require fingerprints and are still reputable and widely accepted. The reason why IELTS and these two testing systems are trusted is because they have multiple locations across the globe and use unified and transparent standards. In this way, people from different countries can take the same test and their knowledge can be measured and compared more or less accurately.

Furthermore, it takes one whole day to take IELTS. Adding the fingerprint procedure is another unnecessary step which takes away more time and thus is can make test takers more tired and distracted which may affect their results (since the procedure takes place before the test).

In addition to this, some people may have ethical concerns about fingerprint taking: fingerprints are recorded if a person is a criminal, why should test takers submit their fingerprints? Why should IELTS authorities assume by default that test takers want to cheat?

The question remains open. What do you think about the practice of collecting and recording fingerprints from language test takers? Please share your opinion in the comments to this post. Thanks.

See also posts on IELTS books, TOEFL, and CELPIP.



    3. CELPIP: Canadian English Language Test | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS

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