Should I Become an IELTS Examiner? (My Review)

May, 2017

If you are considering becoming a speaking and/or writing examiner for IELTS, let me tell you that I recommend it.

IELTS English test

In short, I found the rubrics (examination criteria) understandable (i.e. a fairly objective measurement tool), the wage good, and the job enjoyable (speaking examining in particular). I was a speaking and writing examiner for 1.5 years and below are more details of my experience.

Qualification Considerations: Skills

This is only my opinion and not a job posting, but to be an examiner in general, you would need the following skillset:

  • a strong grammatical foundation to be able to distinguish verb tense in addition to simple (and compound) and complex sentences (speaking and writing)
  • knowledge of transition signals (conjunctive adverbs, signposting) (speaking and writing)
  • an understanding of tone and formality appropriate to different writing situations (writing)
  • ability to critique letters, summaries, and essays in terms of content/argument (writing)
  • familiarity with natural word stress and connected speech (speaking)

Having a warm personality can also be an asset as it helps the candidate relax in the speaking interview.

Examiner Training

(Assumption: all centres have a similar training program)

The speaking training took place over a weekend, and the writing another. To be honest, there was a lot of material to cover and they were long’ish days (for ESL teachers at least). At the end of the weekend, there was an assessment task to determine if we qualified. Generally speaking, if you have the above qualifications that come from several years of teaching speaking and writing, then you should be able to make sense of the rubrics and pass. For writing examining, you really need to understand the components of a good essay (e.g. topic development, transitions, organization). If you have this experience, you should be able to pass and gradually become more and more standard in your grading.

Note that even if you fail one type of examiner certification (e.g. writing), that doesn’t disqualify you from being an examiner for the other skill (e.g. speaking) or attempting the certification again at a later date.

The Biggest Challenge: Diving into Actual Speaking Examining

To pass the examiner training, you only have to grade some recorded candidates. At our centre, I was fortunate that I also got to practice one speaking interview with a volunteer.

Next, if you pass the certification, your next interview is a real high-stakes examining situation with a real candidate. At this point you may have only practiced the speaking interview process once! (And there’s a lot going on in terms of language assessment and timing in speaking.) Needless to say, you’re forced to make a quick (and daunting) leap into your first examiner experience. For some, the greatest challenge may be trying not to appear as nervous as the candidate.

You may make a few mistakes on your first day (e.g. particularly with timing each section), but  you will soon get the hang of it. Because of the fixed/scripted nature of what you can say as a speaking examiner (especially in parts I and II), there’s not that much room for verbal error thankfully. This may be a drawback for examiners who prefer to freely converse with their candidate, but for me (someone who likes structure), it was comforting.

Other Notes on Speaking Examining

Once you become comfortable with the speaking examining (the script will become ingrained in your brain), then it can actually be a lot of fun. You get to listen to candidates speak (for roughly 14 minutes) and enjoy their stories. You’ll often laugh and meet intelligent people who have great ideas. It’s definitely not the worst way to spend a weekend day, and the best part about it is that unlike teaching English, there is no prep and it pays well.

Other Notes on Writing Examining

For me, writing was a bit draining (I’m not a quick reader) but it is also a good way to make money, especially if you are fast. While I didn’t find any particular enjoyment in writing, again, the pay is good and you don’t need to prep or think about it after you’re done.

Summary

Pros

  • The pay is worthwhile.
  • Speaking examining is enjoyable.
  • There is no prep or after-thought.
  • The rubrics allow you to feel confident in your grading.

Cons

  • Being thrown in on your first day can be stressful.
  • The scripted nature of the speaking examination can be robotic for some (not me).

Those are my thoughts that I felt were worth sharing. If you are eligible, I suggest you apply at your local testing centre as it’s a great way to supplement your teaching income.

All the best.

— M. Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com

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10 comments on “Should I Become an IELTS Examiner? (My Review)

  1. Madhusudan Menon (Posted on 8-30-2017 at 08:49) Reply

    Yes, I am looking to build my career in this line. Please help me!

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 8-30-2017 at 22:08) Reply

      Find your local IELTS centre and apply for a job.

  2. Mayuri (Posted on 3-30-2018 at 09:06) Reply

    i am already working as an IELTS trainer and i wish to be an IELTS examiner
    and i wish to work in some other countries as an IELTS examiner
    Pls Guide me

  3. Adrian (Posted on 1-15-2020 at 19:24) Reply

    I am nervous as hell about IELTS training! I did a two day training course and some “dummy” interviews, then the standardisation which involved grading six candidates. I failed this part, but I don’t know which of my marks were too high or too low, or how many of them were “off”. I have a chance to repeat the grading in a week’s time.
    I’ve been teaching and examining Cambridge exams for over 20 years and in that time I’ve never once failed a standardisation course. I speak six languages and I’m currently studying towards a Master’s in TESOL.
    I have no idea what went wrong and I’m not at all confident that I will do a better job second time. If I do get through, I will be monitored closely for the first year, adding to my stress and nerves. If I don’t pass, I am not interested in repeating the whole process so I will jsut decide, what the Heck, I’m not cut out to be an IELTS examiner.
    It is the hardest thing I have ever trained for, and it’s giving me sleepless nights.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-18-2020 at 00:26) Reply

      Hello Adrian. Sorry I missed your post. If you read this, did you survive?

      1. Adrian (Posted on 2-19-2020 at 17:57) Reply

        Hi.
        I got through second time; thanks for asking.. But now I have my first session, feedback, further sessions, further feedback. It’s stress all the way.

        1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-19-2020 at 23:47) Reply

          Congrats! I’ll bet it’ll gradually get better. The feedback is useful. Soon it will become automatic and you’ll be comfortable with it. Also, you have to imagine how stressed out the candidates are and try to put them an ease (which hopefully won’t give you more stress :) ). Good luck

  4. j (Posted on 3-22-2020 at 01:43) Reply

    Is it possible to do the IELTS examiner trainer at any location around the world or is it usually done only in teacher’s home country? I am a US citizen but would like to do the examiner training abroad and also work abroad. Thanks for all the useful info. on this site.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-23-2020 at 02:17) Reply

      I imagine that you could do the training anywhere. Once you are certified and have trainer #, you can work at any centre I believe. With that said, I think it’s generally true that IELTS Testing centres provide the training (either free or at cost), with the hopes that if you succeed, they can hire you. You would only qualify for such training then if you were eligible to work for them, i.e. you had a working visa.

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