It’s rare to find someone taking the IELTS for pleasure. Almost everyone takes it because they need a particular IELTS score to apply for a university program or a visa. That’s 2.5 million people last year. At 200$ or more per test, that’s a tidy half billion dollars in 2014. So what is included in the IELTS fee anyway, and why is it so expensive? IELTS fees for the Academic and General Training tests are the same. Fees vary depending on which country you’ll be taking the test in, but it’s never cheap. If you think about it, it’s a pretty big undertaking to run a test like the IELTS. Here’s a breakdown of what’s involved:
Designing the original test – Sure, the IELTS has been around since 1989, but a team of academics and researchers had to build the original test, come up with the scoring mechanism, and pilot the test to make sure it was consistent across a range of skill levels and student profiles. That required a large upfront investment. IELTS fees for the first decade were probably paying that off, although by now the original cost has certainly been recouped.
Keeping the test updated – If you go take the IELTS next month, you won’t get the same questions as Ahmed over there who took the test last year. You have to think of the IELTS as a test framework rather than a list of questions. The big pool of questions that any given IELTS test is pulling from has to be fed with new test items all the time to prevent people from cheating by sharing past tests. IELTS fees cover the writing and calibration of these new test items.
Marketing the test – The IELTS went from 43,000 test takers in 1995 to 2.5 million two decades later. That kind of growth is powered by marketing, and marketing costs money. Standardized tests need one thing more than anything else and that’s acceptance. The more immigration authorities and universities require an IELTS score for application, the more people will take the IELTS. According to the IELTS site, over 9000 organizations accept the IELTS today. IELTS fees include marketing costs.