The form and content of the test

Speaking, Listening and Reading skills are tested in a one-to-one interview that takes about 60 minutes. The interview is audio-recorded. For the Writing test, the tester will give you task sheets and explain the tasks to you; then you will have 60minutes to write.

Three things determine the content of the test: everyday life in Australia, everyday life in the university or other educational institution, and your academic discipline.


Speaking skills are judged throughout the interview. The first part of the interview (about 15 minutes) is a conversation. The tester will introduce topics about everyday life and your particular needs and interests.


Listening skills are judged throughout the interview. In one part of the interview, however, recordings will also be used. The tester will ask you to listen to one or more authentic texts (e.g. news stories, news commentaries, interviews, talk-back, documentary material, community announcements, advertisements, messages on answering machines). The voices will be mainly those of speakers of standard Australian English but there may be segments with other varieties of English. Generally you will hear each text only once; occasionally a short segment may be repeated so that the tester can check your understanding of particular details. With longer texts, you may like to take notes while you are listening to the recordings. If you do take notes, you are advised to keep them short. After you have listened to a text, you will show how well you have understood it by talking to the tester about it. While you are talking, you may refer to any notes you have taken but you must give them to the tester when this part of the test is finished.


In another part of the interview, the tester will ask you to read a variety of texts. Texts may be selected from such materials as; news stories, feature stories, editorials, ‘letters to the editor’, columnists’ opinions, advertisements, or community information (e.g. brochures). There may be some semi-technical material (e.g. from a textbook or special interest magazine). The time allowed for reading will depend on the length of the text and the kind of information in the text. You may take notes, underline or use a highlighter. You will show how well you understand what you have read by talking to the tester. You may refer back to the text when you are talking to the tester. You will not be allowed to use a dictionary.


In the Writing test you will be asked to write about 400 words in total. There are usually two tasks; occasionally three tasks are given but the total number of words expected will remain the same. The topic, the type of text, the purpose for writing and the audience to whom you are writing will be different for each task. One of the tasks is likely to be a letter or a note. In another task, you will be expected to express your opinion(s). If your test is for entry to a tertiary program, at least one topic will be relevant to the academic discipline or profession you plan to enter (e.g. business or engineering); it is likely to be a report, a personal statement, an essay, an article, or an open letter (e.g. a ‘letter to the editor’). If your test is for entry to a High School program, the topic will be an issue of interest to adolescents; it may be an essay, an article for a school newsletter or magazine, or a project report. You will not be allowed to use a dictionary.

 How we judge your language

In Speaking and Writing we judge the accuracy, range, appropriateness and fluency of the language you use and how well the ideas you communicate – including your personal opinions – match the requirements of the tasks you are given. Your flexibility (ability to cope with tasks and ideas that you have not been practising) is important in both Speaking and Writing.

In Listening and Reading we judge how well you understand the information or other ideas presented. This may include the speaker’s or writer’s intentions and attitudes as well as the general ideas and specific details of the text. Your ability to cope with unfamiliar vocabulary and other features of the language is important. In Reading tasks, excessively slow reading will be taken into account but there is also flexibility, as in real life.