Hong Kong has retained its third place International English Language Testing System (IELTS) ranking among Asian countries and territories.
The IELTS measures a candidate’s ability across four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. It is often used as an English language requirements for jobs and university admissions.
According to the latest study from IDP Education, an international education organisation that provides student placements in different countries, Hong Kong’s average score was 6.5 on a nine-point scale in 2015. It ranked third among Asian countries and territories, followed by Indonesia (6.4), Taiwan (6.1), South Korea (5.9), Japan (5.8) and China (5.7). Malaysia and the Philippines came first with their average score of 6.8. Singapore was not included in the study because there were only a few candidates to take this test, the study explained.
Among all countries and territories, IELTS candidates in Germany obtained the highest average score at 7.3, followed by Greece with score of 6.9.
The study also showed that Hong Kong IELTS candidates did relatively well in listening and reading, with scores of 6.9 and 6.7 respectively.
However, they did not do as well in speaking, where they scored 6.2, and writing, in which they scored a “modest” 5.9.
Modern Education IELTS course director Norman Ng said writing and speaking tests were more challenging than listening and reading. “Hong Kong IELTS candidates are weaker in output skills because you need someone to assess your answers in writing and speaking. But the IELTS overall band of 6.5 is considered a relatively high score, compared to other countries. Although it does not mean the city’s English proficiency has been improved, it indicates that there are a certain amount of people who can master the second language,” says Ng.
IDP IELTS regional manager Patrick Wan Ka-fai said the city’s ranking was behind Malaysia and the Philippines because Hongkongers have fewer chances to use English on a daily basis, and they could not understand the test’s requirements.
“In writing, candidates are not likely to score high if their answers are off topic. Another common error for speaking is the inability to pronounce accurately and speak fluently,” says Wan.
Kelly Mok, an IELTS tutor at King’s Glory Education, told Young Post that local IELTS candidates did not perform very well in speaking and writing because their range of vocabulary was not broad enough. "It's too common to use words, such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘nice’ or ‘okay’, which will not impress examiners. When describing statistical trends in writing part one, candidates should use words like ‘exponential growth’, ‘reach a plateau’ or ‘plumment’, to show their mastery of vocabulary use, instead of simple phrases like ‘rise quickly’ or ‘fall slowly’," she says.