Authentic interaction and examiner accommodation in the IELTS speaking test: A discussion
Anna Filipi, Monash University
Volume 4, Issue 2, 2015
Abstract: Speakers naturally adjust their speech in interactions with others and will use accommodative strategies if their co-speaker is having difficulty understanding. These same adjustments have also been found in examiner accommodation in second language speaking tests (Cafarella, 1997; Ross, 1992). In the training of examiners in the IELTS speaking test, there is an attempt to control the degree of examiner accommodation in the interests of consistency. Examiners are explicitly instructed to avoid the use of response tokens or to repeat a question only once without rephrasing it in the face of repair (Seedhouse & Egbert, 2006). This specific attempt to remove aspects of what is deemed to be authentic1 interactional behaviour runs counter to what speakers do ‘in the wild’ as the growing body of research in conversation analysis shows (see for example Hutchby & Wooffit, 2008). We believe that it is timely to discuss the issue of examiner accommodation within a language-testing context against a backdrop of what is now known about naturally occurring interaction. We initiate such a discussion by reviewing the scholarly literature on interaction, and on the IELTS speaking test and examiner accommodation.
Keywords: IELTS speaking test, examiner accommodation, conversation analysis, authentic interaction