Wednesday, 19 Sep 2001

An innovative test which will transform the way Australian universities select international students was launched today by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

The International Student Admissions Test (ISAT) will provide universities with the opportunity to use a reliable and efficient way of testing students’ potential to cope academically with Australian tertiary courses. It will complement the existing English-language competency tests.

"The test was developed in response to concerns expressed by universities about the uncertainties associated with some applicants’ credentials," the Executive Director of ACER, Professor Geoff Masters, said.

"While Australian universities have a well-defined system of requiring scores in English proficiency tests, up until now there has been no commonly accepted method of assessing the preparedness of overseas candidates for academic studies in Australia. ISAT addresses this concern by assessing cross-curricular academic abilities."

ISAT requires students to answer 100 multiple-choice questions in three hours. The questions measure critical reasoning (humanities/social sciences) and quantitative reasoning (science/mathematics) abilities which are considered important for coping with the intellectual demands of most tertiary courses. The emphasis is on thinking skills rather than curriculum-specific knowledge and English-language proficiency.

Candidates pay to sit the test in IDP Education Australia’s worldwide test centres. While candidates receive a copy of their respective results, they are also listed on a secure ACER database, to be independently verified by Australian universities.

Professor Masters said this assessment tool will strongly assist universities in many ways.

"It will provide them with the opportunity to gain an indication of an applicant’s cognitive abilities, validate their credentials, assist with decisions about borderline applicants and guide placement into particular programs or courses," Professor Masters said.

"ACER has been encouraged by the response from universities in the recently successful national trials of ISAT. They have shown a keen interest in using the test for entrance in their respective courses in 2002."

The first test will be available this year in preparation for the February 2002 entry. There will be at least four sittings of ISAT annually. Students can only sit for the test once in each university admission period (July-February and March-June). Several versions of the tests are to be produced each year to ensure security.