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University of Queensland (UQ) researchers and industry partner International Education Services (IES) have globally launched the latest version of LanguageMAPTM: a quick and accurate online English language test.

Developed by Dr Michael Harrington and colleagues from UQ’s School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, LanguageMAP is an innovative program enabling international education agents to reliably assess clients’ English skills as beginner, intermediate or advanced in only 15 minutes.

The test is also valuable to individuals, language schools, and other teaching or work environments where demonstrated English language competency is essential.

UniQuest negotiated the collaborative research and development project with IES in readiness for a commercial release.

IES is a Brisbane-based organisation providing assistance and training to international student recruitment agencies, and the agreement gives its global network of 2100 qualified agents free access to LanguageMAP for the next 12 months.

LanguageMAP research has shown that English language testing is more successful when assessment is based on knowledge of English, as well as a demonstrated ability to use the language in real time. Three tightly controlled and successful research trials in the last four years, involving more than 1200 English learners and native English-speakers, demonstrated the program to be a cost-effective screening tool for quickly and accurately assessing English skills.

IES Managing Director, Chris Evason, said he believed LanguageMAP was one of the best new professional tools now available for student recruitment agents.

"Using LanguageMAP, our agents will be able to provide their clients with almost instant and accurate feedback about the level of their English proficiency and the academic opportunities that await them," Mr Evason said.

"International Education Services, through its PIER brand, has 12,000 registered agents, so we’re always looking for value-adding products to improve our agents’ ability to counsel and help their student clients," said Mr Evason.

"Until now, our agents could only answer questions about a client’s English language proficiency following a traditional English skills test, such as IELTS or TOEFL, which can be expensive. With LanguageMAP, an agent will have an indication of their client’s proficiency within 15 minutes and without having to leave their desk," he said.

The IES agents are among the first commercial operators to have access to the evidence-based screening tool. With its web-based interface, agents can readily access LanguageMAP from anywhere in the world.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said this was a unique opportunity for industry practitioners to benefit directly from innovative research originating from UQ’s Arts faculty.

"LanguageMAP has a sound theoretical base and responds to some clearly identified needs of international education agents," said Mr Henderson.

"A key feature of this project is the ongoing collaboration - the agents will be contributing valuable data to LanguageMAP’s further development and refinement, while helping the researchers understand how well this product compares with other tests available in the market," he said.

UniQuest established the start-up company LanguageMAP Pty Ltd in 2007 to commercialise the innovation. The company is seeking further investment to accelerate an international commercial release.