So you want to be a test examiner?

Ben Lehtinen, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company Advanced Technical Institute


Add another badge to your uniform by becoming a STEP EIKEN, STEP BULATS, or IELTS examiner. Not only is it another shiny and official qualification, but also an excellent way to help students prepare for the tests and develop a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of language testing. Becoming a test examiner won’t mean you’re going to be able to retire early, but you knew that before you got into teaching, right? The tests are different in their own ways, but they also have similarities in terms of requirements for becoming an examiner. The information below was collected by interviewing examiners working in the trenches for the testing companies.

Before you start polishing that resume, look around on the web to see what is out there and consider how far you want to travel to your testing center. For example, IELTS has four testing centers in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka) whereas STEP EIKEN has test centers all over Japan.

In terms of qualifications you’ll typically need an undergraduate degree and advanced training in education or TESOL/TEFL. For example, a Master’s degree or CELTA/DELTA certificate is a big help. Examiners don’t always have to be native-speakers, but will need to include documentation of advanced English ability. Teaching experience at the secondary or tertiary level is also usually a requirement; three years is generally the minimum. Lastly, you’ll need to be able to act professionally at all times, observe the need for confidentiality, and complete tasks accurately and punctually.

To apply, the standard procedure is to get your resume together, send it with the required documents, and wait for them to contact you for an interview.

The road to becoming certified as a STEP EIKEN or IELTS examiner involves an examiner liaison officer who determines the need for examiners, which is greatly dependent on your location. After this has been determined, the next step is to complete a training process, either at a training center or through independent study materials. This includes watching an orientation program, which explains the testing process and scoring criteria and provides several examples for practice. After this is a calibration program where examiners-to-be watch and evaluate a number of actual interviews, submit their scores, and receive feedback. All in all, the sessions are around two to three days if done fulltime and they could be during the week or the weekend. Training sessions may or may not be free, depending on the test and the country offering the training. For example, training to become a STEP BULATS interviewer is typically free. While the TOEIC LPI test has been discontinued, in the past training for examiners cost ¥60,000 and only about 20% of the trainees qualified.

Once you’ve completed training and are fully registered, you’re on-call; the examiner liaison office will contact you as needed, usually several weeks before the tests are held. How often you’ll actually work depends on your location and the number of examinees. For example, fewer than 600 people a year took the TOEIC LPI in Japan compared to 2.5 million who sit the STEP EIKEN.

For more information a good place to start is the homepages of the testing companies: