What is the HLA?

What is the HLA?

Developed by Higher Education, for Higher Education.

It all begins with an idea. Maybe you want to launch a business. Maybe you want to turn a hobby into something more. Or maybe you have a creative project to share with the world. Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.

Holmes Institute, an Australian Higher Education provider, developed the Holmes Language Assessment to meet the demand for rigorous, skill-based assessment for international students wishing to study in Australia who do not currently hold the appropriate IELTS qualification. Historically, this has been achieved by on-site, in-person assessment by language specialists working in Oxford House College (the English language teaching brand of Holmes Education Group). However, the size of the Australian continent has made it difficult or impossible for some onshore applicants to travel to Holmes centres for assessment. For this reason, it was decided to develop an assessment protocol which could be conducted remotely.

Click here to download the equivalency guidelines between IETLS and the HLA.

Streamlined application process.

The Holmes Language Assessment rates the English language competence of applicants to Holmes Institute programmes as well as other Higher Education or pathway programmes without requiring candidates to complete external testing. The assessment is not designed to produce a fine-grained profile of the candidate’s language skills, but rather to enable raters to produce a working assessment of the candidate’s ability to succeed in Higher Education courses that traditionally require entry levels of IELTS 5.5–6.5 (CEFR B2–C1). This is achieved by requiring test-takers to complete a number of language tasks directly related to competences at CEFR B2/C1 and assessed by raters drawn from OHC’s senior teaching staff.

Assessment Quality.

Expert Raters

HLA assessors are selected from the senior teaching team at OHC. All assessors have substantial experience teaching English in a wide variety of contexts and hold a Cambridge DELTA or equivalent qualification. Assessors include examiners for Trinity College London spoken English, IELTS and Cambridge mainsuite examiners, teacher trainers on Cambridge CELTA and DELTA courses and published ELT authors. In addition, members of the senior academic team at OHC have been involved in identification and calibration of exponents and descriptors in CEFR projects led by Brian North for the British Council and Eaquals.

All assessments are assessed by the interlocutor and then passed on for external rating by another member of staff. This rater watches the exam and rates the candidate’s ability. They then compare this with the interlocutor's rating and reach a final assessment. The rater’s assessment of the candidate is final and will only be reviewed if an appeal is lodged.

Comprehensive Training and Standardisation

All OHC teachers are trained in and familiar with using and rating learners using the CEFR scales, as the framework provides the underpinning of OHC syllabus levels and of internal testing. In addition, raters for the HLA are trained and participate in regular standardisation overseen by the Group Academic Manager and are provided with the opportunity to share experience and best practice.

Consistent Oversight

The HLA is overseen by the OHC group academic manager. This oversight includes frequent contact with Holmes Higher Education personnel and discussion of candidates’ subsequent performance.

Assessment Security.


The HLA is a ‘live’ assessment and allows the assessor to be confident the candidate is alone and not being helped or prompted. The spoken assessment is recorded to allow for subsequent review or use in standardisation.


The candidates are strictly time limited; written work must be returned no later than 30 minutes from receiving the text. Late return will result in this section of the assessment being voided. As assessment is conducted over Zoom, the candidate is instructed to conduct the writing task in view of the camera allowing the assessor to monitor; additionally, the entire process is recorded and may be reviewed subsequently in cases of dispute or concern over the accuracy of the assessment.


The assessment of the OHC rater is considered final. However, if doubts are expressed either by the candidate or higher education staff, recordings of the assessment may be reviewed by senior academic staff.