Paradigm Language Institute

Not happy with your IELTS score?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Not happy with

your IELTS score?

You can always get

your test results checked

Van Anh, an IELTS teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam, asked about re-scoring:

“A student got 4.0 for speaking even though she’d received 6.0 a few months before. Another student, who I thought would get 7.0 or 8.0 for speaking, only got 6.0.

“Can tests be rechecked? How complicated is the procedure?

“I’ve also heard scores can never be changed. Is that right?”

Here’s my reply: There is a policy on the re-scoring of tests, and it’s outlined in the official publication IELTS Information for Candidates (you can download a digital copy from ).

It’s clear from the policy that candidates’ scores can be changed.

However, because IELTS test results are carefully checked before being released, there’s very little chance that scoring mistakes are made.

As well, IELTS has standards and guidelines to help all of its examiners (in the case of the writing and speaking tests) and clerical markers (in the case of the listening and reading tests) assess tests in the same way.

Reasons for variations

There are a number of reasons why someone’s results were not as high as expected or varied unexpectedly:

·          A high level of anxiety on the day of the test is a common reason.

Nearly everyone gets at least a little tense before and during an exam, and IELTS is no different. A little bit of stress is good, but too much will create difficulties understanding the English in any of the four modules (listening, reading, writing and speaking). This, in turn, can result in a lower-than-expected score.

·          Insufficient rest before the exam is another reason.

I’ve often heard from my students that unexpected difficulty sleeping the night before the exam has been a problem. They woke up feeling groggy – that’s the dull feeling you have after a poor sleep that makes you slow to think. Their grogginess made it difficult for them to understand and answer questions in the test.

·          Being shy, lacking confidence about their English language abilities, having general low self-esteem or feeling insecure can affect candidates’ performance in the exam.

To illustrate, it’s one thing for a student to be confident when speaking in a classroom with a teacher who has had weeks – or even months – to establish the trust of a student. The teacher has also been able to give immediate support and encouragement when mistakes are made.

However, it’s a very different experience to speak with a stranger, who is a native speaker, in an unfamiliar room, and with no feedback as to whether answers are all right or not.

Being shy to speak English in front of a native speaker of English can therefore definitely make a candidate perform poorly in the speaking test.

·          Luck certainly plays a part.

People are naturally better at answering some types of questions, or questions on some topics, in the reading, writing or speaking tests than other types of questions or topics.

As a result, a candidate may be more comfortable doing some of the tasks in one exam than the tasks in another exam.

Of course, it’s pure chance, or luck, whether a candidate gets questions or topics that he or she considers are “easy” to answer or not.

·          Being unaware of poor performance.

Although candidates may think that they understood and answered questions appropriately and well in any of the four modules, they may actually have not.

For instance, there’s no way that candidates can know for sure whether they’ve misinterpreted questions in any of the four modules of the exam. They can therefore leave the exam feeling that they’ve done well. They’re naturally surprised and disappointed to find out later that their exam results are lower than expected.

·          Not being sure what the test is about can cause problems for candidates that might affect their scores.

For instance, a candidate may be simply unfamiliar with the way the way the IELTS exam is conducted, which can cause confusion.

Alternatively, the candidate may not be clear on how each module is to be answered. As an example, the candidate may not allow for the fact that that there’s no extra time to transfer answers from the reading question booklet to the answer sheet, which is different procedure from that used for the listening test.

Re-scoring procedure

If candidates are unhappy with their results, they may apply for a re-score at the centre where they took the test. The application must be made no later than six weeks from the date of the test.

The application form, titled IELTS Enquiry on Results, is easy to complete. Candidates can choose to have one or more of the test modules (listening, reading, writing and speaking) re-graded. There’s a standard fee for re-scoring, and it’s the same whether a full or a partial re-score is requested. The fee’s paid when the application is made.

Re-scores are processed by the head office of either the British Council in the UK or IELTS Australia in Australia – not by the original test centre. Senior examiners do the re-assessments of writing and speaking tests, while trained clerical markers score listening and reading tests.

It takes six to eight weeks for re-scorings to be completed, and candidates should make any enquiries regarding the progress of the re-score to the test centre. As the original test results are frozen during the period,

they can’t be used to apply for a university course or sent to an immigration office.

As soon as the re-scoring results are available, the test centre sends a letter advising candidates of the final scores.

Should the band score for any one module increase, the centre refunds the full fee for the re-scoring service and issues a new Test Report Form showing the revised band scores. During the following four weeks, candidates can apply for five copies of the Test Report Form to be sent, free of charge, to any institutions that need the results.

My advice on re-scoring

Before you request a re-score, be honest with yourself about your performance on the test. Ask yourself these questions:

·          Have your practice test scores been higher than your actual test score?

·          Were you well prepared to take the test – well-rested, not hungry, not too stressed out, etc?

·          Did you feel that you easily understood the material in the module(s) that you want re-scored?

·          In the case of the writing and speaking modules, did you feel confident that your answers addressed the questions in a direct and focused way?

·          Can you wait up to another eight weeks before you get the re-score result (remember: your original test results are frozen by IELTS and can’t be used during this period)?

If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, I advise that you have the whole exam (i.e., the listening, reading, writing and speaking modules) rescored.

Why all four modules? I mentioned before that there’s a standard fee for re-scoring. The fee is substantial, but it’s the same whether you ask for a re-score of all – or just some – of the four modules. If the score for any one module goes up (even if it’s not the module you’re concerned about), you’ll automatically get a refund of the full re-scoring fee. In other words, there’s nothing to lose by requesting a re-score of the whole (versus a part) of the exam, but everything to gain.

 ©Copyright David Park 2012. Reproduction in whole or in part, and in any formwhatsoever, is not permitted without the prior and express permission of DavidPark.

This article was written by David Park, a highlyexperienced IELTS teacher. Ajarn David teaches at Paradigm Language Institute.

If you have anyquestions about IELTS that you would like Ajarn David to answer, or if you wish todo an IELTS preparation course, write to:

IELTS is owned by Cambridge ESOL, theBritish Council and IELTS Australia.


  1. Hi , I have got scores like these L-7.5,R-6.5,W-7,S-7.5. Are there any chances of score increase if I apply for revaluation?

  2. Anychances of inc in reading.. I need 7

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