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What To Do If Your IELTS Result Is Too Low

If you’re reading this page it’s because you haven’t got the IELTS score you wanted or you’re just curious about what you can do if you don’t get the IELTS score you need.

If you believe the IELTS result you received is not justified don't just sit back and take it. This has cost you a lot of time, money and effort. If you have kept "Post IELTS Test Notes" as suggested, you will know whether or not your result is fair. If you believe it is not, look at the options on this page.

If you are the latter, DON’T READ THIS! All you need to know is in the The IELTS Test and Hints and Tips pages.   If you haven’t read these, DO SO NOW. The following information is likely to be a distraction from your IELTS preparation and, in any case, you shouldn’t be considering the possibility that you won’t get the score you merit! If the score you merit is lower than the score you need, all you can do is continue your studies.

So now we are just talking to those of you who have received your results and they are not high enough. We know you worked very hard on this and may be bitterly disappointed but do not despair!

You have a number of options to consider but first take a look at your scores and your "Post IELTS Test Notes" (remember those?), then answer these questions:

  1. How far is your actual score from that needed?
  2. How far is your actual score from what you expected?
  3. Is there one module that scored much lower than the others?
  4. How big is the variation in scores across the modules?
  5. Are any of the scores unexpectedly low?
  6. Are any of the scores unexpectedly high?
  7. Is your English level really as good as you think?
  8. Did you have any complaints about any part of the test?

You have a number of options to try to rescue the situation:

To be a useful and fair measure of a candidate's English language ability any English test must be consistent across test centres. IELTS say they enforce a strict code of conduct on test centres.

In our opinion, the conduct of the IELTS test is not as consistent across centres as it should be. If you believe the test was not conducted properly, please complain. At the very least you will be making IELTS take notice and make efforts to keep their house in order - as I am doing simply by writing this!

  1. The first option you should consider is whether to try to persuade the organisation which demanded this score, possibly the university you want to attend, to still accept you. This is a possibility if your IELTS result was only slightly less than the requirement, e.g. 0.5.

    Although many organisations will use your IELTS score as a strict cut off, others may be amenable to accepting your application. This is particularly likely if your course is under-subscribed.

  2. If you have just cause for complaint, you can ask for a retest. Remember that the centre will only give you a retest if it is justified. If you had cause for complaint you should already have informed the centre by completing a "Test Day Complaint Form" on the day of the test – see our IELTS Tips page.
  3. The third alternative is to ask for a re-mark. You have to pay for a re-mark and it costs approximately two thirds of the actual test fee depending on the test centre involved. You can specify that all or specific modules are re-marked, the fee is the same. This will be refunded if your result is changed to a higher band score. Looking at your scores, which module(s) do you think should have had a higher score? If it is just listening or reading we have to advise you not to ask for a re-mark. These modules are objective and easy to mark. You would be extremely unlikely to find your score changed.

    With the writing and speaking modules, however, there is a greater possibility that your score may change if re-marked. Check your "Post IELTS Test Notes". Did you have any problems during the test e.g. not completing a writing task or being overwhelmed by nerves during the interview? If you’re convinced that your English level for a module is higher than the score you received and you did the exam to the best of your ability and you feel you can raise your score for that module enough, then you should consider asking for a re-mark. As your scores will not be marked lower, consider asking for all modules to be re-marked. This re-marking is done in London so it can sometimes take 8 - 10 weeks.

    If the marks across the entire test vary by more than 2 bands your IELTS test will already have been re-marked, making the chance of a further re-mark increasing your score much less likely.

    If you decide to ask for a re-mark you must do so within six weeks of the date of your IELTS test.

  4. The final option is to retake the IELTS test. You no longer have to wait least 90 days before you can re-sit the IELTS test as this requirement was waived from 1st May 2006. You should consider how much you need to improve your English (if at all). Check your "Post IELTS Test Notes". It may be that you were very nervous on the day and feel that next time it will be much easier, or you may have had problems with timing and failed to complete some of the modules. If so, apply now and try to solve these problems in the meantime – time management, for example. On the other hand, you may agree that you overestimated your ability and need more preparation before you retake the test. In this case we suggest you take some time to consider how best to continue your studies. Use your "Post IELTS Test Notes" to help you focus on the important areas. As a rule of thumb, you will need 3 months intensive study to increase your score by one band.

So, you see, don't give up just because the result you received is not what you needed. You may still be able to persuade your intended organisation to accept you. You may still be able to increase your score with a re-mark. You may even be able to demand a re-test. Even if you decide that, although too low, the IELTS result you received was fair, you will still be able to use your "Post IELTS Test Notes" to help you decide on the best course of action prior to resitting the IELTS exam.

Your IELTS Guide sincerely hopes you won't need to use any of the options on this page because you get your required IELTS Result first time. However, as with all things in life, we don't always get what we should. So, if you feel it's justified, don't be afraid to ask for a re-mark or a re-test. After all, you've spent a lot of time and money on this and the outcome may be very important to you!

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