Making an IELTS complaint

Should you make an IELTS complaint?

Hey! There are always times in life when things don’t go as planned. You buy a wardrobe and think it will take an hour to put together, but it takes 10. Or you have a lovely week planned and then you unexpectedly have your wisdom tooth removed! But what happens if things do not go as planned in the IELTS exam? When should you complain? And, more importantly, how can you make an IELTS complaint? That is what Nick and I discuss today.

Below, you can find a summary of the episode, which includes all of the links to useful materials and the times of each part of the discussion (so you can go directly to the part you want to listen to) 🚀

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Big announcement about asking for a Breakdown of Results

As regular listeners will know, last year we announced that test-takers can now find out what their specific scores were in each part of the IELTS exam. This development was thanks to a newly introduced privacy law (called GDPR), which means that companies in Europe must provide you with any personal information they have stored about you if asked.

Until now, only British Council test centres were supplying this information, but last week many students emailed me to say that IDP had finally replied to their emails and had also provided a breakdown. This is obviously great news, so if you have recently taken your exam with IDP the BC, head to this blog post to find the copy and paste template that you can use to get your breakdown.

IELTS exam results

Find out more about getting a breakdown here

Should you make an IELTS complaint?

99% of IELTS exams run to plan, but like in all aspects of life there are times when things wrong. However, what would constitute a problem so serious that it would be necessary for you to make an IELTS complaint? Well, this week I got this email from a student. I know that they are talking about a mock exam (which was obviously not taken by a trained examiner), but imagine that this happened to you in the real exam. Would you make an IELTS complaint?

Dear Shelly,

I just wanted to get sure about the way applicants are examined in part 3 speaking.I took a mock test yesterday and the way the examiner asked me questions was quite weird and disappointing, because I had never seen people tested in this way in any videos or any mock tests I have taken part so far.

The cue card in part 2 was about “a field of science you like to follow”. In part 3 the examiner asked me about if I wanted to be a research-based student (as far as I know parts 3 ask general follow up questions regarding the previous part not personal ones. Is that right?) Then he bombarded me with detailed specific questions on my field of study, biology.

He asked me how you felt the first time you saw cells through a microscope. Also he asked me to explain Darwinean theory. Then he continued asking more detailed questions about the field, which I admit tripped me up because I didn’t think I would be asked about the ins and outs of my major!

So please let me know if the way I got examined was an authentic one.

My apologies for the long email

Well, what do you think? If you sat the exam and the examiner did not follow test procedure, would you lodge an IELTS complaint? I hope that the answer is yes. Every student has the right to be “tested to standard”, which simply means that every test-taker should have the same test-experience.

If you feel that something was not right in any part of your exam, you should complain to the test administrator on your test day.

It is very important that you make an IELTS complaint before you leave the test centre as you may not be able to make one later.

In what circumstances should I make an IELTS complaint?

Good question. This is what we talk about in the episode. Why not have a look at this list of possible problems to see which you think would warrant a complaint:

  1. In the listening exam, you cannot hear the recording clearly as there are problems with your headphones, the CD is jumping, or there is a distracting noise outside the test room.
  2. In the writing exam, you wrote your response for Task 1 on the paper for Task 2 (and vice versa)
  3. In the speaking exam, you felt that the examiner was unfriendly, or they interrupted you as your were giving an answer, or they stopped you before 2 minutes in Part 2.

We will also discuss what to do if something goes wrong before your test, such as you change your ID or are unable to attend because of illness.

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Will making an IELTS complaint negatively affect my score?

In short, no! If you complain, for example, about your speaking exam, the examiner may never even know that you have lodged a complaint. More importantly, they will have written down your scores as soon as you left the exam room and so they cannot be changed. All you are doing by making a complaint is asking the test centre to investigate further if it is not immediately clear if an infringement occurred or not, or asking for some compensation if one definitely did. Usually, this will be the chance to sit the test again.

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