IELTS test is overrated

Updated at: 2 April, 2024

IELTS test is not all tricks like some people said, but it’s still an overated, expensive business, according to readers.

“As a former IELTS speaking examiner, our guidelines were to note memorized speech. In fact in the IELTS speaking rubric a score of 3.0 is given if the candidate relies on memorized speech. Memorized language doesn’t give the examiner an accurate measure of English-language skills. Furthermore, the examiner will be able to tell if you have memorized your answers and this may influence your final band score. Also, there is little that they can achieve if the candidate’s level of English does not match their IELTS target. If the test taker’s English is at IELTS 5.5, then it doesn’t matter how much exam practice they do: their chances of achieving their target of IELTS 7.0 are zero!

A recent (2019) paper published by Language Testing Asia shows how serious this problem is in terms of volumes: “The present study analyzes the relationship between the test results and stated band score objectives of a cohort of 600 IELTS candidates… It was uncovered that more test-takers failed to meet their band score goals (n = 281) than achieved them (n = 245).”

I personally believe that the IELTS test is overrated and hugely expensive, especially for the average Vietnamese family. The lowest average salary in Vietnam is VND4.36 million (US$179) and the cost of the IELTS test is VND5.2 million. The IELTS speaking examiner spends 15 minutes of his time assessing speaking band scores and the writing examiners spend about the same amount of time assessing candidates and the Reading and Listening skills are automated. That equates to over VND10 million (over $400) per man-hour. What service in Vietnam is worth $400 per hour? Now with advent of AI there are, low-cost alternatives that also issue internationally recognized English proficiency certificates based on CEFR and IELTS criteria which can screen out those candidates who will not be able to achieve their target IELTS score.”
Thomas G. Giglione

“There are no tricks but certainly plenty of gimmicks from the language centers. The correct term would be strategies. When you’ve correctly learned how to approach the different parts of the IELTS test the rest is just practice and of course the correct level of ability. If for example, you are aiming for level 7 then you will already have a C2 level of English competence. Most students that I’ve come across barely reach B1, but when paying for expensive lessons in the center, the center then tries gimmicks on the poor students who believe the nonsense they come out with. It’s big business for these so-called English language centers and they’ll do anything to get kids in to fill their coffers. For example, striking up a deal with a school to let them in the classroom and drum up business with the school teacher telling the parents they have to pay for the extra lessons that the center is providing in the school. Or even the school sending the kids to the language center for a fake test and pressuring the kids to have IELTS lessons at that center.”

“It is indeed big business here. In Europe, students take 2-3 month preparation courses and they are ready to take the exam. In Vietnam, for many reasons, people are led to believe that they have to “study” IELTS like a subject. They are milking poor parents out of their hard-earned money. It is not “studying” IELTS that kids need, they need to study English! Students who enroll in such courses simply do not know when or if they will be taking IELTS. They often say “when I feel confident in my English, I will take the exam, but for now I will “study” IELTS.”

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