Retaking the IELTS

Official IELTS Policies on Exam Retakes

IELTS has no official restrictions on the number of times an individual is allowed to retake the exam. Unlike the policies for the TOEFL, there is no mandatory waiting period before taking the IELTS again, and IELTS states that test-takers may register for another exam "as soon as [they] feel ready to do so." There are also no limits on how often students may take the exam within a given period of time, but this is subject to test availability in a specific region.

Registration and Fees for IELTS Retakes

There is no distinction between the registration procedure for an initial IELTS examination and a retake, and all of the same fees apply. Students register directly with the test center in their area, and testing locations and dates may be found by searching the IELTS website.

Rescheduling Registration

Rescheduling an IELTS exam is not the same as retaking the test, and a different set of policies are therefore involved. IELTS encourages students to register at least two months in advance of their preferred test date, and one of the reasons for this is to allow for unforeseen circumstances. IELTS will permit students to reschedule their test appointment for the following reasons: serious illness, bereavement (e.g. death of a close family member), hardship or trauma (such as being the victim of a crime), or military service. Any other situation in which students fail to appear for their test appointment is considered cancellation. Refunds are available only for students who cancel registration at least five weeks before the test date, and an administrative fee will be deducted (25% of the amount paid for registration).

IELTS Research on Score Changes for Multiple Test Attempts

IELTS published a research study in 2009 that investigated the differences in scores across two administrations of the IELTS conducted at a large university in Australia. The authors concluded that the largest average score improvements were on the listening and reading sections, while the writing paper showed the least average improvement. The mean score gain for all students in the study in terms of the total IELTS score was approximately four-tenths of a point on the band scale. As one would expect, students with lower scores on test 1 saw larger score increases on test 2 than students with higher initial scores. Score gains were more significant for undergraduate students than for graduate students, and score increases were strongly correlated to the amount of additional language support and contact.

IELTS Retakes and University Admissions

Retaking the IELTS does not produce any disadvantages in the university admissions process. IELTS sends each institution chosen by the student either paper or electronic score report forms, which include the results of a single test administration only. Although test-takers are asked to assign schools to receive score reports at registration, this process may be delayed up to two years after the test date. Students therefore have the ability to wait until they know their scores before sending them on to their preferred universities, and this would prevent schools from even knowing about disappointing test results. Furthermore, we are not aware of any degree programs that consider the average of all test attempts, and only the highest scores from a single administration will be weighed by admissions officers. Test-takers may not, however, mix and match scores by choosing some sections from one test attempt and other sections from subsequent test attempts.

IELTS Retakes and Test Preparation

Test-takers may register for another IELTS test attempt immediately, but this liberal policy does not mean that it is necessarily a good idea to retake the exam right away. Resitting for the exam without taking steps to improve content skills, study techniques, and testing strategies is likely to produce equally disappointing results. The most effective way to enhance abilities in all of these areas is to take a professional test prep course or private tutoring plan. Experienced instructors know how to build language skills, assist in the creation of plans for study outside of the classroom, and facilitate the acquisition of vital testing abilities such as anxiety reduction and time management. Test-takers who live in English-speaking countries should not become overconfident. Although it is eminently helpful to encounter the English language on a daily basis, succeeding on the IELTS is a specialized skill that requires specific attention and effort.