Should I resit the IELTS?

Think you should resit the IELTS? Here are some common reasons why people ask themselves this question and some advice about what you should do.

“It’s been at least two years since I sat the IELTS.”

IELTS scores are considered to be valid for two years. Some organizations will accept it for up to three years, but generally speaking, a score this old isn’t necessarily representative of your English skills anymore.

If you’ve got to submit an IELTS score for migration, admission, or for getting a job, and your score is two years or older, you should resit the exam.

“My overall score isn’t high enough for admission/entry/hire.”

When your score doesn’t meet the minimum requirements of the organization or institution to which you applied, you may feel like you have no choice but to retake the exam. If this is true for you, consider a few important things first:

If you resit the IELTS, you will be presented with an entirely new set of questions and tasks. This means that it will not be easier the second time around, it will only be different. Research has shown that scores do not improve by merely retaking them – they are very diligently marked by highly trained and qualified examiners and according to a comprehensive marking system.

In other words, if your English level is the same as it was when you took the exam, your score is also likely to be the same. If you must retake the exam to be admitted/hired/given leave for entry, then you must prepare to retake it. Review the band descriptors to understand what is needed to reach your target score, read about how the test is marked, and get to work on improving your English.

“I didn’t do as well on one section as I expected.”

If you would like to improve the score of a single section of the IELTS, you will have to retake all four sections of the exam. Naturally, you should ask yourself why you want to improve the score. If your scores are acceptable as they are (see What is a good IELTS score?), then it is not advisable that you retake it. Remember that, as we discussed earlier, scores generally do not improve unless your English skills have also improved.

“I believe I did better than my IELTS score suggests.”

Again, it is unlikely that simply retaking the exam will yield a higher score. If you believe your performance should have earned you a higher score than you received, you can request for it to be remarked.

“I think I would do better the second time around.”

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, remember that the goal behind taking the IELTS isn’t usually earning a good score, but earning a score that satisfies institutional requirements and makes you eligible. (If you haven’t already, read What is a good IELTS score?) Also, remember that scores don’t improve just because a test taker has sat the IELTS before. After all, you will never be presented with the same test (e.g. questions, recordings, tasks, topics) a second time.

If you think you would do better because circumstances have changed – perhaps time has passed and you have significantly improved your English, or you’ve spent a month in an English-speaking country, you may be right. If your scores were too low to apply for your dream school but you think your English is better now, then it might be a great idea to resit the IELTS.

If, on the other hand, your English skills are as they were, you should consider what you can do to improve your English (and make it happen!) before retaking the exam.

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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6 Responses to Should I resit the IELTS?

  1. Rahul April 8, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

    whoever thought IELTS was just about English. It’s about time management as well. If you didn’t manage your time well first time around (especially with the writing or reading test) – a retake to manage time better seems like the way to go

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 9, 2019 at 7:40 am #

      Oh, definitely! Pacing is a huge factor on the IELTS. Of course, English skill can overlap with pacing as well. The more comfortable you are in your English skills, the easier it will be to pace yourself properly on the exam.

  2. Jaco April 10, 2019 at 5:44 am #

    I retook IELTS to improve my writing score and it did. But my speaking score was less than than the score from the first test. Can I use the best score from each test or only scores of 1 test in full.

    • David Recine
      David Recine May 9, 2019 at 11:31 am #

      Whether or not you can use different section scores from different exams depends on the school, employer, or immigration office you’re applying to. It’s very uncommon for agencies to allow you to use different section scores from different tests in this way, but you may want to double-check with whomever you’re sending your IELTS scores to. It never hurts to ask!

  3. Nish June 30, 2021 at 12:17 pm #

    if i am in canada and i completed my 1 pgdm course and my ielts score expired can i apply for 2nd course?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 12, 2021 at 7:17 pm #

      Hi Nish,

      For the best information, you’d have to reach out to the school that you’re applying to about whether you will need another IELTS. My assumption is that you’d need to retake the IELTS if your score is expired.

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