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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  • Trisha Alcisto

    Trisha is an IELTS blogger at Magoosh. She has a B.A. in Foreign Language and Literature and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics at UMASS Boston. Before blogging for Magoosh, Trisha taught Spanish and English to students of all ages, helping them master their foreign language or writing and reading comprehension skills. She writes and works as an academic editor from Bali, Indonesia where she enjoys yoga, slogging (slow jogging), and practicing her Indonesian with stray dogs.