Why were my IELTS results withheld?

There is nothing more frustrating than studying really hard for an exam, taking a test, waiting for your IELTS to be graded, and then not getting your score when you are supposed to.  More and more, I have heard of reports of candidates having their IELTS results withheld.  Unfortunately in certain circumstances, test results may be withheld for longer than the usual period of 13 days. But why?

Let’s look at three likely reasons why your IELTS results were withheld.

Random quality checks

In the extensive terms and conditions of the test, it states that sometimes the examining body will carry out random quality checks.  If this happens, then you might receive an email like this:

IELTS Results Withheld Email

Unfortunately, all you can do here is wait.

An unusual exam result

If the the examining body has reasonable grounds to believe that a test result is not a reliable indicator of a candidate’s ability, then they can also withhold it.

One example of this is when a candidate scores very high in one area, like the reading and listening sections, while performing poorly in another, like in the writing and speaking.  Here, the IELTS authorities may suspect that the test taker has memorised the reading and listening questions – a practice that is very popular and possible in some countries.

Other instances that may cause an examining body to think your score is unusual include:

  • a similarity of response patterns, or marks, between two or more candidates
  • a dramatically different performance of a repeater candidate on one test date compared to their previous performance
  • the likelihood of certain responses and scores given the overall ability of the candidate
  • the time it takes to complete the test or test items (in Computer-Based tests).

They suspect malpractice

Any cases which are identified as being very unusual may be further scrutinised by an external malpractice panel. Here, the panel will investigate to see if the candidate basically cheated in some way by:

  • obtaining unauthorised access to examination material
  • using or trying to use unauthorised material, e.g. notes, study guides, mobile phones
  • copying or attempting to copy
  • being involved in disruptive behaviour or not following the instructions of an invigilator, supervisor or Centre Exams Manager
  • impersonating someone else (i.e. sitting the exam for someone else)
  • altering any results document, including certificates
  • participating in any other form of cheating or gaining of an unfair advantage.

What next?

First, just relax and be patient.  I know the wait can be very nerve-racking, but usually it is nothing to worry about.  Most likely, your results were only withheld for a random quality check or an unusual result and will be released to you within a few weeks. Sadly, I have heard of some cases where it this has taken several months. Terribly frustrating, I know, but this seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

However, if they do suspect malpractice, then you may have to provide a statement and additional information to a review panel. After carefully considering the case, they may release the result unchanged or they might permanently withhold the result. Unfortunately, though, these investigations can take up to 12 weeks from the test date.

By the way, sign up for our 1 Week Free Trial to try out Magoosh IELTS Prep!

57 Responses to Why were my IELTS results withheld?

  1. Haseeb Ahmed December 1, 2016 at 11:33 am #

    Hi Gwen,

    Thank you for posting this. My wife has recently sat her IELTS exam in london and unfortunately the board has withheld her result and today sent her an email saying they will not release her result as they suspect her of malpractice.

    My wife obviously is distraught as she is 100% adamant (and I believe her) that she has not cheated. She has merely worked her butt off for this exam as she has passed with 6.5 scores before but needs a 7.5 for her profession.

    The board has not outlined what they suspect her of! What can you advise here if anything as she is absolutely distraught that she is being suspected of cheating when she hasn’t.

    Many thanks

    Haseeb

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 6, 2016 at 8:18 am #

      I’m sorry to hear that your wife is going through this! 🙁

      In situations like this, the best you can do is to be very proactive. By this, I mean you should make a point of contacting IELTS customer service, your wife’s testing centre, and any other part of the IELTS administration that may be able to help you. Ask for more information and ask to speak to IELTS supervisors if the person on the phone or at the desk doesn’t have answers for you. Be polite but firm, and you should hopefully be able to get better answers form someone.

      Let me know if you need any more advice… and best of luck! If you get a chance, come back here to the comments after this is resolved, and let us know how things went.

    • saeed December 26, 2016 at 1:24 am #

      Hi
      I have a similar problem
      please keep in touch with me through email
      saeedakbari1991@yahoo.com

  2. Kkk January 24, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    Hi Gwen ,

    I do have a question here , pls advise . When the candidates are picked on random basis, and are being investigated , why do they still take more than 2 weeks for this ( as you said , couple of months also sometimes) . What would happen to a candidate, who has an offer letter from the migrating country and is just waiting for the results and lost the offer , just because a delay from results. Whom to blame then ??? Also please let us know how to sue and whom to sue , if we feel that injustice has been done ??? Because I am very sure the customer care and the front desk officers at the centers are just nugatory .

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 27, 2017 at 2:59 am #

      Hi Swathee,

      Unfortunately, I believe you would be told that it is your responsibility to obtain all necessary paperwork far enough in advance that administrative things like an IELTS score withholding will not affect your offer. There will not be recourse or compensation for this, because the onus is placed firmly on you as the applicant. I’m sorry, and I know this is frustrating and disappointing. While it may feel unfair, you would be held solely responsible. :/

  3. Jing yang January 31, 2017 at 2:04 am #

    Hi, I’ve received a email 2 days from my result date saying my results have been withheld permanently. I’ve followed all rule. I’ve no idea on what to do. What should I do?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 31, 2017 at 2:59 am #

      I’m sorry to hear this is happening to you! 🙁 This must be very upsetting. To find out what happened, and to see if there’s any way to still get your test scores, contact the centre where you sat the IELTS. You can locate your centre and find its contact information through this website.

      You may also be able to make an enquiry by phone by calling the British Council; their contact information is here. The IELTS also has an online email form that can help you get in contact with someone.

    • Samuel February 26, 2017 at 11:47 pm #

      What does it mean, a result is permanently withheld? Is he eligible to take the test again? or He never appears IELTS exam?

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 27, 2017 at 8:26 am #

        Generally, if a result is permanently withheld, this means ONLY that the score for one particular test session is being permanently withheld. Under these circumstances, test-takers are usually allowed to retake the exam for a new score. It’s still a very frustrating situation, of course.

    • jasani April 21, 2017 at 8:47 pm #

      same problem i faced on 21/04/2017
      permanently withhold after received TRF copy at my home

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 22, 2017 at 4:25 am #

        Sorry to hear about that. 🙁 But thank you for sharing. It’s good for our readers to know about this possible outcome.

  4. sameer March 13, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    Hi I gave the exam on Feb 11, 2017. I received an email that my scores are withheld for quality check. Its really annoying as I have studied quite hard for this exam. Its been more than a month since I wrote the exam but I still have not received the result. Kindly advise.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 14, 2017 at 2:23 am #

      A whole month! That is a long time to wait. My advice at this point is to contact your testing center and ask them for the status of your score. Usually,t he center where you take the test can help you deal with any delays in getting your scores. And even if they can’t help, they can refer you to someone who can help. Good luck!

  5. Mahim March 16, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    what result i can expect if my score gets withheld?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 17, 2017 at 4:33 am #

      Hi Mahim,

      It depends on why your results are withheld. You might never get results, they might be delayed, etc. You will have to take it on a case-by-case basis.

  6. Aashish Sharma March 30, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

    I too have given the ielts examination on feb 11, 2017 but the result is not published yet. I have contacted British council, Nepal but they are not providing any details for it and I have already losed many of the offers for abroad studies.This has really made me frustrating.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 1, 2017 at 5:07 am #

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Aashish! I wish there was something we could do, but all I can offer is solidarity and a hearty “good luck.”

  7. Afzal Khan April 10, 2017 at 2:00 am #

    I gave my IELTS exam on 25-Mar-2017, and received this message on 13th day, Dear Candidate,

    We regret to inform you that due to quality control procedures, your results are still being analyzed. We hope to get back to you with your IELTS results status by Monday 10th April 2017

    Best Regards,

    IELTS- British Council
    Will i get my results soon or its gonna take while please advise.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 10, 2017 at 7:00 am #

      Hi Afzal,

      Sorry to hear that your IELTS scores have been delayed in this way! That certainly sounds frustrating. 🙁

      I have some bad news, but it’s not as bad as you might think: quality control procedures are done to check whether or not a test-taker has cheated.

      Why is this not as bad as it seems? It’s not so bad (hopefully) because very often, quality control procedures don’t actually result in a real cheating accusation or loss of your score. Quality control checks are done routinely on many IELTS exams each month.

      You may or may not get your results soon. Depending on how a quality control check is done, it can be over quickly, or it can take weeks.

      Here is what I suggest you do: contact the test centre where you took the IELTS. Ask them if they know why the quality control check is being done. They should be able to either give you an answer, or give you the phone number of a British Council office that can provide you with an answer. Once you’re talking to someone who knows all about your quality control check, ask them how long they think it will take.

      Also ask them if there is any extra information you can provide in order to make the process go faster. Sometimes there are ways you can speed up the process. For example, many quality control checks happen because the British Council is having trouble verifying the identification of the test-taker. In that case, sending them additional IDs or ID information can help.

      Best of luck. And if you get a chance, come back here and let us know what happened, once everything is resolved.

  8. Nadia April 11, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

    I have taken IELT exams for several times to get maximum score for my immigration application….but one of my results has been withheld permanently ( don’t know why) but got an email that I malpracticed, however, I have gotten my required score but now I am scared that because of that one permanent withheld result my immigration process will get rejected or not.

    I would be glad if you can tell me that, whether Canadian immigration system will be going to check all my IELTS result status or only that one which I have submitted to them.

    Best regards,
    Nadia

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 18, 2017 at 2:56 am #

      Malpractice (or alleged) won’t be reported to Canadian immigration. But you will need to retake the test in order to get a score that you can use, of course.

      • Ali Dadhee May 17, 2017 at 11:24 pm #

        A cousin of mine is having same problem.

        But he have some previous test results that is full filling minimum requirements. Can he use that previous one’s still or new re take is required ?

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 17, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

          Hi Ali 🙂

          IELTS scores are valid for 2 years. So, if your cousin took the exam in the past two years, then yes, he can use that score. However, if his score is more than 2 years old, he cannot use that score for his applications and must wait until his most recent scores are released.

          I hope this clears up your doubts! 🙂

  9. Prayag Shah April 12, 2017 at 4:31 am #

    Dear Mam,
    I gave my IELTS exam on 30th March-2017, and i received a message on 13th day of my result i.e.
    Dear Candidate,
    We wish to inform you that your results are still under process and will not be released today. We are working on releasing them to you to you at the earliest and will update you on the status of your result by 4pm on 12 May 2017.We regret the inconvenience and delay in releasing your results.

    Will I get my result early or after a month?
    Did this is very serious and can affect my band score?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 18, 2017 at 2:50 am #

      I’m sorry to hear this has happened to you. 🙁 Sometimes “still under process” means your exam has been flagged for possible dishonesty. At other times, that notice simply means that the IELTS is experience slower score processing time than usual, due to unforseen circumstances. This likely won’t affect your band score. It also sounds like your score will be released specifically on May 12. So all in all things sound hopeful. If you want details on why you got this notice and why your scores have been delayed, contact your test centre. They will either know the answers or be able to refer you to someone who can help you.

  10. Asad April 12, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    “Unfortunately, though, these investigations can take up to 12 weeks from the test date.”

    Glad to know this as I have already been waiting almost 9 weeks for my 2nd February result. What is the source of this information?

    Also, you are absolutely right in “Sadly, I have heard of some cases where it this has taken several months. Terribly frustrating, I know, but this seems to be the exception rather than the norm.” IELTS should inform candidates of this possibility where they say test results are available within 7 or 13 days.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 18, 2017 at 2:45 am #

      The twelve week figure comes from the official Cambridge website, and applies to all Cambridge English Exams, including IELTS. It sounds like you’ve got three more weeks to wait at most, unless it’s an unusally long case.

      I agree that IELTS should do more to communicate with people whose exams are being reviewed. If you haven’t already done this, I recommend that your each out to IELTS yourself (by contacting your test centre initially).

      • Zara May 6, 2017 at 1:16 am #

        I also did the test on the 2nd Feb in Islamabad and have not received the results yet. It has been over 12 week (93 days) since the test date and I’ve still got nothing.

        I have called the British council and the test centre and they cannot give me any information on when the results will be released or why they are withheld. I have called cambridge and they say they can’t give me information and can only give information to the test centre.

        What is the maximum time I can expect to wait for the results?

        And Asad are your results still withheld of have they been released now?

        Thank you

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 8, 2017 at 3:48 am #

          Hi Zara,

          Unfortunately, I do not know that there is a maximum wait time. You are stuck in results limbo. I’m sorry, and I hope it is resolved soon!

        • Asad May 8, 2017 at 4:51 am #

          Hello Zara,
          Just today I received an email from British Council saying the results will be posted today and I should receive them by post within 2-3 days.

          I hope it is the same for you.
          Best of luck with your result!

  11. Valeria April 21, 2017 at 12:25 am #

    Hi,

    I just recieved an email that said my ielts results are being whitheld for investigation. They also ask me to give information which support my test scores. What does than mean? Which kind of information will they be asking for? They are Testing me again? Becouse they spect me to write a full statement about fhat. Please help me I Need my scores as soon as possible.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 21, 2017 at 6:47 am #

      If your results are being held for investigation, it usually means you’re being investigated for cheating. If the IELTS concludes that you cheated, your scores will be deleted, and you’ll need to retake the test.

      As for the information that would support your test scores, it’s hard to say what kind of information the IELTS might want. It all depends on way they decided to investigate your results.

      Hopefully you can get this resolved and get the IELTS scores you need. To find out more about exactly why you’re being investigated, and what information they want from you, contact your test centre and explain the situation to them. Someone at your testing location will be able t help you figure out what needs to be done, so you can get this problem resolved. Best of luck! And if you get a chance, come back to the comments and let us know what happened.

  12. Maaz April 21, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

    Today I got an email that my results are witheld, do.I need to do anything or just wait for their reply?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 22, 2017 at 4:27 am #

      It’s always a good idea to communicate with the IELTS people when this happens. Open communication can make the process move forward more quickly. It can also increase your chances that your scores will eventually be released. (Instead of permanently withheld.)

      As you communicate with IELTS about this, start by contacting your testing center. Explain the situation to them, and ask them who you should talk to next, and what you should say.

  13. Blueberry April 22, 2017 at 9:43 am #

    I took the ielts exam last april 8, and my result were withheld. But I was able to view it online. I ask the test center they told me that they will email me after 14 days or up to 1 month for any updates on my results. Is it ok to take the exam again within this period? Or will I just wait after a month? Thanks!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 22, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

      Wow, that sounds like an unusual situation. To m knowledge, you usually can’t view your results online if they’re still being held. I advise calling your testing center to ask them if you can take the exam while you wait. You may also want to tell them you can view your results online, if you haven’t done so already. This may make a difference.

      • Blueberry April 23, 2017 at 4:41 am #

        I guess its really unusual because I try to view again thinking that they might removed it but to my surprise the results are still there and remain unchanged. I will have to call the test center and ask them about retaking the exam while waiting for the official result. Thanks for your advice!

        • Ravi May 3, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

          Hi Brother,

          Same thing happened with me. What to do what u did.

          Thanks
          Ravi

  14. Robin April 26, 2017 at 4:47 am #

    Notification of investigation of IELTS test result against passport # XXXXX

    We refer to your IELTS test of 30th March, 2017.

    Strict quality control procedures are in place to protect the integrity and security of the IELTS test. As part of these procedures, test results are routinely analyzed by the IELTS Test Partners before they are issued to candidates.

    As a result of these procedures, your test scores for the 30th March, 2017 have come under scrutiny and are being investigated. Your results are being withheld while this investigation is being conducted. Please note that all investigations are conducted without prejudice by the IELTS Test Partners.

    Hi … i got this in my email so please tell when m suppose to get my result .. will they reveal or permanently withheld??? Please help me

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 27, 2017 at 7:05 am #

      Hi Robin,

      It sounds like you should get your results, but it can take a while. As long as nothing odd happens in the investigation, your results will be released as normal. You’re unfortunately going to have to wait until you next hear from them. :/ Good luck!

      • Hasan May 26, 2017 at 5:34 am #

        Yesterday I have got email from British Council that my IELTS result has been withheld due to quality control check. But they didn’t give me a time line that when my results has been released. I am so much worried about it. Can you give me some tips what can I do now

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 27, 2017 at 2:35 am #

          Hi Hasan 🙂 Unfortunately, there is no fixed timeline for when your scores will be released. At this point, your main options are to wait for an update or to take the exam again in hopes of receiving this set of scores in a more timely manner. I realize this is not an ideal situation, but I hope this helps, at least a little!

  15. M karim April 30, 2017 at 7:25 am #

    I took my test on 8 April and my result withhold everyday I call them but no answer
    So annoying in my opinion both british council and IDP are fully correpted they just want to take money from people. I am thinking to find a lawyer to help in getting my result

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 2, 2017 at 4:28 am #

      I can understand how this can be frustrating. Before you consider a lawyer though, make sure you’re calling the right places. Try calling your testing centre, if you haven’t already. And if that isn’t helping, consider contacting British Council customer service or IDP customer service directly.

  16. Youssef May 7, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    Thanks for this helpful information. BTW, I did the IELTS exam on Feb 11th, and until now my results withheld!!!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 8, 2017 at 3:48 am #

      That’s frustrating, Youssef! I hope they come through soon.

  17. Mohit Gulati May 15, 2017 at 3:22 am #

    Hi, I gave the test on 29th April, 2017. My results are also delayed. I received following email.

    Dear Candidate,
    We refer to your IELTS test.
    As part of the quality control procedures designed to protect the integrity and security of the IELTS test, test results are routinely analyzed before they are issued to candidates.  

    Unfortunately it was not possible to include all the results from this Centre in the analysis for this test session. These results will be analyzed shortly.

    Please note that it is specified in the declaration signed by candidates on the application form that there may be occasions when it is necessary to issue a result more than 13 days after the test.

    Please accept our apologies for this delay.

    Regards

    IELTS Test Centre Administrator

    Can you please guide me on what might be the possible reason and what should i do?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 16, 2017 at 4:54 am #

      Hi Mohit,

      Unfortunately, the only thing you can really do right now is wait for your scores to be released. I understand how waiting for delayed scores can be frustrating, but these delays do happen (with little or no explanation from Cambridge). That said, you should not worry that you did something to cause this delay. The fact that the writing and speaking sections are graded by certificated examiners can be a reason for delays in scores, for example, if there was a particular high volume of candidates on a specific test date. I hope this helps, at least a little, and I hope you receive your scores as soon as possible 🙂

  18. mahabub May 25, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    I recived This email from british council

    Notification of Investigation of IELTS Test Result

    We refer to your IELTS test of 13 May 2017.

    Strict quality control procedures are in place to protect the integrity and security of the IELTS test. As part of these procedures, test results are routinely analysed by the IELTS Test Partners before they are issued to candidates.

    As a result of these procedures, test scores for 13 May 2017 have come under scrutiny and are being investigated. Your results are being withheld while this investigation is being conducted. Please note that all investigations are conducted without prejudice by the IELTS Test Partners.

    The declaration on the IELTS application form that you agreed to includes the following statement: ‘I understand that my results may not be issued 13 days after the test if any of the IELTS Test Partners deem it necessary to review any matter associated with my test’.

    We will provide an update on your results as soon as the investigation is complete.

    What can i do for this ?i am very worried …

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 27, 2017 at 6:26 am #

      It’s understandable to feel worried, since this notice usually means that you are suspected of cheating on the IELTS. Don’t feel too worried, however. Being suspected of cheating does not mean that IELTS will ultimately decide that you cheated. Contact your local test centre and tell them about the message. Then ask them who you can speak to or email int he IELTS management team, so that you can know exactly why your results are withheld.

      Often, cheating accusations happen because of misunderstandings or miscommunication. So it’s good to reach out to IELTS and see if the problem can be resolved.

  19. Aneesh Gs May 26, 2017 at 12:23 am #

    Dear madam,

    I attended the ielts test on march 13 2017.I got a SMS that

    Dear Candidate,
    We wish to inform you that some IELTS results for 13 May’17 are under process due to quality control procedure in order to protect the integrity and security of the IELTS tests. As a result of these procedures, your test scores are being investigated. The next update on your results will be provided via sms by 07 June 2017 by 4 pm.
    Regards,
    British Council

    Please reply

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 27, 2017 at 6:17 am #

      Sorry this is happening to you! 🙁 The good news is that they have given you a specific date for an update on your situation. So you will likely have an answer of some sort by June 7. At this point, you’ll probably need to wait, although it doesn’t hurt to contact your test centre and see if there’s any way to get your results more quickly.

  20. Cynthia May 26, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

    Same thing happens to me today .I really don’t know how long it will take. I took the exam in May 13,2017.

  21. Hajar May 26, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    Hi there.. thanks a lot for this very helpful topic. My test results were delayed for a week. I have a question about this. Does it affect all the people who underwent the same test in the same time? Or is it just my test results that are being held either for quality checks or for suspicion. Your reply is highly appreciated.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 27, 2017 at 2:27 am #

      Hi Hajar. 🙂 No, it’s not necessarily the case that everyone who took the exam on a specific date or at a specific test center will have their scores delayed. I hope you receive your results soon! If not, you may want to consider taking the exam again to get your results more quickly. I know that this isn’t ideal, but depending on your timeline, it may be an option to keep in mind.

  22. Siraj patel May 27, 2017 at 4:03 am #

    Hi,

    Even I was expecting my results yesterday but instead received only a msg from BC that it’s under process due to quality control procedures in order to protect the integrity and security of IELTS tests.
    This is my 2nd attempt. Last tme I scored a 6 in reading and 9 in listening. I am confident enough that I scored a 9 in both this time round. Can this be a reason for my withholding of results. Thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 27, 2017 at 6:10 am #

      The message you received means that they’re withholding your results because they suspect you might have cheated. A huge score improvement that happens in a short period of time might be cause for suspicion. But it’s really hard to guess their exact reasons for withholding your score. My advice is to directly contact your testing centre. Ask them if they know any details about why your results have been withheld. And if they don’t have any details, ask them what email or phone number you can use to contact the British Council r Cambridge and get more information.

      I’m certainly sorry this is happening to you. If you get any updates, come back here and let us know how things turned out!


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