…have developed some clever ways to gently burst their students’ bubbles who want to RETAKE the exam too soon after having ‘failed’ it.

Now, IELTS isn’t a PASS-OR-FAIL exam of course, but candidates often sign up for it with very specific band scores in mind. These tend to be defined by the university where they hope to study, or the country they plan to immigrate to.

And when they don’t achieve these minimum band scores, they often ‘book in to fail again’, right after (e.g. within a month).

As a friend of mine, Dave Koski recently pointed out on LinkedIn, this tends to be because they think IELTS is some sort of a ‘knowledge test’. 

In which case all you have to do is ‘study harder’ to ‘prepare better this time’. And go back within a week, for a better score.

But English proficiency tests don’t work like this, especially not IELTS, which is a skills only exam at that. As Dave put it, ‘it takes time to build good language skills, like it takes time to master a musical instrument’. …and that time is usually not one week. 😀 :O

Which is why, even if a candidate miraculously manages to improve their results in one skill, they often lose half a band in another… 

Retaking (and retaking and retaking…) the exam in quick succession like this is nothing much else but GAMBLING. 

The solution is to a, communicate clearly about the kind of exam that IELTS is from day one, and b, try to take people ‘above level’ as much as possible before they sit the exam.

This is important, because as James Clear says it in his book, Atomic Habits, 

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems”.

In other words, due to the stress of an exam situation, a headache, some unexpected noises in the room, the heat, or any other type of added discomfort, chances are you might score slightly below your actual skill.

What’s YOUR strategy around handling (unrealistic…) student expectations?

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Hi. I’m Fatime. I’m an IELTS Teacher Trainer, helping CELTA-qualified English language teachers become better at teaching SKILLS, as opposed to just testing them. 

Check out my courses here:

How to Teach IELTS Listening:

How to Teach IELTS Reading:

How to Teach IELTS Writing:

How to Teach IELTS Speaking: