As an IELTS teacher, I routinely encounter students who share the belief that taking the IELTS test over and over will help them to get a band 7 or 8. But is this really a good strategy? Of course, the answer is NO. Taking an exam over and over will not guarantee you a good score.
In this article, I will explain the situation so that you can hopefully understand why it is a bad idea to repeatedly take IELTS.
Why Do People Think They Should Repeatedly Take IELTS?
When I was teaching in China, my students would often tell me of their plans for IELTS. They would say things like, “I’m going to sit the IELTS exam every four weeks until I get a band 7!” and I would tell them that this was a bad idea. However, they seldom listened.
In the case of those students, the main factor was their parents. In China, young adults’ parents have a significant influence over their life. These strict parents believed that doing a test repeatedly would guarantee success… but this is a flawed and outdated mindset.
It is not just a Chinese phenomenon, of course. Across much of Asia, people have the same idea. They sit IELTS again and again and again, believing that it is only logical that their score will increase. Many of them ask me how long it will take to go from a band 6 to a band 7, and my answer is always the same:
There is no set timeframe. It depends on how much effort you invest.
Indeed, the most important message is that IELTS is a test of your English skills. It’s not just an exam that you can figure out and beat.
Why Can’t You Pass IELTS By Repeatedly Taking It?
No matter whether you do IELTS once, twice, or a hundred times, the examiner will give you a score that reflects your actual English ability. This is a hard thing for people to deal with. Especially in Asia, people think of English not as a language but as a subject in school. You might be able to beat your school’s English test by taking it again and again, but IELTS will be different each time. It is specifically designed so people can’t cheat it.
To put it another way, if you have a vocabulary test, you can sit it five times and you will probably get better each time because you will learn the right and wrong answers. However, if you have to write five essays, you will probably just keep making the same mistakes. You need to improve so many different types of skill in order to get better.
For these reasons and more, it is a really bad idea to keep taking IELTS.
What Is The Problem With Repeatedly Taking IELTS?
Technically speaking, there is no big problem with doing IELTS again and again; however, you will be wasting your time and money. If you are a very rich person, maybe this does not matter to you, but for most people it is a serious issue.
Another factor is that of morale. If you keep taking IELTS and expect to one day magically score a band 7, you will surely feel depressed when you continually score band 6. This bad feeling will cause you to learn more slowly. You will feel more nervous in your next exam. In other words, repeatedly doing IELTS could even cause you to perform worse!
Is There Any Benefit To Doing IELTS Many Times?
As I have discussed, it is a pretty bad idea to continually take IELTS. However, there may be some small benefits. For one thing, you could theoretically become accustomed to the whole process of doing the exam. This might make you less nervous and more comfortable sitting it in future.
There is also the fact that any exam involves some degree of repetitiveness. Someone who has taken IELTS ten times might find that they can predict common topics and question types more easily, meaning that they have a certain advantage. However, this would be of minimal impact because they would not be able to predict the exact questions and they would still be judged entirely on their English skills, which would probably not have improved because of their repeated attempts.
So What Is The Best Approach?
Quite frankly, it is stupid to take IELTS over and over. You are wasting your time and money. Instead, you should plan ahead and take IELTS only when you are ready. If you need a band 7, then wait until you are good enough to score band 7. Do not think that you can get lucky and beat the system. IELTS is carefully designed to ensure that never happens.
Learning a language is a slow, difficult process. If it was easy, everyone could score band 9 on their first attempt. You should devote yourself to studying English from a wide range of materials, then work on your IELTS exam skills, and sit the test when you are ready. If you do not get the score you wanted, you should try to find out why. If you came close, maybe you could achieve your target score on the next attempt, but otherwise it is silly to keep on booking a new test date.
If you really want to know whether or not you are ready, do some practice tests. You can find listening and reading ones online, or you can get in touch with me to arrange a mock speaking test or have me evaluate your writing score.