IELTS is not an easy test and so many people feel disappointed with the results that they receive. As such, it is familiar to hear candidates asking, “Should I ask for a revaluation?” or “Should I get my test re-marked?”

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A typical request for advice.

This is possible thanks to a feature of the IELTS test called “Enquiry of Results” (EOR), which allows candidates to request that someone re-mark their exam. This is done when the candidate feels that their result should have been better than the score they were given.

Although it may seem like a good idea to apply for EOR, it is not always the smart thing to do. It completely depends on your personal situation, and so I will explain the pros and cons in this article in order for you to understand better whether it is advisable for you.

What is Re-marking?

First of all, let’s look at what “re-marking” actually means. Also known as “revaluation,” “re-checking,” or “re-scoring,” it means that you are requesting that the IELTS examiners look at your test paper again. Essentially, you are saying that you think you deserved a higher score and so you want to have someone look at your answers and check that you definitely got the right score.

Normally, people receive their IELTS grades and accept the results that were assigned by the examiners. However, it is possible to contact the British Council (or IDP) and tell them that you think one of your scores was unfairly marked. The papers will then be sent to the UK, where other examiners will review them.

How Does it Work?

If you want to apply for an EOR, you need to fill in the necessary forms from the British Council or IDP websites and then pay the stated fee within six weeks of your test date. This fee differs from country to country, and it is not cheap. In India, for example, the cost of EOR is currently 9,500 rupees, and this fee regularly increases. For reference, that is about £100 or $130. In other countries, it can be even higher. You must also send a copy of your ID.

The process is not particularly quick, either. Although it is possible that you may receive the results within a few days, it can take up to 28 days, and a wait of about 20 days is normal.

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Please note that the cost of this re-marking procedure is the same regardless of whether you ask to have one section or all sections of your test re-checked. As such, if you do decide to apply for EOR, you should probably ask for all sections to be reviewed rather than just the one that you were worried about.

It is also worth observing that your EOR fee will be refunded if your score increases, but not if your score remains the same. In other words, if your request is successful, the money that you paid will be returned.

Can My Score Go Down?

No, it is not possible for your IELTS score to be in any way reduced during the re-marking process. Your score could only possibly be increased by the new examiners.

Will My Score Go Up?

This is the part that is hard to answer. Honestly, in most cases your score will not change at all because the success rate for EOR is not good. The IELTS examiners are well-trained to mark candidates’ papers. For the reading and listening, it is extremely unlikely that a mistake was made, and if it was, then there was most likely one single answer marked wrongly. In such a situation, you might not even see an increase in your band score. For example, if you got 28 questions correct in the listening test, your score would be 6.5. However, if there was a mistake on your paper and the EOR showed that you really got 29 questions correct, your score would still be 6.5.

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Most people want their writing or speaking tests re-marked because these parts are subjectively reviewed by an examiner and there is a greater chance of an error having been made. Your test will be assessed by a man or woman who is trained to assign you a grade based upon a set of marking criteria agreed by the IELTS organisers. This means that there is room for disagreement, and it is possible that one examiner might think your grammar was worthy of a band 6 while another might think that it’s worth 7.

As such, it is possible that your score could be improved by asking for these to be re-marked. Theoretically, a new examiner might look and say that you scored 0.5 more than the first examiner due to a different interpretation of the criteria as applied to your performance. However, anything more than 0.5 is extremely unlikely. These people are thoroughly trained to evaluate writing and speaking, and they differ little in their opinions.

When Should People Consider Requesting EOR?

Every day, I hear from people who want to know if an EOR is worthwhile. Usually, the problem is that one part of their IELTS result was lower than the others – normally, the writing section. Because of this, they feel that there was a mistake and so they want to get their exam re-marked. Unfortunately, this is seldom successful and they just end up wasting a lot of money.

You should not apply for re-marking just because one section of your exam was marked lower than the others. There are many reasons why you might have done poorly on that section, and it’s much more likely that you made some mistakes than the examiner.

Let’s take the writing test for an example. Most IELTS candidates find writing to be the most difficult part of the exam. In fact, I wrote an article about that here. Basically, the writing test requires you to do much more than the speaking test and even a native speaker would find it a little difficult. There are so many simple mistakes that you could make that could see your score reduced. Maybe you misread the question, misused an important word, or could not make your ideas clear and logically sequenced.

Whether it is for writing or speaking, there are many different factors that could affect your performance and in most cases a bad score is simply due to a bad performance. Maybe you were stressed or maybe you felt sick that day… In any case, it is unlikely that the examiner gave you the wrong score.

If you did get harshly marked, then the most likely outcome would be an increase of 0.5 at maximum. Why? Well, think about how IELTS is graded. There are 4 areas assessed for writing and speaking. If you were unfairly marked, it would probably only be for one of them. An increase of a whole band score for any one part might result in an overall increase of 0 or 0.5:

  Original Score EOR
Task Achievement 7 7
Coherence and Cohesion 7 7
Lexical Resource 6 7
Grammatical Range and Accuracy 6 6
Total 6.5 6.5

Originally, your grade was 6.5. However, later you are marked at 6.75, which is rounded down to 6.5. As such, even though one part of your score did technically increase, your overall score would remain the same. Remember that your scores for Task 1 and 2 would also be added together to figure out the total writing score, making it even less likely that you would see an increase.

Why Might EOR Be a Bad Choice?

If you have lots of money and time, EOR is a pretty good choice because your grade cannot go down. In other words, there is no harm that can come from asking for it to be re-marked. However, most people cannot afford to waste hundreds of dollars and wait for several weeks to find out their new score.

The fact is that in most cases, EOR is not going to result in any change to your grade, and so you will just waste your money. The IELTS revaluation success rate is low for a reason. You may want to get a higher band score, but that doesn’t mean you really deserved it. Let’s face it, there are various reasons that make it hard for an IELTS candidate to know what they really should have scored. Namely, you are not an expert English user and you are not trained in IELTS assessment.

Even if you feel that your English is very good, perhaps you just got nervous on the exam day. Maybe you did not understand the format. Perhaps your question had some subtleties that you missed because of the short amount of time you spent reading it…

There are many, many reasons you might have done poorly. The best thing to do in most cases is to prepare for another exam attempt. If you did poorly at writing, you should get an expert to check your practice essays. He or she can tell you what mistakes you made, and this should help you to understand why you scored less than you hoped.

Finally, EOR takes time and if you need your results within a week or two, there is no guarantee that you will receive them in time. It can take a maximum of 28 days, so this is not something to do when you are in a rush.

When is EOR a Good Choice?

From my discussions above, it may seem like there is no reason to apply for EOR… but that is not true. It is completely sensible, but only in limited cases.

As I mentioned before, it is extremely unlikely that your score will be improved more than 0.5, and so if your score was much lower than you needed to get, it’s an absolute waste of money to apply. For example, if you needed 7/7/7/7 for your university application, but you scored 7/7/6/7, then you will almost certainly not get the result you need from EOR. At best, your score would become 7/7/6.5/7. As such, EOR is only worthwhile if you have missed your target by 0.5 in one area of the test.

It is also only worthwhile if you are really confident that you did better than the results suggested. This is hard for a candidate to judge, but if your tutors regularly judge your speaking to be at band 8 and you scored band 6.5 on the test, maybe there was some mistake. Perhaps you really scored band 7… In that case, it might be worth asking for a re-mark.

The Advantages of Re-Taking IELTS

It may not seem like a very appealing option, but in most cases it is better to sit the IELTS test again rather than applying for a revaluation of your results. There are a few reasons, but essentially it is more likely that you will get a higher score.

As I said before, the maximum increase you would get from having your test re-marked is 0.5, but if you sat that test again, you might do a lot better. Here are a few reasons:

  • You can take the time to prepare more.
  • You will become more familiar with the test.
  • Your stress levels should be lower the next time.
  • You can seek advice from experts to improve your weaknesses.

Although there is no guarantee that your score will increase, taking this long-term approach is sensible. I certainly don’t recommend doing the test frequently because that would just waste your money and cause you stress, but if you wait until your skill level is high enough, you can have a much better chance of getting a good score.

Conclusion

It is natural to hope that your IELTS performance deserved a better score, but in most cases it is just not true. IELTS is a really hard exam and so the revaluation success rate is very low. Rather than applying for EOR, you should probably go and prepare to perform better at your next test.

If you really think that your results were unfairly judged, you can start the EOR process, but keep in mind that your score will probably improve by 0.5 at most, and that this will be an expensive process. You have to be pretty confident in yourself to go through with it.