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Taking the IELTS test is a big step towards your dreams, whether it's to study, work, or migrate. But with so much information floating around, it’s easy to get lost. You might hear things like “it’s easier to take the test in another country,” or “you need a British accent to score well.” These myths aren’t true and can make the whole process seem even more confusing.

We're here to clear things up and make sure you have the facts straight.

In reality, the IELTS test is designed to be fair and consistent, no matter where you take it or where you are from. It's accepted by over 12,000 organisations worldwide, including universities, employers, and immigration authorities. That means you can trust your IELTS score to open doors for you, wherever you go.

Here are 5 most common myths about the IELTS test. We want to make sure you have the right information so you can prepare with confidence and ace your test. Let’s dive in!

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Myth 1: The IELTS Test is Easier in Certain Locations

It’s a misconception that taking the IELTS test in another country is easier. The IELTS test is fair and consistent, no matter where you take it.

Your tests will be marked by highly qualified and skilled examiners who don’t know why you’re taking the test or what scores you need.

The Listening and Reading test comprise of 40 questions each, and you get one mark for each correct answer. Your individual band scores for these tests depend on how many correct answers you get.

For the Writing and Speaking tests, the examiners mark your performance using detailed criteria to assess your skills.

Each Writing test is checked by at least two examiners to ensure accuracy and impartiality. The Speaking test is facilitated by expert examiners. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you take the test at home or abroad, as the test location doesn’t affect its difficulty.

You should also keep in mind that some universities have introduced specific requirements regarding test locations. For example, a recent update from the University of Melbourne specifies that it will only accept approved English test results conducted in the student’s country of citizenship, their last country of education, or their current country of residence or employment. Be sure to check with your university or institution to understand their requirements.

The short is answer is that: test location does not affect the test difficulty.

Your test will maintain the same standard that IELTS consistently upholds. However, it might be worthwhile to check the test centre you plan on taking the test in to see what delivery formats or test dates they have available. Some test centres may have limited seats, so it’s important to book your test early to secure your spot.

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Myth 2: Human Bias in the IELTS Speaking Test

Some believe that human examiners are biased, especially about accents and dress code. Well, that’s simply not true.

IELTS accepts all accents.

IELTS examiners are qualified English language teachers who have been certified to assess your spoken English and not your accent. The examiner’s job is to see how well you communicate, not to judge your accent. Unlike some tests where you have to start speaking right away or get “timed out”, the IELTS Speaking test lets you speak naturally.

Also, you don’t need to dress formally as if you’re attending a job interview. Just wear something comfortable on your test day.

Refer to the Speaking Band Descriptors and focus on fluency and coherence when you practise. Techniques like using discourse markers and functional language are two easy ways to improve fluency and coherence.

Or, if you want more hands-on experience, you can try IELTS Speaking Coaching – a 45-minute one-on-one coaching session with an IELTS expert. Your session will include: a discussion with your coach about your previous test experience and your target band score, a mock Speaking test, and a detailed report within 3-5 days with tips to improve your spoken English.

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Myth 3: Enquiry on Result (EOR) versus One Skill Retake (OSR)

Another common myth is that Enquiry on Results (EOR) is better than One Skill Retake (OSR) because some believe that most universities don’t accept OSR.

Again, this belief is not true.

The EOR is a re-marking of the original test that allows you to choose one or more sections to be re-marked. It only involves a second evaluation of the same answers. The OSR is a proactive choice for you to retake a single section of the test, which only IELTS offers and comes with various benefits. They serve different purposes and hence, it’s untrue to say that one is better than the other.

Many renowned Australian universities, including the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Monash University, and the University of Queensland, recognise the IELTS One Skill Retake. The Australian Department of Home Affairs also accepts One Skill Retake for most visa subclasses. On a global scale, over 1,200 organisations accept OSR, establishing it as a highly credible option. Remember to always check with the university or organisation you intend to apply to for more information about eligibility requirements.

Note: IELTS One Skill Retake is available for IELTS on computer tests taken in eligible test centres. You must book your One Skill Retake test within 60 days of your original test date.

Compare EOR and OSR: what's the difference?

Myth 4: IELTS is Harder Than Other Tests

IELTS isn’t a difficult test, but rather, an “accurate test” designed to accurately measure your English proficiency.

It's not harder than others, just precise. The test provides accurate results that make IELTS useful for future plans on education, work, or migration.

IELTS also provides a wide variety of preparation materials and resources to ensure that you are able to take your test well-prepared and confident. There are plenty of free resources such as free practice tests available on our Prepare hub, exclusive free trial to preparation courses on the IELTS by IDP app, and free IELTS Masterclass events designed to help you become familiar with the test. We also offer premium test preparation with IELTS Assist, where you can get personalised feedback and coaching to improve your skills in either Writing, Speaking, or Reading.

It’s important to choose a trusted English test like IELTS, no matter what your goals are. This is because policies and requirements can change, and you need a test that is reliable.

On May 14th, 2024, the Australian Government released the Federal Budget for 2024-25. The minimum English requirement for student visas increased from an IELTS band score of 5.5 to 6.0 (or equivalent). Requirements may change but IELTS remains the benchmark when it comes to English proficiency tests, making it the trusted standard compared to other tests.

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Tip: Download the IELTS by IDP app to get access to a exclusive 14 free trial of our new IELTS preparation course. We have partnered with E2 Language on a new IELTS Short Course, which has guided overviews, an IELTS score estimator, practice materials and lessons, live classes, and more.

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Myth 5: AI Marking versus Human Marking

Given recent discussions around artificial intelligence, some assume that AI marking is fairer and more accurate than human marking.

AI marking might seem quick and easy, but it lacks the depth of human understanding.

It can’t always assess complicated answers, jokes, or slang words. Depending on how the AI has been trained, it may not recognise different accents. A human examiner has been trained to think about the social context and can pick up some of these nuances, which machines cannot. Computers can check grammar and structure but struggle with meaning and context.

MIT research examined that in some cases, the AI itself can be biased. Artificial Intelligence learns through the data it is given, as well as other stages including the “data preparation stage,” which means selecting what “attributes” the algorithm should consider. For example, if the AI is taught that when speaking, pauses in your answer are bad, you can get marked down or “timed out.” It can misinterpret pauses that would generally be for emphasising a point or a slight delay when thinking of the best way to respond.

Our human examiners are trained to understand the nuances of language and provide a fair evaluation, based on clear and publicly available criteria. Human-marked tests like IELTS are trusted and accepted by universities and organisations worldwide, making them more reliable and suitable for study, work and migration.

Plus, you get the benefits of human-to-human interaction, and many others:

  • Our private Speaking test rooms are free from noise and distraction.

  • We can repeat and rephrase a question for you.

  • We can match your pace and level of English.

  • We hear your accent and we accept your accent wherever in the world you’re from.

  • We won’t cut you off if you take too long to start or if you pause: you don't get "timed out" with IELTS.

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Immigration and the law

Legislation about immigration changes frequently. It’s important to check the Australian Department of Home Affairs website for changes that may apply to you. If you are interested in Australian student visas, work visas, or looking to migrate permanently, you need to lodge an application with the Australian Government. You may want to consider getting support from a lawyer or migration agent.

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Hopefully we have helped you gain a better understanding of the IELTS test and debunked some common myths so you can focus on what really matters: preparing for your test.

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Published on June 24, 2024

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