The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the most sought-after English Language Proficiency test because of its wide acceptance by global universities and employers. However, despite this, test takers are beginning to lose faith in the exam's validity and credibility.
With overseas education becoming more popular among students, media reports had claimed in 2019 that the number of institutes offering IELTS coaching has more than quintupled in the last five years, making it a Rs 1,100-crore industry.
However, a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) by Burhan Ul Haq, an experienced digital marketing professional from Islamabad, is going viral, sparking debate on how IELTS bands are nothing but a ‘Sham and a scam.’
“IELTS is such a sham, and we don't talk about it often. Why do the scores expire after 2 years? Because it's a lucrative business that's built on exploiting third-world, non-English-speaking countries. My perfect 9 score is set to expire next year. And I'll have to pay and retake the test to reaffirm that I indeed know the language,” wrote @BurhanULhaq in his X post.
Since being posted, the tweet has gone viral with almost 32k views and multiple responses. “I couldn't agree more. I have taken IELTS 4 Times and all those times my IELTS expired because of one reason or another, to travel or not to travel etc. I do agree it's a SHAM and a way of exploitation of the third world,” another X user, @adnanjabbar, remarked.
English proficiency test fair for international students?
While the Free Press Journal spoke with a few Indian students about it, they expressed that they already face near-insurmountable barriers due to growing tuition expenses, not to mention other costs associated with studying abroad, such as visa applications and travel tickets. Some argue that the necessity for English proficiency tests is motivated by revenue rather than linguistic fluency.
“Imagine taking a test to prove your proficiency in a language you’ve been fluent in your whole life and paying a hefty sum on top of it. That’s the reality of many international students who have to fork out a great deal of money to pay for English proficiency tests in order to apply for universities abroad,” said Sarthak Kumar, a MBA student at a UK university.
Samiksha Kuamri, a former IELTS examiner says, “I personally believe that the IELTS test is overrated and hugely expensive, especially for an average Indian family. They cost up to 190 US$ (15,782.53 Indian Rupee) along with additional charges for late registration, rescheduling, and extra score reports, which just adds to an international students’ financial burden.”
“Also If I have displayed my competence and knowledge once, then why do I have to prove it again? For example, if someone took the IELTS to study in Australia before completing their bachelor's degree, the person’s first IELTS would have expired and they would have to prove it again by paying another US$190," Samiksha explained.
According to an IDP IELTS report, "IELTS is known to be a lucrative business that is recognized by more than 11000 organizations across 140+ countries, with three million test-takers annually. In 2018, IELTS co-owner IDP produced almost 487 million Australian dollars in income."
“It should be urgently reviewed as there are flaws in this system. Why are we forcing migrants to appear in this test again and again? I wonder how your English can expire,” said Sandeep Singh, a Mumbai based consultant when commenting on the testing system used to gauge English language proficiency among migrants.
“While concerns over incoming students’ fluency in English at the academic level is valid, limitations still exist with standardized testing to fully indicate a student’s full range of abilities,” he added.
(The Free Press Journal has emailed the official spokesperson of IDP IELTS India and is awaiting a response.)