Some students who took the International English Language Testing System exam in August and September have had their results “withheld permanently”, sending a strong signal that the examiners intend to stamp out cheating, some senior language tutors said.
Yang Yuting, chief language training tutor at Amber Education, an overseas studies consulting agency, said there have been a few cases in which candidates’ IELTS results were canceled in recent years, leaving the students with no qualification.
But this is the first time he has heard that results, including those of some of his students, were “withheld permanently”, meaning IELTS will not give the students their results, nor will they give them to others.
“This may reflect the IELTS authorities’ resolution to stamp out rule-breaching actions like memorizing questions and reciting essays,” Yang said.
Wang Xin, a senior student at the Communication University of China in Beijing, took an IELTS test on Aug 1 and the results were due within 10 working days. But she was then notified that her results were undergoing routine checks.
Soon after that, she received an e-mail informing her that “a decision has been made to withhold this result permanently” and alleging that Wang had “breached IELTS test rules and regulations”, without elaborating which rules Wang allegedly had violated.
A number of students who took the test during the past two months in cities that include Nanjing, Changsha and Guangzhou, have had the same experience. Many test takers said they were confused because they didn’t know how they had breached the rules and regulations.
IELTS authorities said in an e-mail to China Daily that IELTS takes the responsibility of providing test results very seriously. Results are only withheld in cases where there is strong evidence to suggest that the candidates have not complied with IELTS regulations.
“In these cases, we are unable to guarantee that their result is a true reflection of their English language skills,” they said in the e-mail, although they gave no figures of how many students were involved.
“We regret any inconvenience this may cause, but these measures are essential to protect the value of the results for more than 2.5 million test takers every year. Hundreds of thousands of people take IELTS in China every year and the number of results which are permanently withheld is a tiny proportion,” they said.
Hu Min, president of New Channel International Education Group, an English-language tutorial agency in China, said a major cause of results being withheld might be an extreme imbalance in performance levels in the four sections of the test.
“For example, if a student scores very high in the reading and listening sections while performing poorly in writing and speaking, IELTS authorities may suspect that the test taker has memorized the reading and listening questions－a practice that is very popular among Chinese test takers,” he said.
“IELTS authorities discourage such a practice and would determine that the scores can’t reflect the real English level if test takers do so.”