“Ugh, not again! I sat the exam four times, and I still can’t get past a 6.5 in writing!”
One of the commonest complaints that I encounter from prospective test-takers is that they find themselves stuck at a band score of 6.5 when it comes to writing. What’s worse is that they often feel like there is some amount of trickery on the part of IELTS examiners who grade their written tasks.
I suppose that it’s only natural to feel exhausted and at your wits’ end when you keep writing the exam but fail to break through the band 6.5 barrier. I empathise with you, dear test-taker, I truly do. However, it isn’t correct to assume that just because I didn’t receive my scores, there must be some foul play at work. How can I say this so confidently?
How do people become IELTS examiners?
One of the most important requirements for someone to be able to grade your writing tasks on the IELTS exam is for them to first be a trained IELTS examiner. Examiner training isn’t for the faint of heart, and well before anyone can attend examiner training, they need to pass a background check and an interview. It is absolutely vital that anyone hoping to become an IELTS examiner have at least a Bachelor’s degree and additional teacher training qualifications. One of those qualifications is the CELTA, applying for which is another gruelling experience. Many applicants fail to clear the entrance test and the interview and are thus unable to obtain this certification. Having the right educational background isn’t enough, of course. Those wishing to become examiners must also have taught adult learners for a period no less than three years. After years of hard work, if someone becomes an examiner, they are highly unlikely to risk their professional reputation by assigning any test-taker a grade lower or higher than he or she truly deserves.
What about re-evaluation?
It’s true that sometimes – in very rare cases – if you apply for a re-evaluation of your writing and speaking scores, they might go up. This doesn’t mean that all examiners grade unfairly, though. It is simply a by-product of the IELTS method of scoring.
If someone receives a band 6.650, it gets rounded down to 6.5. But if someone receives band a 6.750, it goes up to band 7! Within such minuscule performance rating criteria, it is quite natural for there to be a difference between two different examiners’ perceptions of a written task that, for all intents and purposes, hovers largely around band 6.5.
“Examiners are unfair!”
Now ask yourselves, is it really fair to assume that examiners are unfair? After all, if you clearly fulfilled band 7 criteria, no examiner on earth could give you a band score lower than 7 lest they wished to be dismissed from their position of prestige. But if your current language skills are such that you’re hovering around the lower edge of band 7, it is quite normal for the score to fluctuate. In such a case, the best thing to do is to work on your language skills, preferably with a tutor who understands your language abilities and shortcomings.
To help you, I offer a comprehensive IELTS prep program that has been VERY successful, not just at helping my students get band 7, but 8s and also 9s!