Neha is a woman in distress. Despite completing two masters’ degrees in Education and teaching from Victoria University and RMIT, she has failed to score the required points in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test required to obtain permanent residency.
To be eligible for permanent residency as an early childhood teacher Neha needs a score of 7 bands in two and 8 in the other two modules of the test. But in all the 20 attempts she’s had at the test, she has missed the mark by a slim margin in writing. Curiously, she has each time managed to score well above the required marks in the remaining three bands.
“It costs me too much because every time I pay $330 for the exam and the travel expenses. My husband has to leave work to take care of our baby every Saturday while I take this exam.” Says a distraught Neha, who believes there’s something wrong with the way the test is marked.
Taking the test repeatedly has helped Neha get a near perfect score in speaking, listening and reading modules, but writing remains her major Achilles heel.
IELTS co-owners, IDP (International Development Program), say they introduced feedback on results in Australia last year to explain the band score and offer general advice on how to improve the test performance. IDP said 2.9 million people take the test worldwide every year.
“I paid $50 [to IDP] to get feedback on my writing performance and I was told everything with my writing was all right except a little bit of punctuation,” said Neha in an interview with SBS Punjabi.
She confesses to having gone through depression and mental trauma because of the stress brought about by repeatedly failing in the test.
Neha, who has worked in public-facing customer service jobs in Australia, is now planning to enrol herself for another masters’ degree program which could waive the requirement to pass the IELTS exam. But she still questions the very rationality of adding several layers of language tests at different levels.