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If at First You Don’t Succeed: Retaking the IELTS Test

There is a popular saying in English that says ‘If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again’. While not getting the results you want on your IELTS test can be disappointing, it can also be the perfect opportunity for self-improvement. Learning from your mistakes can strengthen both your abilities as a student and as an English user. Plus, there are steps you can take to make sure one unsuccessful attempt does not stop you from achieving your IELTS goals. So, look on the bright side and keep on reading!

By Andrea Castro

Not Getting the Score You Want: Reflecting on What Went Wrong


Not getting the IELTS score we want may feel devastating when it first happens. It can be easy to allow ourselves to feel defeated or even get into a bit of a panic, and that’s perfectly normal. However, letting your emotions run wild will probably not be helpful and may stop you from thinking clearly or being productive.

Instead, upon hearing the bad news, take a break. Make some time to do something that relaxes you; talking about it with friends or family can help you not only to regain balance but also to put things in perspective. It is important for you to be mentally relaxed in order to regain focus and reflect on what went wrong.

Once you're over the initial shock and have had some time to relax and regroup, you'll be better able to analyze your IELTS results. Instead of focusing on your overall IELTS score, look at the band score for each individual skill. Determine how big or small a gap there is between the scores you achieved and the ones you want, in order to identify the main areas for improvement. Write down the types of tasks you found difficult in those particular skills and use the list as a guide to help you prepare for your next attempt.

Focusing on Areas of Improvement

Next, it's time to use your list to work on those areas requiring attention. There are numerous free online resources you can use to help you prepare. Many allow you to work on a particular module (Reading, Writing, Listening or Speaking) and they offer practice exercises, model answers, useful tips and study strategies.

If you feel like you need more expert guidance in order to re-take the exam and succeed, an IELTS preparation course might be the way to go. If this sounds like a possibility you would like to explore further, let me suggest my previous post ‘Choosing a Prep Course That’s Right for You’. The post provides a list of important factors to take into consideration when choosing a preparation course.

If you previously took an IELTS preparation course, consider talking to your teacher. They might be able to give you valuable insight into what went wrong and what you can do to improve for the next exam.

Realistic Goals 

While re-taking the IELTS test is greatly encouraged, it's important to keep in mind that improvement requires hard work and time. Make sure that your goals are attainable. If the gap between the band scores you achieved and the ones you want is too great, you might want to consider opting for a General English course to strengthen your English skills, before attempting the exam again. This will improve your chances at achieving the band score you want, and will also be of great benefit for your language skills in everyday situations.

Whichever path you choose, it's important that you make your decision in an informed way. This means, take into consideration your current IELTS results, as well as your goals, your reflections about your own performance and abilities and any expert advice you may receive along the way. Keep your spirits up and work hard. This time you'll be even more determined to ace your IELTS exam!

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