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IELTS Coaching: Crack the Top 3 IELTS Conspiracy Theories

Jay’s IELTS coaching article will blow IELTS conspiracy theories right off this planet! (No, not literally!). See for yourself, uncover the truth behind the conspiracies and learn some interesting facts along the way! 

IELTS coaching
A conspiracy theory is a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event … Caution!

IELTS coaching | Do you know what a conspiracy theory is?

Well, it’s an underground theory that hasn’t been confirmed. Think ALIENS. Think OBAMA’s birth certificate. Think the FAKE moon landing of 1969. (Where is Obama REALLY from? And why is the FLAG blowing on the moon when there is no wind up there!?)

Conspiracy theories are usually a bit of fun. They’re good conversation topics when you have some friends over and everyone goes ‘WOW’ isn’t the world a mysterious and scary place?!

But conspiracy theories relating to IELTS are not fun. They are not fun because whether or not they are true, there are people suffering. I’ve met many, many confused, depressed, zig-zagging students looking for the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”.

My question is: Are any of these conspiracies true?

Let’s look at the top three IELTS conspiracy theories and whether there is any evidence to support them. Remember, we need FACTS and EVIDENCE to prove whether something is TRUE, right?

Let’s lay it all on the table to see what’s what. I’ll stick up for IELTS coaching by playing ‘devil’s advocate’ but please write your own experiences into the comments below!

1. It’s impossible to get over 6.5 for IELTS writing

Did you receive an IELTS 6.5 for your writing? Well so did everyone else. Or, at least, that’s how it seems. There seems to be ANECDOTAL evidence (not statistical evidence) that everyone gets 6.5 for writing. How can this be? Are the IELTS examiners biased? Does the IELTS empire extort you to make money?

Or could it be that most people sit around the 6.5 level with writing?

Not everyone reaches perfection in their second language. Many start and many fail to get past a week’s worth of study. For those people who are more ambitious, they fall on a spectrum of failure and success, or beginner to advanced. Some just become conversational, some become relatively fluent and very, very few make it to the upper limits of what it means to be ‘ADVANCED’.

Take a quick look at the article on IELTS writing task 2 here!

Do you know what a ‘bell curve’ is?

It describes where most people sit on a spectrum. Imagine this one describes IELTS 4.5 to IELTS 9. MOST people would sit around 6.5 for writing. So the fact that IELTS does give 6.5 for writing to most people does make sense. It’s statistically more likely than 4 or 8. The problem for most people is that they need 8. And there’s a BIG difference between an IELTS 6.5 and an 8.

Specifically, to get to an 8 from a 6.5 is like running the 100 meters in 10 seconds rather than 20 seconds. Most people can run the 100 meters in under 20 seconds, but sub-10 is a whole new ball game! It’s tough and requires massive amounts of training!

IELTS coaching
Bell curve: Where do people sit? 

First, your vocabulary has to increase MASSIVELY. An IELTS 6.5 writer would probably know about 10,000 English words. That’s heaps, right? Well, that’s about a third of what a well educated native English speaker knows. So, to estimate, an IELTS 8 writer would know and be able to use about 25,000 words in comparison. That’s more than twice as many words as the 6.5er.

Not only that, but the grammatical differences between an 8 scorer and a 6.5er are significant. While the 8 scorer makes the ‘odd’ grammatical with complex stuff, the 6.5er is making LOTS of errors, and probably making lots of common errors such as PUTTING “S” ON THE END OF PLURAL NOUNS!

In terms of structure, the 8 scorer would have a far more logically connected essay, whereby the introduction flows into paragraph 1, and into paragraph 2 and into the conclusion which then links back to the two paragraphs and back to the conclusion.

This would all be done ‘effortlessly’ like you are reading a very well written news article. A 6.5er, by contrast, would probably be writing a bit of a ‘clunky’ essay. It kind of connects, but it kind of doesn’t as well.

The IELTS examiners, for your interest, have a marking tool upon which they base their decision to give you a 6.5 or an 8. It’s not ‘arbitrary’. It’s not ‘guesswork’. They have a framework where they mark you according to:


And whether or not you wrote ON TOPIC.

Contained within each of these criteria are little descriptions such as: Can use collocations.

Can you use collocations? Do you know what they are?

Collocations are a type of vocabulary which you can think of as a ‘natural sounding phrase’ such as an adjective noun combination like “major reason” or “overall well-being”. These are the same phrases that native-speakers use all the time.

In other words, a 6.5er would use English words while an 8 scorer would use ‘natural’ words… or combinations of natural words that sound NORMAL to a native speaker not Google translated.

To put this all into context, it might FEEL unfair when you receive a 6.5 but ask yourself: How good am I compared to a native speaker? Because that’s who you are ultimately being scored against. Your average native English speaker — without preparation — would probably receive an 8 and with some preparation would probably receive an 8.5 or 9.

Making the stretch from 6.5 to 8 is not easy; it’s challenging. There are so many little details in language that can make the difference. And do you know what will help you to achieve an 8? Expert feedback. I can’t stress this enough for IELTS coaching.

2. Taking your IELTS in a non-native English speaking country makes it easier

IELTS Speaking is done via humans… “What?”, you ask… “Humans?!” That’s right. IELTS robots don’t exist just yet. In the meantime, you’re going to have to talk to a human on test day. And you know what? Humans are BIASED. Yes they are. Countless scientific studies have shown just how biased we are. We pre-judge based on just about any characteristic – hair cut, hair colour, hair length, curly hair, straight hair, dyed hair, bald! We are judgmental machines and we do it effortlessly and immediately.

IELTS coaching
Unlike the PTE, your IELTS examiner won’t be a computer!

So what should you do if you live in a country where English is the first language? Because surely it would be more competitive than taking the test where English is poorly spoken.

I know a terrible idea: Take your IELTS test overseas. It’ll cost you at least $2,000 and you know what? The IELTS examiners will use the same set of criteria – or marking tool – that they do in the country which you just left.

That’s right… just like the writing, the IELTS examiners have a guide in front of them that breaks down your speaking into four categories:


It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, that guide — those criteria — doesn’t change. And HOPEFULLY, the IELTS examiner’s opinion of your speaking — not you — will not change. Be friendly, but know that there are guidelines for your speaking.

You know what you could spend your money on instead of taking a week off work, paying $300 for the same test overseas, accommodation, food and flights? Get some expert speaking feedback from one of the trained IELTS coaching teachers at E2Language!

3. Tick ‘other’ when you register for IELTS so they don’t know what score you want

This is the newest one I’ve heard and the most interesting, not because it’s true or even really plausible but just plain silly. Apparently, if you tick ‘other’ when registering for IELTS then they don’t know what score you need and will be more generous when dishing out the grades. The funny thing is, the examiners never see this information anyway, so it really doesn’t determine anything. It’s just collected data for IELTS to use in whichever way they see fit.

Unless the 1000s of IELTS examiners located around the world are all in on the scam?!

I doubt it very much. But I am interested to see what you think.

What I think is going on from my experience IELTS coaching, is people are frustrated because IELTS don’t provide any indication of where you might have gone wrong on your writing or speaking and that sucks. It would be great to know WHY you scored so poorly in writing, right? Or what you did wrong in speaking? That would be great; but for that to happen IELTS would have to increase the price of the test substantially so that the examiners could return it with comments.

Imagine if IELTS examiners gave your essay back with comments illustrating what you did right and what you did wrong?

That’s called FEEDBACK people, and we offer IELTS coaching in the form of written assessments and expert tutorials and that’s what will get you the elusive IELTS 8.

Be sure to watch the E2 IELTS YouTube channel for IELTS coaching videos on IELTS Writing Task 2: 

Written by Jay  

All Comments 1
  • Hi Jay,

    I partially agree with your defensive explanations given in the article, but I strongly believe that you have taken IELTS and you have enough students whom you see every single day, hence experience a part of the pain they are in. I thank you for bringing this up and making a platform for discussion on such crucial issue.

    I will kick this off with the registration part:
    IELTS asks a lot of unnecessary questions. My age, mother tongue, how many years I am learning English, why I am taking the exam…IELTS should not have any business with these answers unless it is purely a research strategy to improve the quality and concerns. In fact, there are thousands of organisation doing market research, but they do follow research-ethics.
    Now, the question is, a research supposed to be unbiased and anonymous; so the exam is. My question is, why can’t IELTS put a voluntary page during registration (or after registration) which anyone can skip they wish to? Why all the answers are mandatory? In fact, what the heck is IELTS’s problem if I study English just 1 year and I am ready to screw native speakers? I might be an extraordinary person, can’t I? I have seen native speakers using horribly wrong English during my Masters study. In fact, I am not the best person when it comes to my mother language. And that is quite reasonable. Not everyone is a linguist. Correct?

    As a researcher, I can confidently challenge IETLS that asking any question not related to the exam coordination and result distribution (name, ID, email, address, for instance, are mandatory) is unethical. Moreover, forcing someone, who is not interested in contributing to your research, to answer non-related questions are crimes. Furthermore, asking questions which may have potential effects on the result is strictly prohibited for any fair examination. Take GRE, TOEFL for example, they do not ask a single question extra which is not required for the exam.

    In an answer sheet where only my unique identification is required, why would I write my full name? Why do you need to know my first language while you are checking my listening answers? Where is the value of my full name on an essay sheet when you are supposed to judge my piece of writing only? If you say, just for safety purpose…well, there are exam hall invigilators who check the unique ID numbers if written correctly. Where is the anonymity here?

    Unlike the Writing and Speaking parts of the exam, these two are quite easy to assess, and I don’t find it very difficult to get a scanned copy done for any challenges made. If I score 7.5 while I was sure of scoring higher than 8, why IELTS does not have guts to show the paper along with a standard answer sheet based on which the scoring was done? Now, my question will get stronger if I ask HOW the score of Listening or Reading would go high after a challenge made. I mean HOW? Do I have to accept that two of the examiners were under the influence of intoxication while checking the answers that a person who is sober will correct their fault after a reasonably high amount is paid to IELTS company? What do you think?

    The question gets worse: if the answers are not checked by a machine (like CAT exams), why would you stop me writing with a pen? If I am good enough and I take the responsibility of not over-writing on the answer sheet, why wouldn’t I have my freedom of using a pen? Afterall a human will check it. There could be some good reason, but I feel this is stupid and a bit fishy at the same time.

    About writing and the area under the curve: why 95% of the people remain mediocre. Now once I challenge them with a price money, how does it go low or high? I can imagine, there is potential subjectivity which might work with the second examiner. However, it is a duty of a company to justify the reason of flaws. I don’t need a reason when score remains the same. But if it goes lower or higher, well, you gotta tell me if you were drunk while checking my essay for the first time!

    The horrible reality of speaking:
    Here, the only sound is being a recorded. Not the body language. If only speaking is judged, only ENGLISH is examined, why not a CONFESSION box (like in church), why face to face? There are parts which are sometimes not recorded as well. As a human, when I speak to a person, his eyes, movement of his shoulders, his expression towards answers, his body language towards me would most definitely affect the quality of my reply. And this is inevitable unless I am a robot. These examiners are human and BIASED without question.

    PERSONAL yet SHOCKING experiences to share:

    1. Two of my Saudi friend has got the score like this 8.5, 8.5, 7, 9 (result date 28.08.2017). The astonishing fact is, both of them gave the exam on the same date, same centre (where I am going to take my exam) and they received the same result. Moreover, if you talk with them, you literally have to utter every single word with proper pronunciation. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to understand you. They are at their late 20s and never studies English in their life. Nobody in their family speaks English, and none of these two guys has crossed the KSA border. Their performances and result have scared me and made me confused.

    2. My agent from UAE unofficially offered a package of CLB 9 score with an amount which I can not pay. They explained with examples of how Pakistani people are immigrating with CLB 9 from their company. Now, what the heck is that!

    3. My speaking examiner asked me a question “are you Indian?” just after welcoming me and before starting the recording. He was continuously giving silly expressions while I was answering him. his expressions were like “whaaat!, oh reallyyyy?, If you say so…:/”…and so on which affected my patience and fluency. I even had to stop once and ask what did he mean by raising his eyebrows and shoulders. He was even shaking his legs in front of my eyes. If it were in my power, I would have left the room immediately but I couldn’t. I complained to the British Council, and they simply did not care.

    4. I live in a small city in Saudi Arabia for working purpose, and here the centre is smaller than you can imagine. The guy next door who works at the government hospital is an all rounder in the exam centre. He checked before we enter. He becomes the invigilator. He takes the pictures, and when speaking examiner is taking a tea break, he is the one taking speaking exams as well. Now, fortunately, or unfortunately, he is an Indian by origin and has offered me reading and speaking exam questions papers after the exam was over. Well, at that moment I felt why would take something which I don’t have any value. But later I realised, there are people who buy these exam papers with a high price. I really don’t understand the transparency level of IELTS.

    There are many other examples which people might like to hear, but I really don’t think it’s necessary to share all of them.

    To sum it up, there are confusions, questions and so called “theories”, if you like it, and unfortunately, those are valid questions. An examination should be transparent, and marketing research should follow research ethics. If you say, examiners do not have access to that information, how would you prove it? They all rounder people are working in IELTS centres, I guess one person knows a lot of it.

    We do need to bring these concerns to BC and IDP for a better answer. I wish someone would answer us on behalf of BC. But alas!


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