Below find a complaint from an IELTS test-taker that was shared on social media a few days ago.  Click to embiggen and get a clear view of the image.

This individual experienced a technical problem during his online (at home) IELTS. Their test was not validated and no refund was given. They then spent a large amount of money to take the test at a test center in a different country.  They report a total cost of 1400 Euro to get an IELTS score.

They also shared the complaint they sent to IDP CEO Tennealle O’Shannessy which touches on some of the recurring complaints of test-takers from the Global South.

A few things stand out:

  1. This whole ordeal could have been avoided had the test taker been given the benefit of the doubt and offered a free re-test. Remember that this sort of complaint serves as a big blinking billboard advertisement for tests that do provide the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong. I’m not sure that the legacy test-makers realize that yet. 
  2. I should probably stop writing here because point number one is the biggest problem that legacy test-makers have when it comes to online testing. Unauthorized software running in the background during the test?  Canceled. No refund. Finished the test really quickly and still got high scores?  Canceled. No refund. Your internet stopped working? Canceled. No refund.  Mom accidentally opened the door to your room? Canceled. No refund.  Something weird happened and we can’t tell you exactly what because of privacy concerns?  Canceled. No refund. I understand that it’s harder for legacy test-makers to provide re-tests because their proctoring systems are more costly.  But it has been four years and clearly the loss of market share is costing them more than it would to pay people to proctor some re-tests.
  3. Don’t get me wrong.  The tests must be canceled when the above things happen.  But free re-tests would go a long way towards rehabilitating the image of these tests among the test-taking population. 
  4. The complaint made to IDP’s CEO is a bit trickier to parse.  But, again, I think it speaks volumes to why certain tests are growing in popularity and others are declining.  It’s increasingly obvious that certain legacy test-makers have seen profits from their home turf in Europe and North America evaporate over the past few years (decades?).  In response, they’ve pivoted to making as much money as they can from test-takers in the Global South. That’s valid, but they’ve shown a somewhat callous disregard for the circumstances from which people there are testing from.  I guess in the long run it doesn’t really matter because better managed firms will come and replace the legacy test-makers… but maybe the legacy players could do better and avoid that fate. 
  5. Don’t take my word for it.  Just look at the share price of IDP Education.  This is not a firm that people are optimistic about. I know, I know, they are also facing headwinds when it comes to placement fees… but IELTS is still, by far, their biggest revenue generator.

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