How Long Does IELTS Score Valid?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is probably the most popular English proficiency test worldwide. Many sat for IELTS to prove their English proficiency for university, visa, or work applications. However, how long is the IELTS score valid once you get your results?

Once issued, IELTS scores are only valid for two years. The reason is that language is dynamic, and lack of use of English may result in language skill deterioration. Therefore, constant testing may provide a better picture of a person’s language ability. Many major English proficiency tests also have a two-year validity.

How Long Does IELTS Score Valid

This post discusses how long IELTS scores are valid and other related questions about IELTS’s validity. For example, IELTS popularity, the validity of other English language tests, and if you can extend your IELTS validity.

How Popular Is IELTS?

IELTS is commonly recognized as the world’s most popular English language proficiency test, with over 3.5 million candidates taking the IELTS exam in 2018 alone. Reasons for its popularity include its wide acceptance and that it is run by the British Council, IDP, Cambridge English, and IELTS Australia.

READ MORE: Ultimate Guide To IELTS

People commonly think of either IELTS or TOEFL (Test Of English Language Proficiency) when it comes to general English proficiency examinations. However, IELTS seems to be the more popular of the two and is the world’s most popular English proficiency test. 

A British CouncilOpens in a new tab. report indicated that up to 3.5 million candidates took IELTS alone in 2018, signalling its popularity worldwide. IELTS is at times easier to take for some candidates, as the English accents used are primarily British, with occasional American, Australian, or others used. 

Several things made IELTS very popular. First, IELTS is widely accepted worldwide as a proof of English language proficiency, be it for university entrance, visa application, or job openings. 

Secondly, IELTS is also very popular since it is organized and implemented by bodies such as the British Council, IDP, Cambridge English, and IELTS Australia. These bodies are probably the very authority of the English language in the world, especially British English. 

This fact made many choose IELTS over TOEFL, as although TOEFL is also widely recognized, it is organized by ETS and is primarily based on American English. 

How Long Does IELTS Score Valid?

IELTS scores are accepted for only two years. This is similar to other major English proficiency tests such as TOEFL or OET. IELTS scores may not be valid for too long as language proficiency can change significantly in two years. A retest is necessary to provide a good idea of the candidate’s new proficiency.

Once the results are finalized, the IELTS score you have in hand will only be valid for two years. This means you may no longer use the score after that period to apply for university, immigration visa, or work. 

Therefore, before registering for your IELTS, take note of your application process and ensure that you will not run out of your score’s validity time.

There was a request made to IELTS from many test takers to extend the validity to three yearsOpens in a new tab. due to the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting the applications. However, no changes were announced, and validity remains for two years only.

Why Does IELTS Valid For Only Two Years?

IELTS did not officially explain why, but it makes sense not to make IELTS scores valid for a long time. This is because language proficiency is dynamic and may change to be better or weaker over time, depending on usage. This means retesting is necessary to determine current proficiency. 

If you browse online, you may notice people complaining about why the IELTS is valid for only two years. It does not help that there is no official answer from the British Council about this matter, which seems to cause further the discontent to spread. 

Some were adamant in their opinion that IELTS decided to force candidates to retake the test so that they could continue to make money off these candidates. They see the candidates as being treated as cash cows. 

However, the validity period of two years actually has some backing and logical reasons behind it.

IELTS may have a validity period because it measures language proficiency. It is a dynamic skill that constantly needs to be practiced and polished to improve. It is like muscles. You need to work out to keep or grow your muscle definition constantly. Not working out may result in muscle loss.

Many IELTS candidates may not be from an environment where English is used daily or as a first language. This means after two years, there is a good chance that the language abilities learned while studying and getting ready for the IELTS may have deteriorated.

Therefore, it makes sense to periodically reevaluate language proficiency to ensure accurate measurements of language aptitude. IELTS determined this period to be two years. 

Do Other English Tests Valid For More Than Two Years?

There are English proficiency tests with more than two years of validity. However, these tests are not as recognizable as IELTS. Other commonly recognizable tests such as TOEFL and OET also seem to have similar validity period of 2 years as IELTS.

IELTS2 years
TOEFL2 years
OET2 years
PTE2 years
ELSA2 years
MUET5 years
Duolingo Proficiency Test2 years

When looking at English proficiency tests, there seem to be many similar ones worldwide. Aside from the common tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, or OET, there are also tests such as: 

  • PTE – The Pearson Test Of English
  • MUET – Malaysian University English Test
  • ELSA – English Language Skills Assessment
  • Duolingo Proficiency Test

All tests seem only to have a validity of two years. In this list, only MUET has a validity of five years. However, this test is not administered worldwide and only has recognition in Malaysia and Singapore. 

You cannot use your MUET results to apply for placement in universities outside of the two countries nor apply for an immigration visa to other countries. This means even if you get longer validity from their scores, it may not be good enough for your purpose. 

This means you might be better off just focusing on IELTS, accepting the validity date, and using the results to apply for what you want before it expires. 

How Can I Extend My IELTS Validity?

Generally, you cannot extend your IELTS validity. However, you may submit proof with your expired IELTS scores to prove that you have kept up with your English proficiency. This may depend on the organization you are applying for and may not always be accepted. 

In general, you cannot extend your IELTS validity. Once it has expired, you may need to retake the test to reestablish your proficiency score and restart the two-year validity. 

However, sometimes some of your applications may take longer than expected, and your IELTS score expires during your application process. In this case, many organizations understand this and do not cancel your application. They understand that the results are still valid on the date of submission. 

Some organizations are also open enough to accept expired IELTS certificates. Still, it must not be for too long, and you are usually required to submit proof that you have kept up with your English proficiency.

This may be a referral letter from an academic tutor or an employer who has worked with you over a period of several months at least and in a country where English is the first or native language. 

You may need to check with the organization you are applying with for confirmation on this matter. It is best to assume nothing and be prepared to resit your IELTS test instead.

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