|IELTS exam candidates taking the test. — Photo courtesy of British Council|
HÀ NỘI — A number of students in HCM City who urgently need certificates for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) have travelled to neighbouring Southeast Asian countries to take the exam.
Tests for the certificates were recently suspended in Việt Nam.
British Council, one of two IELTS organisers in Việt Nam, announced the postponement of the test starting from November 10.
Shortly after, the British Council officially announced that all IELTS and Aptis exams in Việt Nam will be suspended until further notice.
IELTS scores are not only important for Vietnamese students who want to study overseas but also have become one of the admission criteria of many Vietnamese universities. This certificate is also widely used to recognise graduates’ foreign language output standards at Vietnamese universities.
Students who have IELTS certificates will have an advantage in the high school exam in some provinces and cities.
In order to meet the needs of students who missed the test during the postponement in Việt Nam, many travel agencies have grabbed the chance to launch tourism and IELTS packages.
Nguyễn Minh Đức, a fourth-year student at the University of Economics HCM City, said he would study abroad in Europe in April next year so he urgently needs an IELTS certificate.
“I’m quite worried about the test suspension in Việt Nam. On a tourism website, I found a tour to Thailand to visit the country and take the test,” he said.
“It costs VNĐ12 to 15 million for each person to travel and take the IELTS test. That includes return flights, accommodation, food and IELTS exam fees in Bangkok which are about VNĐ5 million.
“It is higher than the exam fees in Việt Nam (VNĐ6-7 million). But for those who urgently need the certificate like me, we must accept it,” he told Tin Tức (News) newspaper.
“I have booked the tour with three other friends. We plan to stay to explore Bangkok for two days after taking the test,” he said.
Vũ Thị Linh, a student in Gò Vấp District, HCM City, plans to take an IELTS tour to Laos because of lower expenses than other neighbouring countries.
“It costs only VNĐ600,000-800,000 to travel by car to Laos while it costs VNĐ2.4 million for a one-way flight.
“Laos is waiving visas for 30 days for travellers. Students who travel to Laos for the IELTS test just need to bring a passport and ID card for immigration,” she said.
Nguyễn Minh Mẫn, communication director of TST Tourist, said the postponement of the IELTS exam in Việt Nam will be an opportunity for tourism businesses to provide services to exam candidates. Organising and planning a tour programme that combines the IELTS exam is not difficult at all, especially tours in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Singapore, which do not require visas and have removed all regulations on pandemic control.
“In order to meet the needs of candidates, we are studying short-term travel packages to Thailand, Singapore and having more types of services with reasonable prices for students,” he said.
Trần Thị Bảo Thu, marketing and communication director of Fiditour – Vietluxtour travel agency, said: “We can host a tour with only one to two customers. The package prices will vary depending on travel date, hotel and airline rating.”
Flight prices from HCM City to Bangkok in November and December range from VNĐ1-1.2 million for one way and from VNĐ2.3 million for a round-trip ticket.
A Hà Nội-Bangkok round-trip ticket starts from VNĐ3 million with Vietjet Air or Air Asia.
Meanwhile, a HCM City-Singapore round-trip ticket costs from VNĐ2.3 million. A Hà Nội-Singapore two-way ticket starts from VNĐ4 million with a departure date in November.
No hustle, be careful
Commenting on this trend, many Vietnamese education experts said candidates should wait for the exams to be licensed in Việt Nam except for cases of urgent need.
Lê Thành Giang, a lecturer at an English centre in Thủ Đức City, HCM City, said IELTS is an international standard exam so candidate’s results are recognised equally no matter where the tests are taken. If Vietnamese candidates perform well, they will still get high results
"However, the fact that Vietnamese candidates choose to take the test abroad will incur many costs from traveling, accommodation and meals.”
He suggested in order to minimise unnecessary expenses, students should talk about the IELTS suspension in Việt Nam with schools to which they intend to apply, or immigration management agencies and recruitment companies abroad to ask for a delay to the IELTS certificate submission.
Nguyễn Minh Mẫn from TST Tourist said students who decided to take the IELTS exam abroad should select prestigious service providers. Many small-sized providers or individuals take advantage of students to offer online packages and ask students to send money for booking before departure.
Candidates should be careful in choosing the service provider, avoid paying 100 per cent of the service deposit in advance, as well as check the service information on the hotel sent via email in order to avoid issues, he said.
Upon the postponement announcement, the British Council said the time when exams will be held again will depend on the approval of the Ministry of Education and Training.
“The British Council is working closely with the department to obtain the necessary approvals as soon as possible,” the organisation’s statement said.
For candidates affected by this decision, the British Council said candidates will be able to change their test dates free of charge. In addition, this organisation will send a notification directly to the candidate’s email as soon as the exams are allowed to resume.
A lot of Vietnamese students who pay IELTS exam fees to English centres are worried that they cannot get a refund.
Dr Nguyễn Tiến Dũng, vice principal of Hanoi University, said according to the Ministry of Education and Training's Circular 11 (stipulating the association of teams, organisation of foreign language proficiency certification exams), the approval time for organising the exam is quite quick and takes only a few weeks.
He hopes that the units will soon complete the application for approval and soon resume the exam.
Donna McGowan, director of the British Council in Việt Nam, said it is estimated that thousands of Vietnamese candidates will be affected by the decision to postpone foreign language proficiency exams.
The British Council is carrying out the procedures under the new guidance of the Ministry of Education and Training and hopes to receive permission to continue conducting the exam, she said. — VNS