I used the word “industry” advisedly, because that is the term used by agencies in Hong Kong who are doing a roaring trade organising IELTS scores for students from mainland China who are happy to pay for the service. A student in China who is caught cheating is banned for life from taking the exam – but that doesn’t apply if he or she makes arrangements in Hong Kong where, even if they are caught, the information doesn’t get back to China. And anyway, say the agents in Hong Kong, they can always arrange for a ghost to take the test for a client elsewhere – in, say, Vietnam or Malaysia.
For this is, make no mistake, cheating on an industrial scale. It is, in fact, so big that it has become necessary to distinguish between genuine scammers and scamming scammers. Apparently some outrageous bogus ghostwriting agencies have been selling the service, taking a 50% deposit and disappearing. As a prominent ghost-writing agent indignantly reports:
“These people ask for a 50 percent deposit before the business is done, and then just disappear. This really destroys the reputation and credibility of our industry. So we have decided to grant a no-deposit policy for all our clients from now on."
So the genuine scammers have a no-deposit policy. It’s enough to bring a lump to your throat.
“Another agency Yingjia Daikao, contacted online by a China Daily reporter who posed as an IELTS candidate, said that it has connections with people inside the test venues to make sure there is no trouble for ghostwriters, hinting there is a certain degree of corruption involved in the IELTS system.”
The British Council clearly has more to do to protect the integrity of IELTS arrangements if it is to enjoy the confidence of the Chinese, the UK universities and the UKBA.
All this and more in English in today’s China Daily (Hong Kong edition).