About 350 Chinese students who have taken the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination since July have had their results “withheld permanently”, because the testing authority believes they have violated its rules, mainland news portal Thepapern.cn reported. Over the past few months, many students in Shanghai, Nanjing, Changsha and Chengdu have complained that their IELTS results were being delayed by routine checks and some said the move had affected their applications for visas or overseas universities. In a statement to the news website, IELTS said it took the responsibility of providing test results very seriously. Results were withheld only in cases where there was strong evidence to suggest the candidates had not complied with IELTS regulations, it said. READ MORE: What did we do wrong? Chinese students demand explanation from British Council for nullifying language exam results “In these cases, we are unable to guarantee that their result is a true reflection of their English language skills,” it said. It declined to comment further, citing confidentiality, but test reference books containing the IELTS questions and answers are commonly sold in the mainland, allowing dishonest students to cheat. Thanks to the rising popularity of studying abroad among Chinese students, more and more people are taking part in the IELTS. Last year, 600,000 mainland students sat the test, more than one fifth of all the candidates for the examination worldwide. In these cases, we are unable to guarantee that their result is a true reflection of their English language skills IELTS An unnamed agent who advises mainland students said on his WeChat account that a large number of candidates who attended the IELTS test on July 25 had been targeted by the checks. He said these students were probably those whose scores improved significantly in a short time, or had an extreme imbalance in performance levels in the four sections of the test. But there were also some instances where the results of all students in a particular class were being checked. “I estimate half the students who got a 7 score in any of the four sections were chosen [for checks],” he said. According to the agent, such large scale checks on mainland students by the IELTS authority had taken place every year for the past few years.