Several months ago my wife brought up the question about getting PR for Australia to ensure a better future for our kids. Personally after living many years in overseas and came back, I had no intention or plan to start over again in a new country. Moreover, I did not want to sit for any English test.
My wife however convinced me that we could apply through her since she has a degree in English language. I bought the idea and contacted a friend who had recently migrated. He informed me that he used Austral Migrate Consultancy at Empire Subang http://australmigrate.com and gave me the phone number of the owner, Mr. John Chong. I asked about their service and he commented that it was ok except that one needed to chase them.
I tried to call Mr. John several times but there is no answer and I left a SMS. A week later, Mr. Benjamin Yeo, a consultant from Austral contacted me and arranged for a meeting. During the first meeting, we found out my wife did not have enough years of working experience to be qualified for the application. Ben instead suggested that we should apply through me. I was reluctant especially worrying on the English test but Ben convinced that I would not have problem on the test. We didn’t commit immediately and went back home.
1st Mistake: Didn’t survey other companies
After a week, I contacted Ben that we would go ahead with application. That was the first mistake that I didn’t survey other companies. We went back for second meeting and paid the fees. While Austral has a structured fee payment, 60% of the total consultation fees which is around RM6000 has to be paid up front.
A week later, I received information about my Skill Assessment application with Australia Engineers. After going through the application steps, I realized that it required me to take the English test first which was something Ben didn’t inform me. I contacted Ben and after that, I received an email for the possible examination dates and Workshop. As the fee for Workshop and Exam wasa an add-on to the fee I paid to Austral, I was considering if I needed to attend the workshop first. Austral did not even advise and just asked me to decide. Since the workshop was only two full days, I decided to book the workshop and the exam together with both two weeks apart.
2nd Mistake: Didn’t find out the difficulty to achieve the IELTS Examination band 7
In order to qualify for the PR application, I needed to score band 7 (out of 9) for EACH modules (Listening, writing, reading and speaking). Here was the second and the worst mistake I made. I did not find out myself what was needed to achieve that score.I just remembered Ben telling me that I would not have any problem.
I had to find out myself the difficulty of the IELTS test after I attended the Workshop. The first question the lecturer asked was my exam date. When I told her that it was two weeks from now, she was shocked and told me that I had very little time. She showed us the IETLS band 7 requirements and shared experiences from some of her students and I was terribly shocked. Throughout the workshop, it was pretty clear that it would be very difficult for me to get band 7 especially on the writing or speaking.
To give you a comparison, the IELTS requirement to enter Victoria University in Melbourne is overall no less than 5.5 with each module more than 5 (https://www.vu.edu.au/courses/how-to-apply/international-applications/entry-requirements) . That is two band less than PR requirement. Even though there is slight different in term of the IELTS General test for immigration and the IELTS Academic test for university entry, the difference is huge.
Here is a post showing the grading of IELTS http://ieltsliz.com/ielts-band-scores/ . If you go through this article about how to get band 7 http://www.wikihow.com/Get-7-in-IELTS , you will realize that getting band 7 requires a lot of hard work.
I was not happy about it because this was neither communicated nor shared by Ben or any Austral staff before I signed up. Despite the challenge ahead, I told myself that I should at least give it a shot.
The following two weeks, I worked very hard to prepare for the test. Those two weeks were the toughest time I had since my university days 20 years ago. I sat for the exam and after the exam, I felt that there was very unlikely that I might achieve band 7 for speaking and writing.
3rd. Mistake: Didn’t ask for re-marking immediately
Two weeks after the exam, I received the result. To my surprise, I managed to get Band 7 for my writing. Unfortunately I only managed to score 6.5 for my speaking.
I informed Jansen the case officer form Austral about my result and told him I needed time to decide if I wanted to take the exam again. Jansen instead pressed me to move forward with my skill assessment as my IELTS result is sufficient. ( The engineering skill assessment required lower IELTS results. I told Jansen that there was no point to continue as long as I didn’t meet the band 7 for all modules. He was very insistent and kept calling me until I became fed-up and told him that I wanted to withdraw.
Within a day, Ben called me up and I explained to him the situation. He advised me to request for a re-marking for my speaking test. However by the time I contacted IDP the exam body, the re-marking period has passed.
I told Ben that I wanted to withdraw and get some refund since Austral had hardly done anything for me. His first response was “sorry, there is no refund”. I asked him to talk to his boss Mr John.
A day later Ben called me up again and apologized by saying that there was no refund according to his boss. I told him I would like to meet John and I was told that he was away for two weeks and could only meet me after that. For the next two weeks, I was chasing Ben to set an appointment with John but he kept saying he would come back to me but he never did.
Finally I decided to call Mr. John directly. I caught him by surprise. After explaining everything to him, he did not apologize at all and just asked me to write an email to state everything I had said to him . When I told him that I felt I was scammed, he wasn’t too happy about it.
Here was the email I wrote to him which summed up my incident.
Thank you fro talking my call this morning. As a follow-up from our conversation this morning, here is the summary on why I have asked for the refund
1. Austral consultant Benjamin Yeo has misled me and my wife that the English test IELTS is easy for me and withhold the information about the difficulty of the test. The initial plan when my wife and I come to Austral is to apply based on my wife qualification as she has better command of English. Unfortunately finding that my wife does not meet the minimum working experience, Benjamin advised to apply through me and he convinced us that the English would not be difficult for me.
2. I only discovered the difficulty for the test when I attended the workshop. From the assessment during the workshop, the lecturer told me that I would need a lot of hard work if I want to pass the 7 marks especially writing or speaking. If I have know about the tough passing level for the PR application, I won’t start the process. Despite the worry and stress, I prepared and worked very hard for the test but I fell short on the speaking test with 6.5 mark. I managed to get 7 for writing which exceed the expectation of myself and the lecturer.
3. Austral consultant Jansen did not promptly advice to request recheck of the test result after knowing my result. Instead, he kept asking to continue with Skill assessment. When I confronted him that I want to stop the process since there is no use if I cannot pass the exam, Benjamin then contacted me and advise about the recheck. Unfortunately, when I checked with IELTS center, it was too late as it has exceeded the 6 weeks time frame.
4. When I confronted Benjamin why he told me that the exam is easy, he commented that he didn’t expect it would be tough for me from talking to me. This respond is unacceptable sinceAustral consultant should provide professional advice instead of guesswork.
5. The whole process shows that Austral consultants do not act to my benefit. Instead, it gave me a perception that they are more interested to close sales and meet KPI for themselves.
6. Due to the false portraying of the test, I was put through the unnecessary mental stress which is something that I do not want to go through again.
7. Since I started the program, Austral so far has only arranged the IELTS test and workshop which I have to pay separately.
I believe that Austral was setup to provide honest and professional service for the PR application. From my experience, I found that information about the IELTS 7 mark criteria should be provided upfront during the first meeting. My understand from my friend that has used other PR application company, he was advised to take the IELTS test before signing their service. This could be a good process that can be adopted by Austral.
I hope to hear good news from you soon. If you need to discuss more I can be reached at …”
After two days, he responded and said he would revert after a week. Here was the response from John.
“I have reviewed the communication between you and our representatives at Austral and it’s my opinion that we are neither legally nor ethically obligated to provide a refund.
The salient points of your complaint are as follows:
- We misled you with regard to how difficult the IELTs is. Over the phone and in this email, you have used the following words, ”scammed, misrepresented, misled, withhold information, we have not acted in your benefit, mental stress, mental anxiety, mental torture and false portraying of the test”, to quote you verbatim.
- We didn’t provide information about the ”IELTS 7 mark criteria up front”.
Firstly, I am very sorry to hear that you had such a horrible IELTS experience.
Your experience seems to be at the extreme end of the spectrum. I understand that examination style of the IELTS process can seem strange after many years out of the classroom but we are very sorry as well as surprised that it affected you that badly. There are 2 million IELTS tests conducted annually around the globe, so its a common test and designed to be so.
The gist of your complaint seems to be both the experience of sitting for IELTS and the difficulty of it. We have addressed the experience part above.
The fact that you obtained the following scores,
Listening – 8.5
Reading – 8.5
Writing – 7.0
Speaking – 6.5
would suggest that the IELTS test as well as meeting the requirement of 7 in each band is well within your capability.
We have completed extensive work with you. We have reviewed your eligibility along with your wife’s. We have started the migration process as well as provided detailed explanation of the migration process.
We have expended resources addressing your migration needs, making arrangements as well as reviewing your documents and work that you have provided.
Kean, we have commenced work on your file and it would be unfair to state that we have done nothing except make your IELTS arrangements. You will note from Jansen’s emails as well that he is merely explaining that we are able to proceed to the next step with your IELTS score. You did not make you intention known that you wanted to stop the process so Jansen was merely doing his job by following-up on the process.”
From reading though my experience and the response from Austral, I would leave it to you to decide if it was a scam. All I can say is the way Austral operates is unscrupulous and not ethical at all. Most important, I do not want others to face my same fate.
I end here by sharing the review from another victim who went through the same fate as me. What he said basically sums up what I had gone through.