IELTS Band Score

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Given that you already know about the different IELTS modules, let’s take a look at how the IELTS band score, and understand how the scoring system works.

The test is scored based on a 9-band scale. You need not bother, because this is designed to be simple and easy to understand.

The test scores are usually somewhere between 1 (lowest band score) and 9 (the highest band score)

The IELTS 9-Band Scale

Skill Level

Did not attempt the test.

Description: The test taker did not answer the questions.

Skill Level

Non-user

Description: The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.

Skill Level

Intermittent User

Description: The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

Skill Level

Extremely limited user

Description: The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.

Skill Level

Limited User

Description: The test taker’s basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.

Skill Level

Modest User

Description: The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.

Skill Level

Competent User

Description: The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

Skill Level

Good user

Description: The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.

Skill Level

Very good user

Description: The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.

Skill Level

Expert User

Description: The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.

Section Band Scores

Listening

This section of the test (listening) contains 40 questions, with each correct answer earning the test taker a mark. The scores earned by the user are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. These scores are usually reported in full and half bands. This is to say that the scores are rounded to the nearest whole number, or to the nearest half.

Reading

The reading test, just like the listening test has a total of 40 questions. Similarly, a mark is awarded for every question answered correctly. Again, the scores are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale and reported in full and half bands.

The Academic and general training reading tests are both graded on the IELTS 9-band scale. The difference here is that of the genre or text type. The academic reading may contain texts with more difficult vocabulary, or greater complexity of style. A greater number of questions must be answered correctly with the general training reading to secure a given band score.

The tables below indicate the average number of questions to be answered correctly to achieve a particular IELTS band score, in listening, academic and General Training Reading tests.

Listening
Raw score out of 40 Band Score
5 16
6 23
7 30
8 35
Academic Reading
Raw score out of 40 Band Score
5 15
6 23
7 30
8 35
General Training Reading
Raw score out of 40 Band Score
4 15
5 23
6 30
7 34
8 38

Writing

When it comes to writing, the examiners use four criterial to award the band score. Each of these criteria are weighted equally, and are as follows:

  • Task achievement (for Task 1), & Task response (for Task 2)
  • Coherence and cohesion
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy

 

Speaking

Just like the writing section of the test, the examiners award the band score based on four equally weighted criteria. These assessment criteria include:

  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation

Calculating the Overall Band Score

A score is given for each of the four test components; Listening, Reading, Writing and speaking. The average of these four scores is then calculated. This average is calculated, and is rounded to the nearest half or full band, to produce the overall IELTS band score. This overall band score is then reported on your test report form. Some sample calculations have been made in the table below, for better understanding.

  Listening Reading Writing Speaking Average Band Score
Test Taker A 7.0 6.5 7.5 6.0 6.75 7.0
Test Taker B 5.0 4.5 6.0 5.0 5.125 5.0
Test Taker C 6.5 6.5 5.0 7.0 6.25 6.5

Explanation

Case: Test Taker A

The average of Test Taker A’s score is given by (7.0 + 6.5 + 7.5 + 6.0)/4 = 6.75

In this case where the fraction is .75, we round it up to the nearest full band (7.0).

Case: Test Taker B

The average of Test Taker B’s score is given by (5.0 + 4.5 + 6.0 + 5.0)/4 = 5.125

In this case, the fraction is 0.125 < 0.25, so we round it down to 5.0.

Case: Test Taker C

The average of Test Taker C’s score is given by (6.5 + 6.5 + 5.0 + 7.0)/4

In this case the fraction is 0.25, so we round it up to 6.5.

Summary

If the fraction is less than 0.5, but greater than or equal to 0.25, we round the band score up to the nearest half band. However, if it is less than 0.25, we round the band score down to the nearest full band.

Similarly, if the fraction is greater than 0.5, but less than 0.75, we round the band score down to the closest half band. Again, if it is greater than or equal to 0.75, we round the band score up to the closest full band.

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