IELTS Band Scores: Understand the IELTS Band Description for All Sections

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Over 11,000 organisations across the globe use IELTS as a measure of proficiency in the English language. If you wish to migrate abroad for your higher studies, or for work, you might be required to take the IELTS exam.

The exam tests four key areas of English proficiency: listening, writing, reading, and speaking. In this blog, we’ll help you understand how the IELTS band scores and IELTS band descriptions work so you can understand the exam better. We’ve also mentioned the criteria on which the writing and speaking skills will be tested.

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IELTS Band Scores

Each skill is tested separately, and therefore will be graded as such. You can achieve a band score ranging from zero to nine in each skill, with a half score increment between the achievable scores. The overall band score will be calculated based on the average of the four individual grades achieved under each skill test. Since IELTS scores are always a half score or whole score, the average will be rounded up or down accordingly. Take for example the following score sheet:

IELTS SectionScore

As you can see, if your overall score isn’t an exact half score or whole value, the score gets rounded to the nearest acceptable number. Let’s say you get an average band score of 7.1. Since the score is closer to seven rather than seven and a half, your overall score will be reduced to seven. In order to round up from a decimal, your score must be above a quarter or over three-quarters. Else, it will be rounded down. These band scores rank your proficiency in English. Hence, each whole score is attached with a descriptor that best describes your language skills.

IELTS Band Descriptions

The band descriptor will help you in recognising the level of English required to achieve your desired score. Each band highlights your understanding of the language along with the potential weak spots.

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IELTS Band Scores: Understand the IELTS Band Description for All Sections

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IELTS Band Scores: Understand the IELTS Band Description for All Sections

Band 9: Expert User

You are exceptionally fluent in the English language. You are capable of expert comprehension and accurate usage of the language.

Band 8: Very Good User

You have an excellent grasp of the language. You might experience the occasional confusion or inappropriate use under unique situations, but for the most part, you understand the complexities of English.

Band 7: Good User

In general, you are good at handling the English language. You might face issues with misunderstanding, inaccuracies, or inappropriate usage under certain circumstances. However, you are still capable of comprehending detailed reasonings.

Band 6: Competent User

You are effective at using the English language. While you will likely face inaccuracies and misunderstandings often, you still comprehend and use the language well under familiar circumstances.

Band 5: Modest User

You somewhat understand the language, although you are more likely to make mistakes while using English. You can make sense of the overall meaning in many situations. Your fluency may be tied to the use of English specifically in your field of work or study.

Band 4: Limited User

Your use and understanding of English are fairly limited to common or familiar situations. More complex use of the language will be quite difficult for people with this score. Common issues faced are difficulty in comprehension and expressions.

Band 3: Extremely Limited User

Users with this score may frequently lose grasp of conversations. They are somewhat capable of understanding familiar phrases and general meanings within English.

Band 2: Intermittent User

You might face a lot of difficulty with written and spoken English.

Band 1: Non-User

With the exception of a few specific words, you do not understand nor can use the English language.

Band 0: Did Not Attempt

You have not answered a single question of the IELTS test.

IELTS Band Scores for Speaking and Writing Skills

While the listening and reading sections of the test are objectively graded through the number of questions answered correctly, the method of grading is comparatively more complicated for the speaking and writing skills.

IELTS Band Scores: Speaking

There are four main criteria under which the speaking skill will be graded:

  • Fluency – This focuses on how long you are able to speak in English, how often you hesitate while speaking, and if you are able to communicate effectively.
  • Lexical Resource – The strength of your vocabulary, range of English words, and use of collocations.
  • Grammar Range and Accuracy – The use of various sentence structures and grammar tenses.
  • Pronunciation – Based on if the accent affects understanding what’s spoken, effective communication, accurate pronunciation, and intonations used.

The IELTS band descriptors for the speaking skill are comprehensive and detail the skills of the applicant under each criterion. The speaking skills test is divided into three sections and will be graded according to the above criteria. If you want to improve your vocabulary to get a higher band score, check this out.

IELTS Band Scores: Writing

The IELTS exam tests your writing skills through two writing tasks. The four criteria that determine your band score are:

  • Task Achievement (Only Task 1): Your ability to present accurate, data-backed information, highlight key points, and provide an overview.
  • Task Response (Only Task 2): Answering as per the task, providing relevant points that have been developed, taking a clear stance, and proving a conclusion.
  • Coherence and Cohesion: How you organize the information, and the use of various linking devices.
  • Lexical Resource: Paraphrasing, using a wide range of words, collocations, and accurate spelling.
  • Grammar Range and Accuracy: Variety in sentence structures, grammar tenses, and appropriate use of punctuation.

As with the speaking skill, the IELTS writing band descriptors also detail the specific abilities possessed by the users under each score. The writing section is arguably one of the toughest sections of the IELTS. Leap Scholar can get you a head start for getting the best score. The IELTS may seem intimidating with its complex grading system. We hope this detailed review of the IELTS band descriptions helped ease your worries. Attempting the exam is a huge step towards achieving your dreams of a life abroad. With a great score, you have the option to study in Canada, the UK, Australia, the USA, or Ireland. Your score will also improve your chances at enrolling in some of the top universities in the world!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How will the IELTS Speaking Test be conducted?

Ans: You will engage in a conversation with the approved IELTS examiner. The test will be recorded via an audio cassette or a digital recorder for grading purposes.

2. Is there a pass mark for IELTS?

Ans: There is no passing score for the IELTS exam. The exam is simply meant to grade your abilities with the English language. However, the organization you will apply to will have their own guidelines for acceptable IELTS scores.

3. How long is the IELTS Writing Test?

Ans: You will be allotted 60 minutes for the writing test. The first task is expected to take 20 minutes, and the second will take 40 minutes. However, you will be managing the use of the full 60 minutes.

Know more about IELTS

Get Free Speaking Practice Samples
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Get Free Writing Practice Samples
Get Free Listening Practice Samples
IELTS Important Information
IELTS Test Centre and Dates in India
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Manisha Angre

Experienced IELTS prep trainer and education management industry veteran. Specializes in public speaking, international education, market research, mentoring, and management.

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