IELTS Scores Explained

What is the Utility of IELTS Scores

Owned jointly by IDP: IELTS Australia, Cambridge ESOL, and the British Council, the IELTS is an international exam of English proficiency. Over 6000 organizations around the world accept IELTS scores as a fair measure of your communication skills, and as a basis for admission to academic and professional programs. While preparing yourself for the test, it is also crucial that you learn about test scoring and reporting. Here is an article with the test scores explained and their utility detailed.

IELTS Scoring

The test tries to assess all levels of skills and the ability of all test takers; hence, there is no minimum pass mark required for the test. Organizations and institutions decide the level or band of scores required to meet their program requirements. The IELTS Global Recognition System webpage provides details on the specific requirements of individual organizations (http://bandscore.ielts.org/).





IELTS being an international exam, continuing research and evaluation measures are in place to ensure the reliability and objectivity of the system. The scoring system, as of now, uses a 9-band scale to assess the candidates' performance. The system is easy to understand and implement, and is the same for both Academic and General Training versions of the test.

The Nine-band Scale

Here are the nine-band scale and the test's scores explained:

  • For each of the four sections of the exam (irrespective of the versions), the scores are reported on the nine-band measuring scale (from 0 to 9). The aggregate overall test score is an average of the four individual scores. The Test Report Form or score card has all the four individual scores reported in addition to the overall score. For example, something like 6.5 for Writing, 7 for Reading, 7 for Speaking, and 7 for Listening, and another 7 as the aggregate.

  • A level of skills is attributed to each value on the 9-band scale. For instance, band 1 is for non-user level and band 6 is for competent user level. Band 9 is the highest and it indicates expert level abilities. Check the British Council webpage for the nine-band scale of IELTS scores
    (http://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/find-out-about-results/understand-your-ielts-scores).

  • The scores are reported as whole numbers or decimal numbers. Rounding off is used to arrive at the final number, which could either be a whole band, or a half band (as 6, 7.5, 8.5, 9, and so on). Other decimal numbers like 6.25, 7.875 etc. are rounded up or down to the nearest full or half band (6 and 8 respectively).

  • The test scores are valid for a period of two years only. This period is recommended because the skills and abilities might change over time, due to use or non-use of the language.

Scoring of Individual Sections

The test is divided into four sections for better and easy assessment of the four basic areas of communication. All the four sections are given equal importance while scoring as well. Here are the scores explained for the four different sections of the exam:

  • Listening and Reading parts: The Listening part of the test contains 4 different scenarios and 40 questions to assess your listening skills. Each correct answer carries one mark, and the total raw score will be something like 16/40, 35/40, or 30/40. The score is then converted on to an appropriate band in the nine-band scale. For example, a raw score of 30 is converted into band 7, while the raw score of 35 is converted into band 8, and so on.
    For both versions of the Reading tests, there are three sections and 40 questions in total to be completed. Each correct answer carries one mark; and the total score out of 40 are then converted onto an equivalent band in the 9-band scale, in a process similar to that of the Listening part of the exam.
    In both the Listening and Reading parts, the Academic papers might contain questions featuring more complex vocabulary/style. Hence, it is expected that to secure a given band on the 9-band scale, a greater number of correct answers are required in the General Training version.

  • Speaking part: The Speaking part of the exam has three tasks to evaluate your oral communication skills. Fluency and coherence, grammatical accuracy and range, lexical resource, and pronunciation are the four areas on which you are evaluated in this part, based on which the 9-band scores are reported.

  • Writing part: The Writing part has two tasks to assess your written communication skills in terms of the academic and day-to-day work/life purposes. In both versions of the test, you need to write at least 150 words for task 1, and 250 words for task 2. The score of task 2 counts (two times) more towards the overall 9-band Writing score for this section, than the score of task 1. Also, both answers need to be descriptive in nature; an answer entirely in note form or as bullet points might be marked less.
    To elaborate on the scores for this section, the examiners give a band score for each of the four assessment criteria: task achievement (for task 1) and task response (for task 2); coherence and cohesion, lexical resource utilized, and the grammatical range and accuracy of both the responses. All the four criteria have equal significance.

To have the scoring process interpreted and the scores are explained in more detail, visit the official IELTS webpage on http://www.ielts.org/researchers/score_processing_and_reporting.aspx.




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