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About IELTS - FAQ and more

IELTS Band Scores and Marking

An important part of your IELTS preparation is understanding how you will be marked and scored

Knowing how IELTS is marked and scored will assist in your preparation, as it will give you an understanding of what level of English is required per band score.

How is the IELTS Writing test marked?

The IELTS Writing test is marked by qualified IELTS examiners who are intensively trained and monitored to ensure consistency and quality of marking, no matter where in the world the test is taken. A minimum of two examiners will mark your Writing test, and sometimes even up to three or four – we do this to ensure the highest level of accuracy and fairness possible.

Your Writing test response is scored in the areas of ‘task response’, ‘coherence and cohesion’, ‘lexical resource’, and ‘grammatical range and accuracy’. To understand what each of these mean you can view the Writing band descriptors, which have detailed information about each phrase and how they relate to the different band scores that are possible.

Download the Writing band task 1 descriptors

Download the Writing band task 2 descriptors

How is the IELTS Speaking test marked?

The Speaking test in IELTS is just like a conversation that you would have in everyday life. In the test, you will sit in a private, quiet room with a qualified examiner who will engage you in a conversation. While it can be difficult to speak to a stranger, make the most of it! With IELTS, the examiner can slow down for you, speed up or even repeat or rephrase a question if you like – all you have to do is ask. The examiner is there to enable you to perform at your best.

Your speaking skills are marked against a number of criteria, including ‘fluency and coherence’, ‘lexical resource’, ‘pronunciation’, ‘grammatical range’ and ‘accuracy’. To understand what each of these mean you can view the Speaking band descriptor, which has detailed information about each phrase and how they relate to the different band scores that are possible.

Download the Speaking band descriptors

How is the IELTS Reading test marked?

In the Reading test, you will answer 40 questions. A variety of question types are used, e.g. multiple choice, True/False/Not Given, matching, and sentence completion. Your answers are either correct or incorrect, so the marking is a little different to the Speaking and Writing tests. You will receive one mark for each correct answer, with the total number of marks determining your band score.

The tables below indicate the average number of marks required to achieve a particular band score in Academic Reading and General Training Reading.

Academic Reading
Band scoreRaw score out of 40
515
623
730
835
General Training Reading
Band scoreRaw score out of 40
415
523
630
734

How is the IELTS Listening test marked?

In the Listening test, you will answer 40 questions that relate to audio clips that will be played to you. Your answers are either correct or incorrect, so the marking is a little different to the Speaking and Writing tests. You will receive one mark for each correct answer, with the total number marks determining your band score.

The table below indicates the average number of marks required to achieve a particular band score in the Listening test:

Listening
Band scoreRaw score out of 40
516
623
730
835

How is the overall band score calculated?

The Overall Band Score is the average of the four component scores, rounded to the nearest whole or half band. The component scores are weighted equally.

If the average of the four components ends in .25, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next whole band. If the average ends with a fraction below .25 or .75, the overall score is rounded down.

Some examples:

  • Reading 6.5 + Writing 5 + Speaking 7 + Listening 6.5 = 25
  • Divide 25 by 4 = 6.25
  • Ends in .25 so round up to the next half band
  • Overall band score = 6.5
  • Reading 6.5 + Writing 5.5 + Speaking 6.0 + Listening 6.5 = 24.5
  • Divide 24.5 by 4 = 6.125
  • Ends with a fraction below .25 so round down to the next whole band
  • Overall band score = 6.0
  • Reading 3.5 + Writing 4.0 + Speaking 4.0 + Listening 4.0 = 19.5
  • Divide 19.5 by 4 = 3.875
  • Ends with a fraction above .75 so round up to the next whole band
  • Overall band score = 4.0

The IELTS 9 band scale

The IELTS Academic and General Training IELTS test are both graded to a 9 band scale.

For each section of the test (Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking) you will receive a band score from 1 – 9. The average of this score will form your overall IELTS band score. This may be a whole score (e.g. 5, 6) or half (e.g. 7.5, 8.5).

The table below rates each band score against an English skill level. To find out how your test is marked, view IELTS scoring and marking.

Band ScoreSkill LevelDescription
9Expert userThe test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.
8Very good userThe 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.
7Good userThe 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.
6Competent userThe 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.
5Modest userThe 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.
4Limited userThe 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.
3Extremely limited userThe test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.
2Intermittent userThe test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
1Non-userThe test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.
0Did not attempt the testThe test taker did not answer the questions.

Would you like more information?

IELTS Quality and fairness
Quality and fairness

IELTS invests heavily in the continued development of its test and the processes by which scores are marked, to ensure a fair assessment for all test takers and a reliable result for the organisations that depend on IELTS as a measure of English language skill.

Download the IELTS quality and fairness info pack

Find out more about the test format

IELTS is unique in that it allows the choice of an Academic of General Training test. Both types of IELTS test measure your skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening, however, the questions are a little different and one test might suit you more than the other.

Read more about the format of the test