How to Calculate your IELTS Band Score
In the IELTS exam, you receive a score, which is called a ‘band’, for each section of the exam – listening, reading, writing and speaking. You also receive an overall band score, which is the average score of the four sections. The band system is on a scale from 1 to 9, with each band corresponding to a level of English competence. Band 1 indicates that you have virtually no English at all, while band 9 is considered to be a high level of proficiency. It is also possible to get a half score, for example, 7.5.
The IELTS 9-Band Scale
Here is an outline of the band levels as provided by the official IELTS board at www.ielts.org:
Band 9: Expert user: has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
Band 8: Very good user: has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
Band 7: Good user: has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
Band 6: Competent user: has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
Band 5: Modest user: has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
Band 4: Limited user: basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
Band 3: Extremely limited user: conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
Band 2: Intermittent user: no real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
Band 1: Non-user: essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
Band 0: Did not attempt the test: No assessable information provided.
Calculating Band Scores for Listening and reading
IELTS Listening and Reading papers contain 40 items and each correct item is awarded one mark, so the maximum score you can receive is 40. Each score out of 40 corresponds to a band level. However, there are minor differences in the difficulty level across tests so this means that the band level associated with a particular score out of 40 might change slightly from one test to another. For example, in one IELTS exam a score of 34 might be a Band 7, while in another test it may be 33. The tables below provide the approximate band scores that correspond to the mark out of 40.
Marking Scheme for Writing
Examiners award a band score according to four areas, which are of equal importance:
- Task Achievement/Task Response – this looks at whether you have fulfilled all requirements of the task sufficiently.
- Coherence and Cohesion – this addresses whether your answer is logically organised through effective paragraphing and use of cohesive devices such as linking words.
- Lexical Resource - this looks at your range and appropriateness of vocabulary, as well as whether there are any errors related to spelling or word formation.
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy - this assesses the range and complexity of the grammatical structures you use and how well you use them.
Marking Scheme for Speaking
Examiners award a band score according to four areas:
- Fluency and Coherence – this assesses the length of your utterances, whether there is repetition, hesitation or self-correction and how well you are able to use connectives and discourse markers in order to make your speech coherent.
- Lexical Resource – this looks at your range and appropriateness of vocabulary, as well as your use of idiomatic language.
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy – this assesses the range and complexity of the grammatical structures you use and how well you use them.
- Pronunciation – this looks at pronunciation features such as intonation, pitch, tone, rate of speech and clarity.
Calculating your Overall Band Score
The institution or organisation requesting your IELTS score may specify a minimum band score that you need to get for each section. For example, some visas require students to achieve a band 7 for each section. That means a minimum of band 7 for listening, band 7 for reading, band 7 for writing and band 7 for speaking.
Other institutions may require a minimum overall band score. This is calculated by adding up the bands for each of the four sections and dividing by four to find the average. So if your institution sets a minimum overall band score of 7, you could get a band 6 for listening, a band 8 for reading, band 7 for writing and band 7 for speaking (6+8+7+7 = 28, 28 ÷ 4 = 7). So even though the band score for listening was 6, the average overall band is 7, so this would be a sufficient result.
It is important to know the requirements set for your organisation and whether the band score they require applies to each section or to the overall average.