IELTS scores: 3 easy ways of understanding IELTS results
- A brief study of the IELTS score range
- IELTS score calculator
- What is a good IELTS score?
IELTS scores are graded from a scale 1 to 9. With 1 being the lowest, and 9 the highest. A score is given to each test component- reading, writing, listening, speaking. This article will later look at how this is calculated.
Most simply, band 7-9 is fluent English, band 4-6 is students of English, and 1-3 minimal is English.
Each language learner has a different competency level. Depending on your relationship with English, you will be categorised into a certain level. If for example you have had very little exposure to English then you may be at A1, or contrastingly if you have had a lot of informal practice with English, you may be at B2. It all depends on your context with English.
See the Cambridge English Qualifications diagram for further detail on the international standards for describing language ability.
A brief study of the score range (band 5-9)
IELTS classifies this as a ‘modest user’ which in non-exam speaking terms, is good english. You can have a basic conversation but make lots of errors. A band score 5 student would typically make the following errors; missing or incorrect prepositions, repetition of information, missed plurals, spelling errors, incorrect basic grammar forms.
Band 5- Good English. Students can cope with everyday communication but lots of errors are made. A native speaker can have a conversation but it will require a much more conscientious effort.
Band 6- Very good English. In comparison to band 5, the student can handle a wider range. The conversation between native speakers and band 6 students is easier but errors will still be made.
- Record yourself answering a question from one of the speaking activities. Listen back and list the kind of errors you have made. Specifically work on these to become more proficient.
- Read samples to compare top band responses to lower band responses. Take note from band 7 and above responses. Note down good grammatical structures, vocabulary usage and accurate uses of punctuation. Then practice writing responses of your own and compare these to the 7, 8 and 9 level samples afterwards.
There is some debate about the shades of proximity between scores 7,8 and 9. Truthfully, bands 7, 8 and 9, all represent different measures of fluency and expert competency. Meaning, there is a wide range of high-level language and complex grammatical forms.
Band 9- No errors with complete understanding and eloquence. This level requires impressive vocabulary and grammar which even native speakers don’t use.
Band 8- Almost the same level as a native speaker. Very few errors.
Band 7- Not too far from an 8! Excellent use of English. Some mistakes but a native speaker will easily be able to have an effortless conversation with someone is band 7.
- One of the best things you can do is to have one-to-one conversations with a native speaker where you can practice all four parts of the test.
- Read newspapers. It’s good to mix it up and read both tabloid and broadsheet. This will drastically improve your vocabulary, lexical structures, grammatical structures, collocations, register and tone and more.
- Podcasts are a great way to get a daily dose of English. This article has selected 14 podcasts for you to choose from.
IELTS score calculator
The scores are given either as whole marks i.e. 6.0, or as half marks, 6.5, in each part of the test.
Overall band scores are calculated to the nearest whole or half band. If the average score across the four skills – Listening, Speaking, Writing, Reading,– ends in .25, it is rounded up to the next half band. If it ends in .75, it is rounded up to the next whole band.
Each individual IELTS Skill gets a band score in this range. This “composite” score is the average of your individual IELTS scores, and is meant to represent your overall English ability.
What is a good IELTS score?
Technically speaking, a 7 is a good ielts score. Naturally, everyone has their own expectations and some students may be reaching for an 8.5 or 9, whilst some may be perfectly content with a 7. It also largely depends on what your ielts test is for, whether it's for university applications, immigration visas, or medical professions- there may be different criteria and contrasting acceptance results.
If you are scoring 5 and anything below, it is likely you need further practice and to engage in either in-person or online classes, to get more practice in before sitting the ielts exam.
If you’d like a snapshot of how the bands are separated and what each represents, visit the British Council’s website for a digestible breakdown.
The good news is there are lots of opportunities to obtain practice tests and a wise decision to practice as many sample tests as you can; the more exposure you have to the exam the more confident you will feel.
Each exam component helps with the next. If you want to improve your writing, you need to read more (vocabulary and grammar) and listen more. Likewise, doing more listening practice will help you with speaking, which is great for vocabulary and pronunciation, writing (same benefits), and reading to grasp sentence structures and complex topics.
There are differences in how the ielts is scored internationally and for its different purposes, so bear this in mind when preparing.