IELTS Band Scoring System Overview

In this article, you will learn how the IELTS Band Scoring works. You will also get further insights into the band scoring system for each IELTS section Reading, Speaking, Listening, and Writing.

IELTS (International English Language Test System) is a test designed to test users in four different aspects: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.  IELTS is verified for its quality and secure test questions, and its certificate is accepted in many professional and educational institutions in most English-speaking countries.

The test is divided into two modules: IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic. 

These IELTS modules differ in test formats, question types, and marking criteria. Each module has its purpose and uses for the corresponding certificate. 

IELTS Band Scores Explained

In IELTS, your English proficiency level will be graded from 1 to 9, with 9 is the highest possible IELTS band score. Each skill will be graded independently with specific methods and criteria, and your final score will be the average value of the Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing test.

Please visit the British Council website to see the IELTS official skill level and description for each band.

Since your overall band score and skill band score only exist in the form of the whole band or half band, for example, 5, 6.5, 7, 8.5, some rounding up rules need to be applied in the case of an unqualified score. 

If your final score ends with .25 or above, it is rounded up to the nearest half band. 

If your score ends with .75, it is rounded up to the nearest whole band. 

Here are some examples:

Listening Band ScoreReading Band ScoreWriting Band Score Speaking Band ScoreAverage ValueOverall Band Score
98767.57.5
98777.758
98667.257.5

1. IELTS Reading Band Scores

With the Reading test in IELTS, the question booklet for each module will be different, while the test duration remains the same for both Academic and General Training, which will last 90 minutes. You will have to answer 40 questions with various tasks: True/False/Not given, Matching Headings, Multiple choices, etc. 

For IELTS Academic, you will need to read three long texts taken from books, newspapers, journals, and magazines. After reading them, there will be 40 questions waiting to be answered. 

For IELTS General Training, the test consists of 3 sections. 

Section 1 contains several short texts, section 2 will have two texts, and there is a long text for section 3. The texts usually come from notices, advertisements, company handbooks, official documents. 

No penalties are given for incorrect answers, and your score will be based on the number of correct answers, following this table for both modules:

Band ScoresRequired Correct Answers  

(Academic)

Required Correct Answers 

(General Training)

939 – 4040
8.537 – 3839
835 – 3637 – 38
7.533 – 3436
730 – 3234 – 35
6.527 – 2932 – 33
623 – 2630 – 31
5.519 – 2227 – 29
515 – 1823 – 26
4.513 – 1419 – 22
410 – 1215 – 18
3.58 – 912 – 14
36 – 79 – 11
2.54 – 56 – 8

2. IELTS Listening Band Scores

Unlike the IELTS Reading test, both modules will have the same question booklet and audio in the Listening section. You are asked to answer 40 questions based on the content in the audio. 

Once the audio is started, it cannot be stopped, and you will have only one chance to listen to the audio. It takes approximately 30 minutes to listen to the whole audio, and you are given an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet. 

Forty questions are divided into four sections. 

  • Section 1 and Section 2: deal with everyday social contexts; one conversation about daily problems and one presentation or introduction about a specific location or event. 
  • Section 3 and Section 4: deal with educational and training contexts, for example, discussions between lecturers and students or an academic presentation about a subject.

No penalties will be given for incorrect answers, and your score will be based on the number of correct answers, following this table for both modules:

Band ScoresRequired Correct Answers
939 – 40
8.537 – 38
835 – 36
7.532 – 34
730 – 31
6.526 – 29
623 – 25
5.518 – 22
516 – 17
4.513 – 15
411 – 12

3. IELTS Writing Band Scores

Like the Reading test, the IELTS Writing test also takes 60 minutes, and you need to complete two given tasks within that time limit. And just like Reading, the tasks for each module will be different, depending on the actual output that you need to achieve within that module. 

With General Training, Task 1 will require you to write a short letter (150 words) and another short essay (250 words) for Task 2. 

Meanwhile, with Academic, you will have to describe a table, chart, diagram, or map for Task 1 (150 words) and compose a short essay (250 words) describing your opinion with explanations and examples about a specific topic for Task 2.

The writing test will be marked manually by trained and certified IELTS Examiners based on four major criteria. 

Each task is marked independently based on those four criteria, and your band for that task will be the average value from 4 criteria (each criterion will get a score from 1 to 9). Finally, your final Writing score will follow this formula:

Rounding up rules also apply for this calculation. To learn more about this, please look at part 2 of this article. For example:

Task 1 ScoreTask 2 ScoreCalculating ValueIELTS Writing Final Band Score
676.667
766.336.5

For the marking criteria, please see the table below for their full descriptions:

Writing CriteriaDescription
Task achievement  

(only available for Task 1)

  • Presenting accurate information
  • Providing an overview
  • Highlighting key features/stages
  • Supporting details with data
Task response  

(only available for Task 2)

  • Addressing the task (Answering the question)
  • Giving relevant main points with supported and developed explanations
  • Stating a clear opinion (when asked)
  • Providing a conclusion
Coherence and Cohesion
  • Organizing ideas and information into paragraphs
  • Having one central idea in each paragraph (for Task 2 only)
  • Using a range of linking phrases
Lexical Resource
  • Using a range of words and paraphrasing
  • Using collocations
  • Spellings
  • Avoiding errors
Grammar
Range & Accuracy
  • Using a range of sentence structures
  • Using a range of grammar tenses
  • Punctuation
  • Avoiding errors

4. IELTS Speaking Scoring System: 

With the Speaking test in IELTS, you will be interviewed by an IELTS examiner with a series of predetermined questions. The whole process will last for 11 to 15 minutes, and the questions are the same for both modules. The test questions are divided into three main parts: 

  • Part 1 or Task 1 (Introduction and Interview): Test takers answer a series of questions about themselves and familiar topics in their daily life, such as their home, school, work, routines, habits. This part will last for 4 – 5 minutes.
  • Part 2 or Task 2 (Individual presentation): In this part, you will be given a topic to talk about, and you will have one minute to make some notes for this topic on a piece of paper. After the preparation phase, you will talk about this topic for 1 – 2 minutes. Some follow-up questions relating to this topic may be presented to you after your presentation.
  • Part 3 or Task 3 (Two-way discussion): With this part, you will be given some argumentative questions, and with each one, you will be asked to state your opinion with explanations and relevant examples. This final part will last for 4 – 5 minutes. 

Your Speaking band score will be marked by the IELTS examiners based on four main criteria. Your final score will be the average value of these four independent criteria scores, with rounding up rules applied. 

For the marking criteria, please see the table below for their full descriptions:

Speaking CriteriaDescription
Fluency
  • Talking at length
  • Talking without pauses or hesitations
  • Talking without self-corrections
  • Able to be understood
  • Using linking phrases
Lexical Resource
  • Using a range of words and paraphrasing
  • Using collocations
  • Using a less common vocabulary
  • Avoiding errors
Grammar Range & Accuracy
  • Using a range of sentence structures
  • Using a range of grammar tenses
  • Avoiding errors
Pronunciation
  • Able to be understood throughout the test
  • Able to use intonation
  • Accent does not affect understanding
  • Accurate word and sound pronunciation

FAQs on IELTS Band Scoring System

Do IELTS Scores Expire? 

Although the preparation and learning process takes place for your whole life, your IELTS certificate will expire within two years. That means after two years from the result-releasing date, you will no longer be certified by IELTS, and you can use your certification for application and reference in professional and educational organizations. So, our advice for you is that while you should prepare for IELTS for a long time, register and take the IELTS test only when you have a specific purpose for that decision. Because after two years, you will have to retake the test if you want to be certified by IELTS.

If you want to learn who accepts the IELTS score as an English Proficiency certification, check out a detailed listing of organizations and educational institutions that get IELTS scores. For a more comprehensive and updated listing, visit the IELTS website for more information

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