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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Understanding IELTS test scoring

Getting a good IELTS score is at the top of the list of priorities for many international students. We explain how the IELTS test score is calculated and how the test is marked.

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If you’ve been doing your research on the IELTS test, you would know the importance of achieving a good overall score. This score determines your eligibility for degrees, programmes and courses. Your overall score consists of the band scores for each of the four IELTS test sections, each with its own designated tasks. As part of your IELTS test preparation, it’s a good idea to understand how the test is marked and scored. We take you through all the details of IELTS test scoring and how IELTS examiners mark.

 

How is the overall IELTS test score calculated?

 

The IELTS test has four sections. These are readingwritinglistening and speaking. The overall IELTS test score is calculated using the average of each of the four sections. The weighting given to each test section is equal. 

 

All IELTS scores are marked using a scale of zero to nine. The overall score will be rounded up or down the nearest whole or half band. For example, if you receive an overall score of 7.0, this may have been rounded up from 6.75. If your average score ends in .25 it will be rounded down and for .75 rounded up to the next half band.

 

To give you a better idea of how scores are calculated, you can refer to the following examples:

 

Reading

Writing

Listening

Speaking

Average /4

Final Score

6.5

7.0

5.0

6.5

6.25

6.5

6.0

5.5

6.5

6.5

6.125

6.0

 

Find out more about understanding English language test scores.

 

What is the IELTS marking scale?

 

When an examiner marks your IELTS performance, the results are calculated using a scale from zero to nine. Each band score is measured using a particular level of skill. For example, a score of seven would constitute a good user. The band score and skill level are clarified with a detailed description for each. 

 

Band

Skill level

Description

9

Expert user

Operational command of English with accuracy fluency and understanding.

8

Very good user

Operational command of English with only a few errors and misunderstandings.

7

Good user

Understanding of complex language, but with some inaccuracies and inappropriate language usage.

6

Competent user

Effective command of the language despite some inaccuracy and inappropriate usage. Understanding strong in familiar situations.

5

Modest user

Partial command of the language. Can understand language in certain situations, but with many mistakes. Capable of basic communication.

4

Limited user

Limited command and understanding of the language. Not able to use complex language.

3

Extremely limited user

General and limited understanding only. Frequent communication breakdown.  

2

Intermittent user

Difficulty in understanding written and spoken English.

1

Non-user

No English language ability except for a few words.

0

Did not attempt the test

The test taker did not answer the questions.

 

Get more information on preparing for the IELTS test.

 

How are IELTS band scores calculated?

 

The calculation of the band score does differ depending on the IELTS test section. Let’s look at each section more closely.

 

IELTS listening

The IELTS listening test consists of 40 questions. Each of the questions is worth one mark, and there is no negative marking for incorrect answers. The score out of 40 is converted using the IELTS nine-point scale for the final section band score. 

 

Band Score

Score out of 40

8

35

7

30

6

23

5

16

 

 

Wondering what IELTS scores you need to gain entry to popular courses?

 

IELTS reading 

 

The IELTS reading test has 40 questions. Each correct answer is worth one mark. The section score, out of 40, is converted using the IELTS nine-point scale. The scoring for the IELTS academic reading test is the same as for the general training test, but the type of text you get will be different between the two tests.

 

Band Score

Score out of 40

8

35

7

30

6

23

5

15

 

 

IELTS writing 

 

The IELTS writing test uses four assessment criteria rated on the IELTS scale. The writing test has two tasks, with task two being worth twice the value of task one. Examiners mark each task by assessing:

 

  • The achievement of the task (1) and the task response (2)
  • Coherence and cohesion 
  • Vocabulary used 
  • Accuracy and use of grammar

 

Each of the scores for the four criteria are added together and then divided by four. Marks for task one and task two are then added together and divided by two for the final band score.

 

Explore the differences between the IELTS and TOEFL tests

 

IELTS speaking

 

IELTS examiners marking the speaking test use four criteria for the evaluation of performance. Each of these is assigned a mark using the IELTS scale, zero to nine. All section criteria are weighted equally. The four benchmarks used are:

 

  • Coherence and fluency 
  • Vocabulary 
  • Pronunciation 
  • Accuracy and grammar

 

The final band score for the IELTS writing test is the average for all the criteria.  

 

 

There you have it. That’s your comprehensive guide to IELTS test scoring. While you’re here, you may also find our guide to university application interesting. If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can read our take on how studying abroad can help your career and the top 10 reasons to study abroad

 

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