IELTS Band Scores – Understand the Exam Scoring System


If you are aspiring to fly abroad to an English speaking country to settle as a permanent resident – PR or to pursue your studies in your dream school or college, you need to take the English Language Proficiency Test.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is the pioneer and the leading English Language Proficiency test. Your performance is evaluated in bands from 1 to 9. The IELTS band score determines the prospects of your dream getting fulfilled. Therefore, before booking the IELTS slot and paying the exam fee, it is better to understand the Exam Scoring System and the IELTS Band Score Chart. The four important aspects or sections of English language, based on which the overall band score is determined, are mentioned as below:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking


IELTS Band Score Calculation – How?

Band score between 0 – 9 is given for each of the above sections – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. A band score is the average of the four section scores, rounded off to the nearest half or whole band. For example, if it is a 6.5 in Reading, 7 in Writing, 7 in Speaking, and 6.5 in Listening, the average of these 4 scores would be 6.75. Rounding it off to 7 gives the overall band score. You must try to score more in each section too while focusing on the minimum required overall band score.


Description – IELTS Band Scores

Band score Skill Level Description
9 Expert user Complete command of the language. Fluent use and complete understanding of the English language.
8 Very good user Complete command of the language with few inaccuracies. Handle complex situations well. May misunderstand in certain unfamiliar situations.
7 Good user Good command of the English language with inaccuracies occasionally and inappropriate usage in certain situations. Understand detailed reasoning well and handle complex language well.
6 Competent user Effective command of the language with some inappropriate usage and some inaccuracies. Understand the complex language well in familiar situations.
5 Modest user Partial command of the English language. Can deal with overall meaning. Make many mistakes. Can handle basic communication in their field.
4 Limited user Limited to familiar situations only. Cannot use complex language. Frequently shows problems in understanding and expression.
3 Extremely limited user Understands the only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are repeated breakdowns in communication.
2 Intermittent user Great difficulty in understanding spoken and written English.
1 Non-user Cannot use the English language except a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test Did not appear for the test or answer the questions at all.


Note: ** To score 8 or 9 band the user needs to ensure that he/she has rephrased the questions asked to understand them correctly and answer them with relevance to what is asked. It can be justifiably done if he/she maintains the fluency, (take minimal pauses and use fillers instead), coherence, cohesion, uses uncommon and idiomatic vocabularies as lexical resource, ensures grammatical accuracy while using complex sentences. All these would help him/her to achieve the task and high band score.


IELTS Score Calculator

IELTS Band Score – Listening

The IELTS Listening Test has 40 questions, divided into different types and based on 4 audios – 2 monologues and 2 conversations – 10 questions for each audio. The duration of the test is 30 minutes. Each correct answer is worth one mark and an incorrect or no answer is given zero. There is no negative marking. The total marks are converted into the IELTS band scale.

The following IELTS listening band score chart shows the bands given to the candidates based on the number of correctly answered questions by them in the listening test.

Listening band score Correct Answers
9 39 – 40
8.5 37 – 38
8 35 – 36
7.5 32 – 34
7 30 – 31
6.5 26 – 29
6 23 – 25
5.5 18 – 22
5 16 – 17
4.5 13 – 15
4 11 – 12


IELTS Band Score – Reading

The IELTS Reading Test also consists of 40 questions based on three passages. The duration of the test is 60 minutes. The marking criterion is the same as IELTS Listening Test i.e. one mark for each correct answer and zero for no answer or incorrect answer. There is no negative marking. The total marks are converted into the IELTS band scale.

The reading test is categorized into two parts – Academic Reading Test for study abroad aspirants and General Training Reading Test for PRs (permanent residents).

The IELTS academic reading test has complex passages comprising difficult level of vocabulary than the General Training Reading Test. Therefore, to score high band score, more questions must be correctly answered in the General Training Reading Test than in the Academic Reading Test.

The following IELTS Reading band score chart shows the bands given to the IELTS Academic Test candidates and IELTS General Training Test candidates based on the number of correctly answered questions by them in the Reading test.

Academic Reading Test General Training Reading Test
Band Score Correct Answers Band Score Correct Answers
9 40-39 9 40
8.5 38-37 8.5 39
8 36 – 35 8 37 – 38
7.5 34 – 33 7.5 36
7 32 – 30 7 34 – 35
6.5 29 – 27 6.5 32 – 33
6 26 – 23 6 30 – 31
5.5 22 – 19 5.5 27 – 29
5 18 – 15 5 23 – 26
4.5 14 – 13 4.5 19 – 22
4 12 – 10 4 15 – 18
3.5 9 – 8 3.5 12 – 14
3 7 – 6 3 9 – 11
2.5 5 – 4 2.5 6 – 8


IELTS Band Score – Writing

The IELTS Academic Writing test consists of two tasks – Task 1 and Task 2. In Task 1 the test takers are required to summarize the information provided to them in the form of a graph, diagram, chart or table. For Task 2, they get an essay to write in response to an argument or point of view. Each task is marked independently on a band scale of 0 to 9.

The IELTS General Training Writing Test also has two tasks. Task 1 requires analyzing a situation presented to the test takers and asking them to write a letter to explain the situation. In Task 2 an essay has to be written in response to a problem, point of view, or problem.

P.S: Task 2 carries more weight in marking than Task 1 both in IELTS Academic Test and IELTS General Training Test.

Some assessment criteria that need to be fulfilled to score a high band on the writing test are mentioned as below. The average of these scores is rewarded as a band score.

Task Achievement (Task1) – The test takers are required to present precise information and provide an appropriate overview by highlighting key features/stage details supported with proper data.

Task Response (Task 2) – The test takers are required to attend the task i.e. answer the questions, give relevant points to support their answer, state opinion if asked, and provide a clear conclusion.

Coherence and Cohesion – The test takers must organize ideas and information into paragraphs having a particular central idea in each paragraph by using a range of linking words and discourse markers.

Lexical Resource – The write-up must have correct spellings. Using of collocations, uncommon vocabularies, idiomatic vocabularies, and avoiding errors using paraphrases are a must for high band score.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy – Correct usage of Grammar – tenses and punctuations and range of sentences need to be used.


IELTS Band Score – Speaking

The IELTS Speaking Test has three rounds which last for 11-14 minutes. Round one is a personal round that goes for four to five minutes. Round two is a cue-card round to speak on a particular topic for two minutes. Round three of the IELTS Speaking test is an extension of the topic in Round two where some questions are asked on abstract ideas and issues.

Some assessment criteria that need to be fulfilled to score a high band on the IELTS speaking test are mentioned as below. The average of these scores is rewarded as a band score.

Fluency and Coherence –Talking at length; speaking with minimum pauses using fillers, minimum repetitions, and self corrections; using linking words and discourse markers to connect words, phrases, and sentences.

Lexical Resource – Paraphrasing and using a range of rare and some idiomatic vocabularies.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy – Maintaining grammatical accuracy while using range of sentences.

Pronunciation – Intelligible throughout ensuring the intonation and stress. Accents shouldn’t convey confused meanings.


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How to calculate and convert the overall IELTS band score?

To calculate IELTS band score, you need to total the band scores received in each individual section. Then, to get an overall IELTS band score, divide it by four to get the average.

What can I do if I am dissatisfied with my test results?

You can apply for a review of your band scores (called an Enquiry on Results) at your test center within six weeks of the test date. An enquiry fee has to be paid, which is fully refunded if your band score changes. You will be issued a new Test Report Form (TRF) in case there is any change in the band score after the review.

What is the minimum passing mark for the IELTS test?

There is no passing or failing in IELTS Academic or General Training test. Scores are graded on the 0 – 9 band. Countries and Educational institutions/organizations set their own level of IELTS scores to meet their individual requirements.

What is the minimum band score for IELTS for Canada?

A minimum of 6.0 overall band score with no section less than 5.5 in each of the four sections – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking in IELTS is required to get admission to undergraduate and diploma courses if applying for study visa for Canada.

What is the difference between raw scores and band scores?

The Listening and Reading tests contain 40 questions and each correct question will be awarded 1 mark. This gives the total raw score which is then converted to a  band score ranging from  band 0 to 9.

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