All IELTS marking takes place at the test centre by trained markers and examiners.
Markers are trained to understand the IELTS marking policy and are required to demonstrate that they are marking to standard before they are allowed to mark Listening and Reading papers. Markers are re-tested every two years to ensure that their marking remains up to standard. Systematic monitoring and double marking of a proportion of answer sheets is carried out at each administration.
Examiners for the Writing and Speaking sub-tests are recruited and trained in line with agreed standards. They are required to demonstrate that they are marking to standard every two years in addition to on-going monitoring of their performance.
Candidates receive scores on a Band Scale from 1 to 9. A profile score is reported for each skill. The four individual scores are averaged and rounded to produce an Overall Band Score. Overall Band Scores and scores for each sub-test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) are reported in whole bands or half bands.
Overall Band Score
Candidates receive a Test Report Form setting out their Overall Band Score and their scores on each of the four sub-tests: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Each of the sub-test scores is equally weighted. The Overall Band Score is calculated by taking the mean of the total of the four individual sub-test scores.
Overall Band Scores are reported to the nearest whole or half band. For the avoidance of doubt, the following rounding convention applies; if the average across the four skills ends in .25, it is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, it is rounded up to the next whole band.
Thus, a candidate achieving 6.5 for Listening, 6.5 for Reading, 5.0 for Writing and 7.0 for Speaking would be awarded an Overall Band Score of 6.5 (25 ÷ 4 = 6.25 = Band 6.5).
Likewise, a candidate achieving 4.0 for Listening, 3.5 for Reading, 4.0 for Writing and 4.0 for Speaking would be awarded an Overall Band Score of 4.0 (15.5 ÷ 4 = 3.875 = Band 4.0).
On the other hand, a candidate achieving 6.5 for Listening, 6.5 for Reading, 5.5 for Writing and 6.0 for Speaking would be awarded band 6 (24.5 ÷ 4 = 6.125 = Band 6).
Listening and Reading
IELTS Listening and Reading papers contain 40 items and each correct item is awarded one mark; the maximum raw score a candidate can achieve on a paper is 40. Band scores ranging from Band 1 to Band 9 are awarded to candidates on the basis of their raw scores. Although all IELTS test materials are pretested and trialled before being released as live tests, there are inevitably minor differences in the difficulty level across tests. In order to equate different test versions, the band score boundaries are set so that all candidates' results relate to the same scale of achievement. This means, for example, that the Band 6 boundary may be set at a slightly different raw score across versions.
The tables below indicate the mean raw scores achieved by candidates at various levels in each of the Listening, Academic Reading and General Training Reading tests during 2006 and they provide an indication of the number of marks required to achieve a particular band score.
- Band Score
- Raw score out of 40
- Academic Reading
- Band Score
- Raw score out of 40
- General Training Reading
- Band Score
- Raw score out of 40
The Academic and General Training papers are graded to the same scale. The distinction between the two modules is one of genre or discourse type. Academic papers may contain source texts featuring more difficult vocabulary or greater complexity of style. It is usual that, to secure a given band score, a greater number of questions must be answered correctly on a General Training Reading paper.
Writing and Speaking
When marking the Writing and Speaking sub-tests, examiners use detailed performance descriptors which describe written and spoken performance at each of the 9 IELTS bands.
Examiners award a band score for each of four criterion areas: Task Achievement (for Task 1), Task Response (for Task 2), Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. The four criteria are equally weighted.
Click here to view a version of the descriptors for Writing Task 1.
Click here to view a version of the descriptors for Writing Task 2.
Examiners award a band score for each of four criterion areas: Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy and Pronunciation. The four criteria are equally weighted.
Versions of the band descriptors for Writing and Speaking have been developed to help stakeholders better understand the level of performance required to attain a particular band score in each of the criterion areas. IELTS examiners undergo intensive face-to-face training and standardisation to ensure that they can apply the descriptors in a valid and reliable manner. Click here to view a version of the descriptors for Speaking.
The internationally-recognised nine (9) Band Score system of IELTS is a dependable way to measure your language proficiency.
Each Band corresponds to a descriptive statement giving a summary of English competence. Overall Band Scores can be reported in either whole or half Bands.
The nine Bands and their descriptive statements are:
9 Expert User
Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4 Limited User
Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
3 Extremely Limited User
Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
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.
1 Non User
Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test
No assessable information provided.
Examples of Writing test
Example of Band 5.5 for Writing Task 1
Example of Band 6.5 for Writing Task 2
Example of Band 7.0 for Writing Task 1
Example of Band 8.0 for Writing Task 2
Examples of Speaking test
Example of Band 5.5 from a Speaking Part 1
Example of Band 6.5 from a Speaking Part 2
Example of Band 7.0 from a Speaking Part 3