IELTS Band Score: Explaining Marking Criteria

Feb 23, 2020 | IELTS Test

The IELTS band score is one of the most misunderstood parts of the test. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet and the school of YouTube. 

Here are the facts…

First The Basics 

Examiners grade IELTS using a 9-band assessment formula. The bands start at 0 and move up to a maximum of 9.0 in half-band increments.

In other words, you could receive a Band 6 or a Band 6.5 

Which IELTS Band Score Do I Need?

The organisation you apply to decides the band score you need. Sometimes the government of the country to which are moving has set the minimum score that the organisation can accept.

As a rough guide, undergraduate degrees often require a Band 6.0. Graduate degrees usually start at around a Band 6.5.

If you want to work as a medical professional in a country like the UK, you will need at least Band 7.0.

Native Speakers Can Need Band Points Too

If you are a native speaker emigrating to Australia, the system automatically awards you the points a non-native would get if they score Band 7.0. However, you can get more points if you take the test and score Band 8.0 or higher. 

Is An IELTS Band Score Like Points?

No, a band score is not an exact point or mark. Here is the Macmillan dictionary’s definition of a band… 

IELTS Band Descriptor Definition by Andrew Turner @

In other words, an IELTS band score will include a range of marks/points. 

For example, to score a Band 6.0 in the IELTS Listening or Reading test, you would typically need to score between 23 and 26 marks.

You can find out more about how the Reading and Listening components are marked here

In the case of the IELTS Speaking and Writing tests, an examiner awards you a band score directly. 

How A Band Score Is Calculated 

In the case of the Reading and Listening components, clerical markers give you a mark out of 40. A manager then enters your score into a computer – which decides your overall score. Read more here.

In the case of Speaking and Writing, an examiner will assess your English and award your score according to a set of marking criteria called descriptors

The descriptors they use are confidential – you cannot see them. However, Cambridge has published a set of near-identical public descriptors. 

You can find a copy of these descriptors here.

Click here to learn how examiners grade you and to find out which parts are rounded up, and which are rounded down.

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