What Do The IELTS Band Scores Mean?

The IELTS test assesses your English language abilities in four main areas, listening, reading, writing and speaking. Many students need to take the test in order to be able to work or study in an English-speaking country like the UK or Canada. There are so many new concepts to wrap your head around when preparing for the IELTS exams, that many students feel overwhelmed by all the new information. This article is a small guide that is meant to help would-be test-takers, from Singapore and other parts of the world, understand the IELTS bands scores and what exactly each score means.

What are the Band Scores?

The IELTS exam results are graded from 1 – 9, with 1 being the lowest score you can get and 9 the highest (for an expert user). Each component of the test – Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening – is given an individual score, so your overall exam result will be made up of a score for each component and an overall band score. The overall band score is the average of the four individual scores.

In cases where the test takers average of the four individual component scores ends in 0.25 Or 0.75 then the overall IELTS score will be rounded off to the nearest half band.

For Example:

What do the Band Scores mean?

The IELTS results are designed to be easily understandable and fairly simple. Each band score corresponds to a particular level of English proficiency

Score Language Proficiency Explanation
9 Expert User Has full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
8 Very Good User Has full 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, inappropriateness 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, inappropriancies 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 using complex language.
3 Extremely Limited User Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.
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.
1 Non-User Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test Can’t be assessed, did not attempt, registered candidate absent.

How Are The Band Scores Calculated?

Listening and Reading:

Once your raw test scores out of 40 have been determined you will be graded according to the IELTS band scores ranging from 0 to 9. With each raw score corresponding to a particular IELTS band score. Your original score out of 40 will be converted using the following conversion tables.


In the IELTS Writing test, the examiner will assess you based on the following criteria:

  • Lexical Resource (vocabulary) – flexible use of a wide range of vocabulary
  • Grammatical range and accuracy – the ability to use a wide range of grammatical structures comfortably and with good accuracy
  • Coherence and cohesion – the ability to produce a well-laid out and easily understood piece of writing
  • Task Achievement – answers all parts of the question


There are four criteria on which your Speaking band score is calculated:

  • Fluency – being able to speak coherently without hesitation
  • Vocabulary- flexible use of a wide range of vocabulary
  • Grammar- the ability to speak using a wide range of grammatical structures comfortably and with good accuracy
  • Pronunciation – use a number of pronunciation features

Each of these makes up 25% of your overall score and are of equal importance during the speaking test.

What Is The Average IELTS Score?

Most IELTS test takers are at a band score level of between 4 to 6, and to be honest, if you are at a level lower than that you probably should not even be considering attempting the IELTS exam until you have sufficiently improved your basic English language skills.

Which Band Score do you need?

The band score you need will depend on:

  • The requirements of the institution where you plan to study
  • The organization you want to work for
  • The visa requirements of the country you want to work, study or live in

The band score you need depends greatly on the reason for which you are taking the exam

At the moment, the world’s best universities often require an overall IELTS band score of 7 and above.  In some cases both the individual scores and the overall band score are important. Some universities have very specific admission conditions, such as they make require an overall band score of 7 with no less than 6.5 in each individual component. However, each institution has its own set of requirements and the ownness is upon the test taker to verify the requirements of any institution or university they apply to.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.

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