IELTS scoring in detail

Understanding IELTS test scores

When you receive a Test Report Form you will see the test taker's overall test score as well as their scores for the Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking sections of the test.

Overall band score

The overall band score is the average of the four section band scores rounded to the nearest half band.

Understanding overall band scores

IELTS Band Score: 9 Skill Level: Expert

  • The test taker has fully operational command of the language.
  • Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.

IELTS Band Score: 8 Skill Level: Very good

  • The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage.
  • They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.

IELTS Band Score: 7 Skill Level: Good

  • The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations.
  • They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.

IELTS Band Score: 6 Skill Level: Competent

  • The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings.
  • They can use and understand reasonably complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

IELTS Band Score: 5 Skill Level: Modest

  • The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes.
  • They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.

IELTS Band Score: 4 Skill Level: Limited

  • The test taker's basic competence is limited to familiar situations.
  • They frequently show problems in understanding and expression.

IELTS Band Score: 3 Skill Level: Extremely limited

  • The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.
  • There are frequent breakdowns in communication.

IELTS Band Score: 2 Skill Level: Intermittent

  • The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

IELTS Band Score: 1 Skill Level: Non-user

  • The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.

IELTS Band Score: 0 Skill Level: Did not attempt the test

  • The test taker did not answer the questions.

Section band scores


The IELTS Listening test contains 40 questions. Each correct answer is awarded 1 mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.


The IELTS Reading test contains 40 questions. Each correct answer is awarded 1 mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

The IELTS Academic and General Training Reading tests are graded on the same scale. The Academic Reading test may contain texts which feature more difficult vocabulary or greater complexity of style. It is usual that a greater number of questions must be answered correctly on a General Training Reading test to secure a given band score.

Listening and Reading – scoring

Here are the average number of marks scored at different levels of the IELTS scale in Listening, Academic Reading, and General Training Reading sections. The precise number of marks needed to achieve these band scores will vary slightly from test version to test version.

Marks out of 40 

Band Score 5: Listening 16 |  Academic Reading 15  |  General Training Reading 15

Band Score 6: Listening 23 |  Academic Reading 23 |  General Training Reading 23

Band Score 7: Listening 30 |  Academic Reading 30 |  General Training Reading 34

Band Score 8: Listening 35  |  Academic Reading 35  |  General Training Reading 38


Examiners use assessment criteria to award a score for each of the following four criteria:

  • Task achievement (for task 1) and task response (for task 2)
  • Coherence and cohesion
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy.

The average score across all four criteria provides the IELTS score for Writing.

If you are interested in finding out more about how examiners assess the Writing section, you can review the assessment criteria for IELTS Writing tasks.


Examiners use assessment criteria to award a score for each of the following four criteria:

  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation.

Each of the criteria carry equal weighting and the overall average gives the IELTS score for Speaking. Find out more about Speaking assessment criteria.

IELTS Speaking

Fluency and coherence
This refers to the ability to talk with normal levels of continuity, rate and effort and to link ideas and language together to form coherent, connected speech. The key indicators of fluency are speech rate and speech continuity. The key indicators of coherence are logical sequencing of sentences, clear marking of stages in a discussion, narration or argument, and the use of cohesive devices (e.g. connectors, pronouns and conjunctions) within and between sentences.

Lexical resource
This criterion refers to the range of vocabulary used and the precision with which meanings and attitudes can be expressed. The key indicators are the variety of words used, the adequacy and appropriacy of the words used and the ability to circumlocute (get round a vocabulary gap by using other words) with or without noticeable hesitation.

Grammatical range and accuracy
This refers to the range and the accurate and appropriate use of the test takers' grammatical resource. The key indicators of grammatical range are the length and complexity of the spoken sentences, the appropriate use of subordinate clauses, and the range of sentence structures, especially to move elements around for information focus. The key indicators of grammatical accuracy are the number of grammatical errors in a given amount of speech and the communicative effect of error.

This criterion refers to the ability to produce comprehensible speech to fulfil the Speaking test requirements. The key indicators will be the amount of strain caused to the listener, the amount of the speech which is unintelligible and the noticeability of L1 influence.