ielts band descriptors

IELTS Band Descriptors: Calculate IELTS Band Scores

Updated on 22 June, 2022
Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English language proficiency test for non-native speakers who want to pursue higher education or migrate to a country where English is mostly spoken. The IELTS test is divided into four parts - Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. Understanding the IELTS band descriptors is vital. All marking takes place at official IELTS testing centers, courtesy of examiners and trained markers. They possess a complete understanding of the marking policy and have to adhere to certain standards before being allowed to mark the Reading and Listening papers. Markers undergo retesting every couple of years to make sure that marking adheres to standards.

Systematic double marking and monitoring of a chunk of answer sheets are done at every administrative center. Examiners for the Spelling and Writing sub-tests are trained and recruited as per standards. Aspirants get a score on a band scale between 1 and 9. Averaging is done for the four individual scores, and this is rounded off to generate the Overall Band Score. The overall scores and scores for every sub-test are then reported in half/whole bands. 

IELTS Band Descriptors- Overall Band Score

Knowing more about the overall band score is very important if you are delving deeper into the IELTS band descriptor. Aspirants get their test report from their overall band scores along with individual sub-test scores in the four key segments, namely Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. Each of the scores in the sub-test has equal weightage, while the overall band score is worked out by getting the total of the sub-test scores and calculating the mean of the same. 

Overall band scores are usually reported to the nearest half or whole band. If the average throughout the four segments concludes in .25, then it will be rounded till the next half band, and it is rounded to the whole upcoming band if it ends in .75. Hence, an aspirant getting 6.5 in Listening, 5.0 for Writing, 6.5 for Reading, and 7.0 for Speaking will be getting 6.5 as the Overall Band Score. This is worked out through the following calculation- 25 + 4- 6.25 or Band 6.5. Suppose someone gets 4.0, 3.5, 4.0, and 4.0 for Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking, respectively. He/she will get 4.0 as the Overall Band Score (15.5 + 4 = 3.875 or Band Score of 4.0). 

At the same time, someone getting 6.5, 6.5, 5.5, and 6.0 for Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking will get the 6.0 band. This is because the calculation will be 24.5 + 4- 6.125 or Band 6 after rounding off.

Recommended Read: IELTS Listening Band Score || IELTS Speaking Band Score

IELTS Band Descriptors- Listening and Reading 

IELTS Listening and Reading papers have 40 items, with every correct answer getting one mark each. The maximum raw score achievable for a candidate on paper is 40 in this scenario. Band scores from 1 to 9 are given to aspirants based on their raw scores. Even though test materials for IELTS are pre-tested and given trials prior to being implemented in actual tests, there are minor differences that exist in difficulty levels spanning various tests. For combining different versions of tests, the boundaries of band scores are fixed so that the results of all aspirants are relational with the same achievement scale. In simpler terms, this means that the boundary for Band 6, for instance, maybe set at varying raw score thresholds throughout several versions. 

The table below will give you an idea of the raw scores obtained by aspirants at several levels throughout the Listening, Academic Reading, and General Training Reading tests in the year 2006. They give you an idea of the marks needed for getting a specific band score in IELTS.

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Listening:

Band Score ThresholdBasic Score Out of 40
835
730
623
516

 

Academic Reading:

Band Score ThresholdBasic Score Out of 40
835
730
623
516

 

General Training Reading:

Band Score ThresholdBasic Score Out of 40
734
630
523
416


The Academic and General Training examination papers have grading on the same scale. The difference between these two modules is basically the type of discourse or genre. Academic papers may have source texts that feature vocabulary or styles which are complex or tougher. A higher number of questions should be correctly answered on the General Training Reading paper for scoring a higher band. 

Recommended Read: IELTS Reading Band Score

Writing & Speaking- IELTS Band Descriptors

While the Speaking and Writing sub-tests are being marked, examiners usually make use of extensive performance-based descriptors. These help in describing spoken and written performances across every one out of the 9 IELTS bands. 

Writing

Examiners give band scores for four areas in the criteria, i.e., Task Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Task Response, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Lexical Resource. Equal weightage is given to all four aspects. 

Speaking

A band score is given for every area out of these four- Lexical Resource, Fluency and Coherence, Pronunciation and Grammatical Range, and Accuracy. They have equal weightage. 

Band descriptors for the Writing and Speaking versions have been created to help stakeholders understand the performance levels needed for getting a specific band score in every criterion segment. Examiners at IELTS go through intensive face-to-face training along with standardization to make sure that descriptors are applied in a manner that is reliable and valid.

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IELTS Band Score Descriptors With Details 

IELTS band score descriptors are used to assess a candidate’s English proficiency. The band score descriptors are different for each section of the IELTS test. 

Writing

IELTS writing band descriptors are Task Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Task Response, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Lexical Resource. Equal weightage is given to all four aspects. 

The performance descriptors are as follows:

Task Achievement: The candidate must present accurate information while providing an overview and highlighting key features

Task response: Candidates must address the task and give relevant points to support their answers. 

Coherence and Cohesion: Writing organized information and ideas into paragraphs

Lexical resource: There should be a thorough focus on the vocabulary used in the writing section. Candidates should be able to use a wide range of words and paraphrasing, using collocations and spelling, and avoid errors. 

Grammar Range and Accuracy: Avoid grammatical errors and frame correct sentences with the correct use of punctuation.

Speaking

IELTS speaking band descriptors are Lexical Resource, Fluency and Coherence, Pronunciation and Grammatical Range, and Accuracy.

The performance descriptors are following: 

Lexical Resource: Candidates are marked based on the words, collocations, and paraphrasing they do while speaking in the IELTS test. Candidates must try to avoid grammatical errors. 

Fluency and Coherence: Candidates appearing for IELTS are judged on their ability to fluently communicate in English and the ability to sound coherent.

Pronunciation: This descriptor assesses how easily a candidate can be understood while he is speaking. Candidates are assessed on a range of pronunciation features like stress, intonation, and rhythm. 

Grammatical Range and Accuracy: This descriptor focuses on the ability of a test-taker to converse in grammatically correct and simple and complex sentences.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the IELTS band descriptors?

IELTS band descriptors are a set of assessment criteria that an examiner uses to assess the English language of IELTS candidates. IELTS speaking band descriptors are fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation. IELTS writing band descriptors are coherence and cohesion, task response, grammatical range and accuracy, and lexical resource.

Q. How are the IELTS Speaking band descriptors used?

The IELTS speaking band descriptors are used by examiners to assess an IELTS test taker speaking performance. IELTS band descriptions for both IELTS Academic Speaking and IELTS General Training Speaking tests are the same. The assessment criteria are: fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.

Q. Is IELTS band 7 good?

Band 7 in IELTS is a good score and can help aspirants secure seats in undergraduate programs abroad and immigrate to countries like the UK, Canada, US, and Australia. Band 7 indicates that the person has operational command of the language.

Q. Is it easy to get 8 band in IELTS?

With proper guidance and practice, it is possible to score band 8 in IELTS. The key to improving the band score is by practicing the test papers. Working on their vocabulary, grammatical errors, and developing the ability to scan the relevant information from the sea of words in a passage is the only way to scoring a high band in IELTS reading.

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Q. How IELTS band is calculated?

Candidates appearing for IELTS exam are graded on a nine-band scale. The overall band score is calculated as the average of the four individual scores in listening, reading, writing, and speaking, and rounded to the nearest whole or half band. Each section of the test will be marked on a band score from one to nine, and the average of this score will form the total IELTS band score. This overall band score might be in whole such as 5 or 6 or end with 0.5 such as 7.5 and 8.5. The overall band score is rounded up to the next half band if the average of the four components ends in .25, whereas if it ends in 0.75, the band score would be rounded up to the next whole band.

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