IELTS band scores – A to Z

Planning to go abroad and all you know is the prerequisite of appearing (and scoring, of course) in a language test. You can appear for IELTS (The International English Language Test). It comes in two different formats: Academic and General Training; as to which to take, you should contact the organization/institute you are applying to in order to check their requirements. However, a person aspiring to get PR opts for the General Training test; the one aiming to go abroad for higher studies requires Academic IELTS with the stipulated band. In both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests, you are tested on all four language skills – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking (exemptions are provided for people with disability). For applying, one can visit the website Passport is mandatory while applying; it is considered as an ID requirement.

After appearing for the test, a candidate receives results within a week or tops two weeks. Along with the results, the candidate also receives feedback on performance for the individual module on each section. One can understand the justification for band scores given by referring to feedback comments. The validity of test results is that of two years, as the IELTS test partners will not confirm validity post two years of test results. If you are unable to score the required bands (only if I had read the question twice!), know that there are no restrictions on re-taking the tests. You can register again if you feel you are ready to do so.

However, if you are unsatisfied with your test result and are skeptical that you could have scored better, you can apply for a re-mark at the test center. In such a case, an application should be made within six weeks after the test date; while applying, you can opt-out for certain modules and choose the section you are willing to apply for reassessment. The re-marking service is provided at a fee, which will be refunded if your score of the section in question is increased. Such inquiries on results take two weeks to complete.

IELTS Sections – Time allotted and no. of questions

All four sections are to be attempted without any choice. The candidate has 30 minutes + 10 minutes [to transfer answers in a paper-based exam] for the listening test. Whereas for reading and writing tests, a total of one hour is allotted. All three modules i.e. reading, writing, and listening, take place on the same day, speaking, which is of 14- 15 minutes, may be conducted in succeeding days.

The listening and reading test comprises of 40 questions each. Writing has two tasks of 20 minutes and 40 minutes, respectively. Speaking is organized into 3 parts.

A candidate will get a score for each section, which is called individual band scores. An average band score of all sections will give the overall band score.

How are individual band scores calculated?

A band score is assigned based on how near it is to a 0.5 band score or a whole band score. Look at this example for simplification: 

Overall band score calculation and criteria.

Most foreign academic institutes have a requirement of IELTS 7 band score, with no band less than 6.5. Meaning, the average of all the scores must be  7.0  or higher, although the individual band score cannot be less than 6.5. For instance, scores (8.0+7.0+6.0+7.0 / 4) = 28 / 4 = Band 7.0  will not qualify, as the minimum band should be 6.5, it does not matter even if a score of 8 is achieved in one module.

Decoding IELTS band score  (Gauge your language!)

Band 5 – The user makes many mistakes, including silly spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.

Band 6 – The user makes some silly spelling and grammatical errors.

Band 7 – Occasionally inaccurate grammar and show good handling of complex sentence structures.

Band 8 – Exhibits command over language with few or no inaccuracy.

Band 9 – Complete command and complete understanding of language.

(Band 4 and below implies limited usage or non-user of the English language and hence it is unacceptable by most premier institutions abroad)

How much do you need to score in individual modules to achieve the desired band?

Well, it depends whether one is appearing for an Academic test or General training. It should be duly noted that the module of speaking stays the same in both Academic and General, same goes for listening too. However, the difference lies in modules of writing and reading. Band scores are also awarded differently in the case of reading module.

On the test day:

Double-check if you are carrying all the necessary documents (especially passport), arrive early at the Test Center, check-in, lock away your personal belongings in accordance with the guidance of staff, take your seat as instructed.

If you have any questions/ queries after starting the test, the only permitted way to get them addressed is by raising your hand (resist talking with your fellow exam mates, or you may be barred from the exam). It is to get the attention of an invigilator. Ask your queries or take permission for a washroom break. 


To get reliable practice tests and learning resources for all the four modules of IELTS, visit the official websites and sites: