What is a good IELTS score?

IELTS scores are used by a vast number of institutions and organizations to figure out whether or not your English is ‘good enough’ for eligibility—in immigration, admissions, hiring, etc. So what is a good IELTS score?

If you are taking the IELTS for immigration, what constitutes a good IELTS score will depend on the kind of visa you need (e.g. work, business, for investors, for students, etc.). If you’re taking the IELTS as an international student, both the government and the institution may have a say about what IELTS results are acceptable. In this post, we’ll help you figure out whether you have a good IELTS score or an average IELTS score, explain what the IELTS scores mean, and which universities and countries will accept your IELTS results.

What is a good IELTS score?

To answer that question, let’s first look at the British Council’s official descriptions of the different bands to give you a general idea:

IELTS Band ScoreSkill Level
9Expert
8Very good
7Good
6Competent
5Modest
4Limited
3Extremely limited
2Intermittent
1Non-user

According to the British Council, if you score a 9 on the exam, you’re an “expert” in English; if you score an 8, you’re “very good” at English; and so on.

IELTS scores almost always range from 1 to 9 (“non-user” to “expert”), and there is a 0 score as well (“did not attempt”). You can also get a score ending in .5, for example, 6.5, 7.5., 8.5. Each individual IELTS Skill (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) gets a band score in this range. You also get an overall band score for your whole test. This “composite” score is the average of your individual IELTS scores, and is meant to represent your overall English ability.

You can find your baseline score with our free IELTS diagnostic tests for IELTS Listening, IELTS Speaking, IELTS Writing, and IELTS Reading.

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What is an IELTS Band Score?

Before we take a look at “good” IELTS scores for different universities and countries, let’s quickly recap how the IELTS is scored in the first place. Learn all about IELTS band scores by watching the following video, or skip the video to read all about IELTS band descriptors.

IELTS Band Score Descriptions

The IELTS has published band score descriptions for the test as a whole, for Speaking, and for Writing. To read the original, full descriptions of the test as a whole, go to this official IELTS page. You can also see a shorter summary of each level in the table below.

IELTS Band Descriptions: The Whole Exam

Band scoreSkill levelDescription
9Expert userFull, native-like fluency, both in producing language and understanding it.
8Very good userNear-native fluency, with only occasional inaccuracies, mistakes, or misunderstandings.
7Good userSkilled English user, but not native-like per se. Test-takers at this level are good with complex English use in general, but may make certain repeat errors, or be more limited in English in certain contexts.
6Competent userIn this case, the test-taker is still strong in English, but performs the best in familiar situations, while facing difficulties with English in less-familiar or more specialized contexts.
5Modest userThe English user has a "partial command" of English, to quote the official band guide linked above this table. Such test-takers can "get by" in English, having basic conversations with some strain, but are limited to English use only in simple contexts, or specialized contexts in their own field of expertise.
4Limited userAt this level, IELTS test-takers cannot use complex English language, and struggle to understand more complex English. Their English use is limited to simple, basic contexts.
3Extremely limited userAt this level, test-takers understand English only in its simplest, most common use. And even there, communication breaks down frequently.
2Intermittent userThe test-taker can understand some small amount of English, but only with great difficulty.
1Non-userThe test taker knows only a few words and phrases in English.
0Did not attempt the testThis level only happens if the test taker didn't answer any questions.

IELTS Band Descriptions: IELTS Speaking

IELTS Speaking band descriptors are divided into four categories, as follows:

  • Fluency and Coherence: This is the “master category” that all other IELTS Speaking skills tie into. To be fluent and coherent, a student must show comfort and confidence with English while also answering the interview questions fully and clearly.
  • Lexical resource: This category is all about vocabulary, and whether or not the student uses a good range of spoken English words and idioms accurately.
  • Grammatical range and accuracy: To score well in this category, test-takers should use a variety of grammatical forms,a nd use them correctly and appropriately.
  • Pronunciation: This category measures how well students make the consonant and vowel sounds in English words. Proper word stress and intonation are also important for scoring well in this category.

Once band scores have been calculated for each category, the four scores are averaged to calculate the overall IELTS Speaking band the test-taker has earned.

Click here for the full, official IELTS Speaking Rubric

IELTS Band Descriptions: IELTS Writing

A test-taker’s IELTS Writing bands will be the average of the category band score for each of the following four skills:

  • Task Achievement: To score well in this category, students must correctly follow the instructions in the prompt, answering the question or performing the task fully and clearly. All other categories tie into Task Achievement.
  • Coherence and Cohesion: Coherence and Cohesion measures the structure of the student’s writing: how well-organized the essay and paragraphs are, whether or not transitions are present, useful and clear, the relevance of the ideas and supporting details, and so on.
  • Lexical Resource: This measures a test-taker’s ability to use a good range of vocabulary words clearly, appropriately, and effectively.
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy: Here, test-takers should use varied sentence structure as needed, while also using grammar forms that are correct, appropriate, and clear.

To see the official IELTS band descriptors for writing, click the following:

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Bands for IELTS: How are They Calculated?

IELTS Band Score Calculation: The Math of Section IELTS Scores and Average IELTS Score Per Section

Those rubrics should give you a basic idea of how the bands of IELTS scores are calculated. But now, let’s look at the finer details. Let me explain how points are added up and converted into band scores.
 

Reading and Listening IELTS Scores

The IELTS Listening and IELTS Reading sections each have 40 questions. Moreover, each of the 40 questions is worth exactly one point in the raw score. (The raw score of an exam is a score based directly on how many questions you answer correctly.)

So you would think that calculating the raw-to-band score conversion would be easy. Right? Sadly, no. Based on official info from the makers of the IELTS, this score conversion is a bit tricky.

For one thing, the percentage of answers that you get right will not be the same as the percentage of band points you get. For example, if you get 16 out of 40 questions correct in IELTS Listening, 40% of your answers are correct. However, you’ll get a band score of 5, which is 55.5% of the 9 possible band points.

But it’s even more complicated than that. The conversion of raw points to bands is different for IELTS Academic Reading and IELTS General Training Reading. For instance, the makers of the IELTS indicate that 30/40 on Academic Reading is Band 7, while 30/40 in general training Reading earns a Band 6.

Now here’s where it gets really confusing: the IELTS test makers’ official charts don’t even cover every Listening and Reading band. The official conversion chart only covers Bands 5-8 for IELTS Listening and IELTS Academic Reading. And the chart only covers bands 4-7 for IELTS General Training Reading. And there’s no mention of half bands. You can’t see the raw score for Bands 5.5, 6.5, etc… So it’s hard to tell exactly what you need in order to get a good IELTS score that’s not a whole number.

For the official chart, go to the IELTS.org score conversion page and look at the second chart.

Now, there are many unofficial charts that show score conversions for other bands. But be careful—all of the other IELTS score conversion tables are unofficial and may not match current IELTS scoring methods. They may or may not truly show you if you have a good IELTS score.

My personal favorite unofficial chart is the one from Wikipedia’s article on the IELTS. It more or less matches the data from IELTS.org. And it is based on the unofficial online IELTS Band Score Calculator. Although this service is not sponsored by the makers of the test, I’ve found it’s pretty reliable. Many students of mine have also use this table to predict if they will get a good IELTS score.

So, here is the table from the Wikipedia article (again, taken from ielts.calculator.free.fr; click the image for a larger version):

what is a good IELTS score? (A helpful chart)

Get a higher IELTS score? Start your online IELTS prep today with Magoosh.

IELTS Writing and Speaking Scores

IELTS Writing and IELTS Speaking scores are based on Writing and Speaking rubrics. Trained IELTS scorers use the rubrics to directly calculate a band score; no raw scores are calculated beforehand.

So, what are the exact rubrics IELTS scorers use? Well, those rubrics aren’t publicly available. But the standards for the rubrics aren’t exactly a secret. They’re based on the official IELTS Band Descriptions for IELTS Writing and IELTS Speaking.
 

Whole Test IELTS Scores: Bringing it All Together for an Average IELTS Score

As I’ve mentioned before, your composite score for the whole test is the average of all four IELTS section band scores. In other words, your ability to get a good IELTS score on the whole test depends on your running average from each part of the test.

The question then, is this: If your average IELTS score isn’t a whole band or half band, how do you round the number? According to IELTS.org, you round up to the nearest band if your average is X.25 or higher, and you round down to the nearest band if your average IELTS score is X.25 or lower.

To show you how this works, let’s say that you get the following skills bands on the IELTS: 4.5 Listening, 6.5 Reading, 7 Writing and 5.5 Speaking. To get the average, add these together and divide by 4:

4.5 + 6.5 + 7 + 5.5 = 23.5
23.5/4 = 5.875

This rounds up to an IELTS band 6.

On the other hand, suppose another student got these higher section IELTS scores:

7 + 7 + 7.5 + 7 = 28.5
28.5/4 = 7.125

This would round down to an whole test average IELTS score of 7. (And by many standards, that’s a pretty good IELTS score!)

Improve that score slightly with 7 + 7 + 7.5 + 7.5, and you get 29/4, which equals 7.25, which rounds up to IELTS Band 7.5.

You get the idea. But if you want to see a few more examples, look at the first table in this IELTS.org score conversion article.

How is the IELTS IDP Score Calculated?

A lot of Magoosh students have wondered if IDP IELTS scores are calculated differently than other IELTS scores.

In a word, no. IDP Education is merely a third party organization that administers the IELTS. They do not design or give a different version of the exam. Instead, it’s the same IELTS with the same scoring system, as described above.

How can I find my own IELTS band scores?

In order to find your approximate IELTS results, start by taking an IELTS practice test and scoring your results. Not only will you learn which areas to focus on in your studies, you can find your approximate band scores and estimate your average IELTS score for the whole test. If you have less time available to predict your IELTS results, see our post Predicting Your IELTS Score.

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The Bigger Picture: What do the IELTS Score Bands Mean?

Now you know how the IELTS Bands are calculated. But what do these bands mean? What do they say about your IELTS score, and whether you have an average IELTS score, a good IELTS score, or a bad one?

Below is a table comparing IELTS scores with equivalent TOEFL scores. In the right-hand column, you can also see how IELTS bands compare to the English levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

CEFR levels are often used for immigration. CEFR is also sometimes used for benchmarks in English education courses. CEFR levels start at A1 and A2 (basic English ability and high basic English ability). The next level up is B1 and B2 (independent and high independent English use). And the highest levels of English proficiency in CEFR are C1 and C2 (proficient English use and advanced proficient English use).

IELTS
score
TOEFL
score
range
CEFR
level
9118-120C2
8.5115-117C2
8110-114C1
7.5102-109C1
794-101C1
6.573-93B2
660-78B2
5.546-59B2
535-45B1
4.532-34B1
0 to 40-31A2 (IELTS Band 4)
A1 (anything below
IELTS Band 4)

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Good IELTS Scores for Top Universities

Since score requirements vary from university to university, let’s look at requirements from a few top schools to see how your IELTS results measure up. Here’s a rough idea of what IELTS scores and skill levels some organizations hope to see on your applications:

Oxford University

Those who wish to study at Oxford University must submit IELTS scores that meet one of two IELTS requirements: “standard level” scores or “higher level” scores. Standard-level IELTS scores for oxford undergrads are 7.0 for the whole test with a minimum of 6.5 for each section. These standard IELTS scores are required for entry into the following undergraduate programs: Biomedical Sciences, Computer Science, Mathematics, Mathematics and Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics. All other undergrad programs at Oxford require higher level IELTS marks: a 7.5 on the whole exam, with a 7.0 in each component.

For details on Oxford’s undergraduate IELTS standards, See Oxford’s official page on undergraduate English language requirements.

Graduate students applying to Oxford, also need to meet either the “standard” or “higher” IELTS requirements that apply to undergrads. To see which graduate degrees require standard level IELTS sores and which higher level scores, search Oxford’s graduate course catalog.

A good IELTS score for Oxford university: What is the average IELTS score they accept?-- Magoosh

Photo by Bill Tyne

Cambridge University

As of 2019-2020, Cambridge requires an overall score of 7.5 for undergraduates. Across various undergrad programs, on average, your IELTS results usually must also be 7.0 or above in each element, although certian program requirements may be different. For those minor differences in requirements, applicants should check with the undergraduate programs they’re interested in applying to. Grad program IELTS requirements can vary a good deal at Cambridge, so graduate-level students should also check their department-specific requirements by contacting the program they want to apply to.

ielts scores: what is the average ielts score accepted by cambridge?---magoosh

Photo by cmglee

 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

According to 2018 data, MIT does not accept IELTS scores at the undergraduate level; instead undergraduate applicants are asked to take the TOEFL.

Oddly, MIT’s grad programs do not have this TOEFL-only policy, and in some cases, graduate programs at MIT only accepted IELTS. For example, the Media Arts and Sciences graduate program at MIT is IELTS-only. For the exact English testing requirements for grad school, check the web page of the program you plan to apply to.

good ielts score? average ielts score? do you have the ielts scores you need to get into MIT?

Photo by John Phelan

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What’s a good IELTS score in Australia?

To the Australian government, a good IELTS score can fall into various categories. Your scores will tell them whether your skills are good enough to be determined functional, vocational, competent, proficient, or superior. Each visa type has a different minimal requirement. Here is how the overall IELTS scores measure up:

    Functional: An overall average IELTS score of 4.5
    Vocational: A minimum of 5.0 in each category (Listening, Reading, Writing, & Speaking)
    Competent: A minimum of 6.0 in each category
    Proficient: A minimum of 7.0 in each category
    Superior: A minimum of 8.0 in each category (By any measures, this is a good IELTS score!)

BONUS! Eligibility for migration into Australia is determined on a point system. If your English is proficient or superior, you will earn extra points (10 and 20, respectively) that strengthen your application.

Some examples of international student requirements:

What’s a good IELTS score in Canada?

In Canada, as in Australia, the requirements for IELTS section scores and the composite average IELTS score depends on the kind of visa you’re applying for. For example, on the Canadian government’s website, you’ll find that the skilled worker visa has different requirements for each applicant type. The IELTS scores here are listed in CLB (Canadian Language Benchmark) which is used to represent English and French language skills throughout the country. You must use a calculator tool to convert your IELTS scores for immigration requirements.

Some examples of international student requirements:

What’s a good IELTS score in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, individual schools decide if an IELTS score is good enough. And the IELTS results required for work visas depend on the kind of work that’s being offered.

For an example of individual university requirmements, the University of Auckland requires at least a 6.0 IELTS score for undergraduate admission (with a minimum of 5.5 for each category) and an overall 6.5 for post-graduate work (with a minimum of 6.0 in each category). Note that this is the minimum, and that many undergraduate and graduate programs in Auckland have higher requirements. An immigration official may verify that you meet the requirements when processing your application for the work and/or student visa, but you’ll also want to carefully check any given program you’re interested in at the University of Auckland.

For all other visas, the IELTS score requirements vary. Here are some examples of the IELTS results you will need:

    Investors: 3.0 overall score or higher
    Entrepreneurs: 4.0 overall score or higher
    Parents Category: 4.0 in at least two categories (listening, reading, writing, and/or speaking)
    Skilled Migrants: an overall average of at least 6.5

To get more information on IELTS score requirements for Investors, Entrepreneurs, Parents, other types of immigration visas for New Zealand, search the New Zealand government’s official immigration website.

What’s a good IELTS score in the UK?

For work visas, the requirements are based on the tier you’re applying for and how long you’ll be staying. These are quite varied, but in tiers 1 and 2, for example, those requesting permission to stay must demonstrate a B1 or B2 minimum, respectively. These requirements are described in the format of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework (A1 – C2). See IELTS equivalents here, or in the first chart in this article.

Schools and other organizations can “sponsor” your immigration, and it would be up to them to determine acceptable IELTS scores.

Examples of international student requirements:

  • University of Birmingham: According to this university’s recently published standards, a good IELTS score can be quite different, depending on the undergrad or grad program. The easiest programs to get into require just a 6.0, with at least a 5.5 in any individual IELTS section. In contrast, Birmingham’s most competitive degree programs ask for a band 7 on the IELTS, and a 7.0 in each of the four IELTS sections. (It’s also possible to be conditionally accepted into some academic programs with just a 5.5 on the IELTS, and at least a 5.0 in each compoent.
  • University of Westminster: Per this school’s posted requirements for IELTS results, graduate students need a minimum of 6.5 overall, with no less than 5.5 for all bands; undergraduates should have a 6.0 or higher with at least 5.5 in each individual section.

What’s a good IELTS score in the USA?

Surprisingly, the U.S. government is the only one on this list without minimum English requirements for visa applicants. If you are heading to the U.S. for your studies, however, you can expect to have to demonstrate your English skills before being admitted. Minimum IELTS results for the Academic IELTS vary for each institution and are often different for undergraduate and post-graduate applicants. Here are some examples of IELTS results requirements:

  • The University of South California has published a graduate admissions web page indicating that PhD applicants must have a 7.0 average or higher (with no less than 6.0 in each category), while Master’s students should have a minimum overall score of 6.5 (and no less than 6.0 in each category). All undergraduate applicants must have a overall average of 7.0 or higher.
  • For 2018 and beyond, UC Berkeley’s undergraduate students must have a minimum of 6.5 overall, while graduate students must have at least a 7.0 average.
  • While New York University does not have any minimum IELTS requirements, they do require that you submit your English proficiency scores. On their international admissions website, NYU notes that most international students admitted do not score less than the equivalent of a 7.5 overall average IELTS score.

So, what does this all mean for you? Well, first it means you should find reliable, high-quality IELTS prep to help you along the way (hello, Magoosh!). If you’re planning to apply to top-ranked universities, you should likely strive to achieve at least a 7.0. But if you’re not applying to the world’s top schools, a “good” score will likely be lower for you. Be sure to check those requirements on each university’s website.

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What to Do If Your IELTS Score Isn’t Good Enough

So what happens if you don’t meet the standards of your dream school? Or what if your IELTS results aren’t good enough for the job you want? What if the country you’re trying to immigrate to wants a higher score? When your IELTS score is unacceptable, what do you do next?

You have a number of options. We’ll explore them below.

Bad IELTS Score? Resit the test.

An IELTS retake is an obvious choice. And the IELTS makes it very easy to retake the exam. Unlike many other standardized tests, the IELTS does not place any limits on how frequently you can take the exam. Nor are there rules on how long you need to wait before you resit. As the official IELTS website states, if you decide to resit the test, “you can register for another IELTS test as soon as you feel ready to do so.”

However, this most obvious option may not be your only option for improving your IELTS results. In fact, it may not even be your best option. Let’s look at a few more possible courses of action.

Options if You Have a Bad IELTS Score for School

Talk to the uni you applied to.

If your IELTS score falls short of your school’s requirements, there’s a chance that the uni you applied to may still accept you. School admissions offices are sometimes willing to be flexible about your IELTS scores. This is especially true if you have a strong professional or academic background.

Sometimes your school may also be willing to extend you conditional acceptance. This allows you to study with them on the condition that you take some additional English classes. (We have a post on conditional acceptance on our TOEFL blog that is also relevant to applicants with low IELTS scores.)

Apply to a different university with easier IELTS requirements.

Even if your target school isn’t flexible on their IELTS requirement, there are many other schools out there. And IELTS requirements can actually vary a good deal at different schools. If your IELTS score gets rejected at one campus, it can’t hurt to look for other unis that find your score perfectly acceptable. A “bad” IELTS score may not be bad in the eyes of every admissions office.

Consider an alternative to the IELTS, such as the TOEFL.

Most IELTS-accepting schools will also accept scores from other English proficiency exams. The most common alternative to the IELTS is the TOEFL. Now, there’s no clear answer to which test is “easier,” objectively. But there are certainly some test-takers who personally find the TOEFL easier than the IELTS. It could be worth your while to look into the TOEFL as your next option. (Magoosh offers a good video lesson on the differences between the TOEFL and IELTS.)

Other exams may be available to you as well. A number of unis accept the Eiken, an English proficiency exam you can take in Japan. Many native Japanese speakers find the Eiken easier than the IELTS, especially since portions of the testing instruction are administered in Japanese. The TOEIC can sometimes be an option as well. And if you are taking the IELTS for work purposes, employers are often open to other Cambridge English certificates.

Is your IELTS score too low for immigration or work?

Immigration IELTS requirements are harder to work around, compared to university regulations. The law is the law, right? So if you don’t have a good IELTS score by immigration standards, shouldn’t you simply resit the exam?

Well…maybe. But even with immigration and work visas, if your IELTS score is a little too low, you may have a few different options.

Apply for a Different Level of Visa

Maybe you don’t have the IELTS score the exact visa you wanted. But you could still have a chance at a different visa class, one with lower IELTS results requirements.

To give one example of this, New Zealand requires an IELTS of 6.5 for their Skilled Migrant Visa. Suppose you can’t quite reach that score, but you have a spouse that can get a 6.5. In that case, your spouse could apply for a skilled migrant visa, and you could initially apply as your spouse’s dependent. That only requires an IELTS score of 5.0. Alternatively, you could possibly apply for a New Zealand Essential Skills Work Visa. This visa has flexible, varied IELTS requirements. It all depends on your skills and the job offer you get.

And that’s just one example of how New Zealand can be flexible on IELTS scores. There are other ways to score lower and still go to New Zealand. Other countries also have similarly varied IELTS requirements. You can find alternative IELTS visa requirements in any IELTS-accepting nation.

Take a Different English Exam

I’ve already told you about alternative exams for university applications. Immigration offices also offer a few other English exams beyond the IELTS. Most famously, Australia recently began accepting the TOEFL for immigration. Similarly, most U.S. states will accept the TOEFL for medical professionals instead of the IELTS. In another North American example, Canadian immigration accepts either IELTS results or CELPIP results (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) for skilled migration.

Once more, these are just a few examples. If your IELTS score is a little low, always see if you can take a different exam. Often, you can!

Really bad IELTS score?

Keep working on your English.

If you tested into IELTS Band 5, you almost certainly need better English for university study. And at Band 4 or below the average IELTS score, your English proficiency is likely too low for most immigration visas. If you scored in these lower IELTS Bands, you aren’t really ready for an IELTS retake. Moreover, you likely won’t find an alternate school or different test that works for you. In this case, you’ll really need to improve your English skills before you can move forward.

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Top 10 Ways to Improve Your IELTS Score

So, we’ve talked about a lot of alternatives to resitting the IELTS. But what if that’s what you want to do, or need to do? If the IELTS is the only test for you, you have just one option: improve your IELTS score.

As I mentioned above, sometimes the best way to improve your IELTS score is to work on your general English skills first. But there are many other things you can do to get yourself into a higher IELTS band.

Below, I’ve made a list of the top 10 things you should do if you want to improve your IELTS score.

#1: Practice English as Much as Possible

Don’t just confine English study to an IELTS prep bubble. Even when you’re not in an IELTS practice session, you should look for ways to expose yourself to English. Read English websites, magazines, newspapers, and books. Watch English TV shows. Listen to English radio and podcasts. Talk to others in English, such as foreigners in your home country, or local people if you already live in an an English speaking community.

#2: Learn All About the Test

Make sure you know everything about the test: timing, format, types of passages and audio tracks, the interview questions you’ll get in IELTS Speaking, the different IELTS Writing tasks, and so on. This free eBook is a good place to start.

#3: Get Feedback on Your IELTS Writing and Speaking

With our free diagnostic tests, you can self-score your IELTS Writing and Speaking with the help of sample answers. (We also have diagnostic tests for IELTS Reading and Listening which come with an answer key.)

However, it always helps to find another person for feedback on your English speech and writing as you practice for the IELTS. This person could be a classmate, teacher, family member, or friend who you can share your diagnostic responses with. Just find someone whose judgement you trust.

#4: Find Good Vocabulary Word Lists

You can’t memorize every vocabulary word that might appear on the IELTS, but there are certain words you’re pretty likely to see. Those words are ones you should commit to memory. Perhaps the best official list of IELTS vocabulary is Cambridge’s Vocabulary for IELTS book. Other unofficial sources, such as IELTS Liz or Magoosh’s own IELTS vocabulary flashcards.

#5: Practice Understanding Vocabulary in Context

For the most common IELTS vocabulary words, there are IELTS word lists. For everything else, there is “vocabulary in context.” This is the skill of guessing at or recognizing the meaning of words based on the language that surrounds them. This is absolutely essential to improving and getting a truly good IELTS score. The English language has around a million words and you will always encounter some words on the IELTS that you don’t know. But the IELTS will always give you clues to the meaning of any important words. Learn to read and listen for these clues.

#6: Keep Your Note-Taking Under Control

Note-taking is very helpful on the IELTS… but only if done intelligently and in moderation. If you take notes too heavily in IELTS Listening, you may find you are so busy copying down what you hear that you don’t take the time to actually understand what you hear. Similarly, in IELTS Reading, there’s a fine line between brief helpful notes and overly-long, distracting notes. Keep your notes minimal; focus them only on the very most important key words and ideas.

#7: Learn to Pre-write

Prewriting is the act of making notes and an outline before you write or speak in English. On the IELTS, this is a valuable skill for both IELTS Speaking and IELTS Writing. In the IELTS Speaking interview, you’ll be given a “topic card.” After a minute of preparatory prewriting, you’ll give a short speech on the topic. And in IELTS Writing, making notes and an outline for each essay will greatly improve your essay score. Insufficiently planned writing is the biggest reason that otherwise skilled IELTS test-takers get poor IELTS scores in the Writing section.

#8: Practice Visual Literacy

The IELTS tests a language skill you may not have heard of before: visual literacy. Visual literacy is the ability to read informational graphics such as charts, tables, and diagrams. Charts, tables, and diagrams come up in IELTS Reading, Listening, and Writing. Take some time to practice reading these kinds of infographics in English and familiarize yourself with IELTS visual literacy tasks.

#9: Practice Test Skills, not Just Language Skills

While the IELTS is a measure of your English language ability, it’s also a standardized test. That means you should focus on test-specific skills as well as language skills during your IELTS prep. Keep track of your pacing and develop techniques that help you finish tasks within the testing time limit. Understand the different question types and the best ways to approach them. Know and anticipate the unique structure of the test. Then, for a top score, blend good English language ability with these testing skills.

#10: Take Care of Yourself on Test Day (and the Day Before)

More often than not, if a student of mine gets a much lower score than they expected, the reasons are physical. They were too tired on test day. They got hungry and lightheaded during the exam. They had a cold or a fever. Do all that you can to be in top physical condition by test day. Rest well and eat well the day before the test and the morning of. And don’t worry too much about studying in the 24 hours before the test. One more day of study won’t make much of a difference. But being alert, healthy, and calm in the examination centre makes a huge difference.

The Takeaway

There are several ways to know if you have a good IELTS score (versus an average IELTS score or a bad one). Understanding the IELTS Bands and how they’re calculated is key. Make sure you also know what IELTS scores are required of you. And above all, be ready to improve your IELTS score—and your general English skills—if need be.

Go back to the top of our post on a good IELTS score.
 

Note: This post was most recently updated in April 2018. Thank you to Trisha Alcisto for contributing content! Also, all information on university IELTS score requirements comes directly from the school’s admissions web pages. Click the links within each paragraph to learn more about how each school handles IELTS results. Links and statistics will be updated as needed.

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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25 Responses to What is a good IELTS score?

  1. Sandra August 11, 2017 at 3:56 am #

    Good day.

    I would like do just dubble check if we will be exepted into australia with our ielts score. We are going over on a skilled visa, my husbands he received a 6 and i received a 6.5 please tell me more

    Kind regards

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 14, 2017 at 10:52 am #

      Hi Sandra,

      Please get in touch with the relevant immigration authority to get this information. Countries’ immigration requirements vary depending on a lot of factors, and we are not experts in this area. Good luck! 🙂

  2. Sunayana September 1, 2017 at 2:27 am #

    Hello, i recently got my ielts result. As i haad attain my Test on 19th August, i Secure Each bands 6 and obviously overall 6. As i had recenlty got my result, almost 70% in +2 level, so please could you tell me whether My test maarks are good or not?? Scoring Same each bands is good or not in comparison with other Bands?

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 7, 2017 at 11:18 am #

      For the purposes of getting into university, a Band 6 in each section is a pretty good score. This will get you into many different universities overseas, although more competitive schools may want to see a band 6.5, or higher than a 6 in some of the individual sections.

  3. Nana September 8, 2017 at 4:55 am #

    Hi,

    I recently received my ielts results and I had L-7.0, R-6.0, W-5.5, S- 7.0 and an overall score of 6.5. I was disappointed with the score for the writing though. Please do you think this is good enough for a graduate university admission? Thank you.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 8, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

      Hi Nana,

      It is hard to say, because there are so many different requirements at different universities. Have you done any research into the requirements for schools you want to attend? This is the best way to find out if your scores are good enough for what you want. 🙂

    • Carl March 11, 2019 at 9:26 pm #

      Hi

      I got the same score as you.
      Did you find any universities?

  4. mclorgan December 13, 2017 at 2:52 am #

    What is the meaning of these sentiments in regards to ielts academic

    1 “You must obtain 5.5(or equivalent) with 5.5 in all subskills”

    2 If I score 5.5 overall band, but I get 4.5 in one of the subskills what does it imply (PASSED OR FAILED)

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 14, 2017 at 8:36 am #

      The pasted text says that each subskill needs at least a 5.5, so a 4.5 anywhere would be a fail, unfortunately.

  5. Ram March 22, 2018 at 10:34 pm #

    Hi,

    I recently received my IELTS score card and it was 5.5 . Am i (PASS OR FAIL)

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 23, 2018 at 9:04 am #

      That depends on what you’re using your score for. For most university degree programs, a 5.5 would be too low for acceptance, but there are some universities that would accept you at that level. An IELTS 5.5 would definitely qualify you form some jobs and immigration visas, but would also be too low for others. In short, to know if you passed or failed, you’ll need to check with the organization or organizations that are asking you for an IELTS score.

  6. Marina May 4, 2018 at 8:44 am #

    Hi, Magoosh!
    I sat my test April 21st 2018. My overall band score is 8 with the following individual scores:
    L – 9, R – 8.5, S – 8, W – 6.5
    I also tried TOEFL earlier, where my writing scored 29/30. Is it worthy to apply for inquiry of the test results for IELTS, regarding this fact or just stick to 8, which is already high enough to get into almost any ungergraduate programme.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 7, 2018 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Marina,

      First of all, CONGRATS on such a great IELTS score!

      I know it’s frustrating to see a score that is lower than expected in the writing section, but you should consider whether the cost of a rescore is worth it. Generally, if you get your test re-scored it will increase your score by .5-1 points. If your score is already high enough for your target universities, then it might not be worth the cost and time for the retake. Most schools seek a minimum score to ensure that you have an appropriate English level, but higher scores will not necessarily give you any more competitive advantage. I recommend that you research the admission policies at your target scores to see if a rescore is worth it.

  7. Jason May 4, 2018 at 10:06 pm #

    hi,
    I got L 6, S 7.5 R 7.5 and W 6.
    Overall score 6.5
    I would like to know if with this score I can cope with studying / working in USA or CANADA?

    Thank you

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

      Hi Jason,

      Our expertise is test prep, not admissions advice, so I’m afraid I can’t really help you with any specific universities! It’s important to note that each university will set it’s own admissions requirements, so it’s important to do some research and find the requirements for your target schools!

      We have some blog posts with scores from universities in Canada:
      IELTS Requirements for Canada’s top Universities.

      You may have to do some of your own research to find score requirements for schools in the US. I recommend that you search the websites for your target schools to see what their requirements are!

  8. shifa July 19, 2018 at 11:34 pm #

    Hi

    I just got my overall score of 7 (L:7.5, S:7
    W:6.5,R:6)
    I initially planned it for Canada PR, but now with this low score i really don’t know what to do next. can anyone help on how to utilize the score best as possible please!

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 22, 2018 at 1:05 pm #

      What to do next? You have a quite a few different possible options. It sounds like your IELTS score could get you into some Canadian universities, which could be a path to eventual Canadian permanent residency. It strikes me that you may also be able to get Canadian PR with those scores if you apply to certain provinces for certain jobs. (Alberta has a vibrant job market, and far northern provinces like the Northwest Territories sometimes seem like they’ll hire most anyone!)

      Above all, though, I would advise posing this same question to a Canadian immigration forum, or asking an immigration consulting firm.

      • Raghuveer P December 3, 2018 at 10:33 pm #

        I have a doubt, do you take the general test for the Canadian PR or Academic IELTS. Because a friend of mine was taking the general one for immigration. As far as I know, no university will accept the general scores. Do they?

        • David Recine
          David Recine December 4, 2018 at 11:27 am #

          I agree with your perception. To my knowledge, no Canadian University accepts IELTS General Training scores. It’s possible, I suppose, that some individual university out there might accept GT for admissions. But unless you are applying to just one school, and you know for a fact that your school will take GT, you’ll want to submit IELTS Academic scores to get your student visa.

          Bear in mind that Canada Student Visa and Canada Permanent Residency are, legally speaking, two completely different things. PR is associated with employment and other non-school-related immigration statuses.

          For Canada PR, IELTS General Training is the test you’ll want to take in most cases. However, for a handful of medical professions (doctor, nurse, pharmacist, a few others), you’ll be asked for IELTS Academic.

  9. Sarah March 14, 2019 at 11:40 pm #

    hiii.. My ielts overall score is 7 but 5.5 in reading.. Is it possible that i have a chance of eligibility for applying PR

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 1, 2019 at 6:59 pm #

      Hi Sarah!

      Are you referring to applying for school? 🙂 If so, it’s hard to say because there are so many different score requirements for different universities! Doing research into schools you’re interested in is the best way to find out if your scores are good enough for what you want. 🙂 If you’re interested in applying for Canada PR, then you can find more information here and here.

      Let us know if you were referring to something else!

  10. Sandra June 28, 2019 at 4:23 am #

    Hello,

    I got a total of 6.5, is it possible to apply to the Canadian immigration with this score?

  11. Pat August 9, 2019 at 3:39 am #

    Hi,
    In my first IELTS test 3 years ago I had the following results:
    L7.5 R9 W6.5 S8 —> 8
    The previous test expired so. i had to retake the test and my scores are now
    L8 R8 W6 and S7.5 -> 7.5
    I wonder how reliable the test is. I am writing course content for a University so should have improved my writing since the first test. Should I consider an academic writing coach?

    Thank you.
    pat

    • David Recine
      David Recine August 20, 2019 at 1:59 pm #

      Hi Pat,

      It can certainly be frustrating and disappointing when your IELTS Writing score goes down that much. However, it’s important to bear in mind that IELTS Writing is a highly specific skill, one that’s different from the skills of other kinds of English writing. It seems most likely that you are out of practice with IELTS Writing, but tha tyour overall writing has not gotten worse int he last few years. In fact, your overall writing skills may have even improved since 2016.

      My advice is to take a careful look at the IELTS Writing section. How is the writing in that section different from the writing you do as a university instructor? Be sure to also chekc out model IELTS Writing essays, such as the ones in Magoosh’s complete guides to IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 and IELTS writing Task 2.

      That self-study may be enough to help you boost your IELTS Writing score. If you still don’t feel confident after that, however, then you may want to work specifically with an IELTS Writing tutor for a session or two. 🙂


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