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What You Need to Know About IELTS Scoring

What IELTS score will you get? To know the answer to this question, it helps to understand how IELTS scoring works. Here are some important things you should know.

The IELTS bands

First the basics. Your official IELTS score will be expressed as a band. There are 9 bands on the IELTS, numbered 1 through 9. Band-based IELTS scores are given in increments of half a band, so the following IELTS scores are possible: 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5 or 9. (Nothing below 1 is possible; an IELTS Band 1 is the absolute minimum score.)

IELTS scoring is not adjusted for difficulty

Many standardized English tests — including the TOEFL — make adjustments to scores based on the difficulty of the questions a particular test-taker answers. So, for instance, if you take the TOEFL and get a harder-than-average mix of questions in a Reading section, your reading score will be adjusted upward on your official score report.

This doesn’t happen on the IELTS, however. Instead, your official IELTS score is based on your raw score — the score that is calculated immediately in the testing center.

IELTS Scoring: How IELTS Reading scores and IELTS Listening scores are calculated

IELTS Reading and Listening raw scores are calculated based on the number of correct answers you give. This numebr of correct answers is then converted into an IELTS Band score.

This conversion, however, is not a simple matter of converting your percentage of correct answers into a percentage of the top band score of 9. For example 72% of 9 is 6, but 29/40 in Reading, or 72% correct answers, will not necessarily get you an IELTS Reading Band 6.

Instead, a range of number of answers correct (raw score range) will lead to a specific IELTS band. So how do certain raw score ranges convert to IELTS Bands in IELTS Reading and Listening? There are actually different conversion systems for IELTS Listening, IELTS Academic Reading, and IELTS General Training Reading. IELTS raw score to band score conversions can be seen in the handy table below:
average IELTS score conversion rates: Reading and Listening, raw score to band--Magoosh

IELTS Scoring: How IELTS Speaking scores and IELTS Writing scores are calculated

IELTS Speaking and Writing responses aren’t simply right or wrong. Instead they are graded based on quality using a rubric. Well… sort of using a rubric. IELTS examiners don’t use the kind of rubric you might see for writing responses on the TOEFL, the GRE, or other standardized tests.

Instead, IELTS scorers grade your responses based on the IELTS Band Descriptors for skills of English speech and writing. These descriptors describe the level of skill someone has if they can reach a certain IELTS band. There are actually publicly available versions of the IELTS Band Descriptors. Here’s the IELTS Speaking Band Descriptor, and here are the ones for IELTS Writing Task 1 and Task 2. The descriptors used by IELTS scorers are basically the same, but with some extra instruction for score calculation.

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2 Responses to What You Need to Know About IELTS Scoring

  1. BadListener February 22, 2018 at 6:44 am #

    Thanks for the explanation, David!

    I know that spelling is very important for IELTS listening, but can you tell me how the following will be graded?

    1) The answer is “Son-in-law”… I write it as “son in law”
    2) The answer is a restaurant called “Becky’s” or “Beckys”… However, the name is never spelt out and it’s ambiguous about whether they mean the first option (with the apostrophe) or the second option. Will either option be marked correct?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 23, 2018 at 12:18 pm #

      Hi there,

      I’m glad David’s explanation was helpful! I consulted him to make sure that I had the best answer for you here as well 🙂

      It doesn’t matter whether you put “Son-in-law” or “son in law”–both should be marked correct.

      As for the question about Becky’s or Beckys–this is more difficult to answer. In general, the IELTS test will try to avoid this sort of ambiguity in the listening section. In this case, “Becky’s” would be more grammatically correct, because it’s “Becky’s Restaurant.” But it’s really hard to say if the apostrophe would matter here.

      One thing to consider is where these questions come from–are they trusted and high-quality sources? It’s possible that they are not very good questions to begin with 🙂

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