IELTS Scoring

Welcome back, friend! Did you miss this? Of course you did! It's IELTS--what is there not to love--right?!

Here are the facts: you already know that IELTS is marked by these strange people who live, eat, and breathe all things related to IELTS. They are more commonly referred to as examiners. What else is left to uncover? Well, it turns out there is a LOT more.

Sure, you’d love to find a magical, one-stop solution as to how to solve all of your IELTS-related woes. Sadly, that doesn’t exist.

On the other hand, there are so many IELTS-adjacent topics that demand to be uncovered, for everyone’s sake. Such as??? Maybe you want to know what the exact breakdowns are for determining how overall bands are calculated? You're not alone. In fact, that's a fairly common question, and a good one at that, amigo/a.


Today, you will get an answer to: How is IELTS Scored?

Click here to get IELTS scoring information straight from the source, no fillers, just facts. Start your journey there to learn the basics about how IELTS is scored. Don’t stray for too long, though. Come back and stay here because you want more information, in a fun and easy to understand way, of course.

Half bands

IELTS has a unique way of scoring your test. Also, IELTS, the actual test, is not like other English-proficiency tests, you already knew that, right?!. BUT did you know that IELTS has something called half bands?

Here’s a brief background on half band scores: You can get a half band for each of the four modules. This means that it is possible to see on your Test Result Form or TRF a .5 next to your, for example, writing score. It would look something like this— 5.5.


What do these half bands mean? Simply put these half bands mean that there is a .5 after your score. The .5 means that you are in between two bands. For example, you may see that in writing you got a 5.5, which means that you are not a 6 (yet!) but you're also not a 5. Therefore, your cumulative band score for Task 1 and Task 2 ends in a .5.

This begs the question: How do you know exactly what you scored on Task 1 and Task 2? Is there a way for you find out the exact breakdown of each Task on your TRF? No, you won’t find concrete evidence of your precise scores for Tasks 1 and 2 on your TRF, but can you take an educated guess?

Absolutely! Here's how:

Let’s stick with the writing module as this is how your overall writing score is broken down:

Task 1 is worth 1/3 of your overall writing score

Task 2 is worth 2/3 of your overall writing score (yay for math!)

Or, put another way, Task 2 is worth twice as much as Task 1. Side note- always, always start Task 2 first because it’s worth twice as much as Task 1. You can recover from not starting or completing Task 1. Conversely, you cannot recover from not completing or starting Task 2.

It’s math time, friend. Hurray! While you won’t receive the individual scores for Tasks 1 and 2, you can certainly, with some help from your good friend math determine these scores. Oh, and we are going to work backwards in order to get where we want to go. It sounds strange, but it works, pinky promise!

Starting with your overall band score of a 5.5 on writing, this means that there are only two possible scores, for both Tasks 1 and 2, that you can receive. More specifically, you got a 6 on Task 1, which was worth 1/3 of your overall writing score. Math tells us that 1/3 of 6 is 2. Okay, so your Task 1 score is already squared away, but what about Task 2?

Determining your Task 2 score is easy because in order to get a 5.5 overall score, you had to get a 5 on Task 2. Again, more math 2/3 of 5 is 3.33. Sticking with simple addition, 3.33 plus 2 is 5.33. Therefore, your overall score is 5.33, which is rounded up to the nearest half band of 5.5. Finally, you see on your TRF the final score of 5.5. That wasn’t so hard, right?

Therefore, if you were to interpret these results, which you absolutely should and must, this tells you that you need to work on your Task 2 skills because that score is twice as valuable as Task 1.

These half bands are incredibly useful and powerful because they tell the organization that you’re sending your scores to exactly what and where your English-proficiency was at the time you took the test. Never discount the power that IELTS holds not only on your professional life but also your personal one. Visas, anyone?

Whole Bands


Here’s a small disclaimer for you: Whole bands can be given in all four of the modules. You might have already known that, or perhaps it was intuitive, but in case you didn’t know, now you do. You’re welcome!


Spotting a whole band is the easy part because you know that your score ends in .0, as in 7.0 for speaking or a 6.0 for your overall score. This is great news because few things in life are as uncomplicated as whole bands.


Unlike half bands, whole bands are much more straightforward with respect to their interpretation. Also, the same level of ease can be applied in determining your overall band score, which, as you already know, is the average of your scores from all four modules.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what whole bands looks lIke for each module:


Listening: 7

Reading: 5

Writing: 7

Speaking: 6


Given the above bands, your overall IELTS score would be a 6.25, which would be rounded up to 6.5. Since math is fun (not a joke, math is super cool!), a whole band score in each module will not always net you an overall score that ends in .0. Sometimes you’ll end up with an overall score that ends in .5 or something else entirely.


Looking at the above example, this would tell me that I need to focus on reading. For example, maybe I struggle with comprehending what someone with a British accent is saying. One possible solution is to listen to a podcast or book (audiobooks, anyone?), where the person speaking or narrating has a British accent. It doesn’t have to cost anything either.


This can be as simple as going to your local library or virtual library (because it’s 2020), and checking out an audiobook—that interests you, of course—and listening and making notes every five minutes to ensure that you grasp what important ideas and information are being shared.


If you’re a fan of whole numbers, this one is for you:


Listening: 8

Reading: 6

Writing: 4

Speaking: 6


If the above scores were what you saw on your TRF, your overall score would be a 6.


Interpreting your individual module scores, which you should always do, the most striking piece is that writing was much lower than the other three domains. Now, this can be from many factors. Perhaps, you didn’t complete or even get to start Task 2, which is worth 2/3 of your writing score. If that’s the case, it’s very fair to say that’s why your score was very low.


However, that may not always be the case. Maybe your writing skills need more work. If so, make that your focus and develop your plan around one or two specific pieces that you can improve. It doesn’t, nor should it be, this massive overhaul where you change the way that your write.


In the end, this is very counterproductive, and only gives you more stress and anxiety than the test is worth. Your wellbeing is so much more critical than this test, friend.


Why This Matters

Half and whole bands are different. Determining how and why they differ is truly impactful, not only for your own knowledge base but, more importantly, in figuring out which module(s) you need to improve. This is especially useful because then you can come up with a cogent plan that, for example, involves focusing on and practicing Task 1 samples in preparation for the academic test.


Keep this in mind, friend. If you get see a .25 after your overall score, it is rounded up to .5. So, if you have a 5.25, your overall score is rounded up to 5.5. Likewise, if you get have a .75 after your overall score, it is also rounded up to the nearest whole band. For instance, a 6.75 would be rounded up to a 7.


So, what happens to scores that fall between 0.01 and 0.24? Do those scores get rounded up, too? No, they don’t. If your overall score is 6.24, your score would be rounded down to a 6.0. What about scores that are between 0.51 and 0.74? Well, you probably guessed that those overall scores would also be rounded down to the nearest half band, and that’s precisely what happens. To illustrate, if your overall score is 6.74, it you would be rounded down to 6.5. It may not make sense, but standardized tests are not supposed to make sense. Instead, they are supposed to be uniform across all conditions, and IELTS does this very well. A 7 is a 7 in Canada, Chile, and Cambodia.

Friend, get ready for a more concrete examples of what the rounding down and/or up looks like.


Rounding Down


For instance, if your scores are the following:

Listening: 8

Reading: 8

Writing: 7

Speaking: 7.5

30.5 (total of your four scores) /4 (the number of modules in the test) = 7.625

7.625 would be rounded down, to the nearest half band. Thus, making your overall score a 7.5.

Rounding Up


Imagine these are your scores:

Listening: 7.5

Reading: 7.5

Writing: 8

Speaking: 8

31 (total of your four scores) /4 (the number of modules in the test) = 7.75

7.75 would be rounded up, to the nearest whole band. Thus, making your overall score a 8.0.

In a Nutshell

Determining the score of your IELTS test seems like something really straightforward, but it is a muddled world, and your vision quickly diminishes the further you dig. However, if you stay the course, you can quickly remedy that double-vision.

Now, at this precise moment, you’re ready for the recap!

❇️ Determining your overall score isn’t complicated.

❇️ Half and whole bands are not the same.

❇️ It takes simple math to determine your individual score for Task 1 and Task 2.

❇️ Again, math is key to determine your overall score.

❇️ Knowing the individual scores for Tasks 1 and 2 can lead to a more strategic and targeted plan.

❇️ Your score is not static (you hold the power to change it!)

❇️ You have the key to determining your IELTS fate!

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Until next time, happy IELTSing!

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