Understanding the IELTS Band Score Scale: A Comprehensive Guide

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The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a widely recognized test used to assess an individual’s English language proficiency. IELTS scores are reported on a unique band score scale that ranges from 0 to 9. In this article, we will delve into the IELTS band score scale, its significance, and the key components that contribute to a test taker’s overall band score.

Overview of IELTS Band Scores (From 0 to 9)

The IELTS band score scale consists of nine bands, each representing a different level of English language proficiency. These bands are used to gauge a test taker’s ability to communicate effectively in English. Let’s break down the scale:

Band Score 0: Non-User
  • Test takers at this level either did not attempt the test or provided entirely irrelevant responses.
Band Score 1: Intermittent User
  • Individuals at this level possess very limited communication skills and can only use isolated words and phrases.
Band Score 2: Extremely Limited User
  • Test takers at this band struggle with understanding written or spoken English and have limited ability to communicate effectively.
Band Score 3: Limited User
  • At this level, test takers can express themselves in familiar situations but may find it challenging to navigate unfamiliar contexts.
Band Score 4: Competent User
  • Individuals scoring at this band have a general command of the language and can handle basic communication in most everyday situations.
Band Score 5: Modest User
  • Test takers at this level can communicate effectively in many everyday situations but may still experience occasional errors or misunderstandings.
Band Score 6: Competent User
  • Scoring at this band indicates a good command of English. Test takers can handle complex language tasks, with only occasional inaccuracies or misunderstandings.
Band Score 7: Good User
  • Individuals at this band have a very good command of English and can effectively navigate complex language tasks with few errors.
Band Score 8: Very Good User
  • Scoring at this level signifies a strong command of English. Test takers can use the language accurately and fluently in most situations.
Band Score 9: Expert User
  • At the highest level, test takers exhibit near-native level English proficiency, demonstrating complete fluency and accuracy in all aspects of communication.

Receiving Band Scores for Each Section

The IELTS test consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each of these sections is scored individually, and these section scores are used to calculate an overall band score.

Here’s a brief overview of how each section is scored:

1. Listening
  • In the Listening section, test takers are assessed on their ability to understand spoken English. The score for this section is reported on a scale of 0 to 9.
2. Reading
  • The Reading section evaluates a test taker’s ability to comprehend written texts in English. Again, the score for this section is reported on a scale of 0 to 9.
3. Writing
  • In the Writing section, test takers are required to complete two writing tasks: Task 1 (usually a report or letter) and Task 2 (an essay). Each task is assigned a separate score on a scale of 0 to 9.
4. Speaking
  • The Speaking section assesses a test taker’s ability to communicate verbally in English. This section is scored on a scale of 0 to 9 as well.

Calculating the Overall Band Score

The overall IELTS band score is calculated by averaging the scores obtained in the four sections. For example, if a test taker scores 7 in Listening, 8 in Reading, 7 in Writing, and 7 in Speaking, their overall band score would be (7 + 8 + 7 + 7) / 4 = 7.25, which is rounded to the nearest half-band, resulting in an overall band score of 7.5.


Understanding the IELTS band score scale is essential for individuals planning to take the test. The band scores provide a clear indication of your English language proficiency and are often used by educational institutions and employers to assess eligibility. By knowing the specific criteria for each band score and recognizing the importance of individual section scores, test takers can better prepare for the IELTS and work toward achieving their desired results.

FAQs about IELTS Band Scores

Why does my Test Report Form have more than one band score?

You will receive a band score for each individual section of the test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) and an overall band score. This means there will be 5 numbers in total on your scoresheet (known as the Test Report Form): (1) a band score for Listening, (2) one for Reading, (3) another for Writing, (4) another for Speaking, and finally, (5) an overall band score.

Can I receive decimal scores?

Yes, IELTS can award half scores. This means that you might receive a score rounded to the .5 decimal, such as 6.5, 7.5 or 8.5. However, IELTS will not award scores to any other decimal (i.e. you won’t receive a 7.3 or an 8.7). If the average of your individual section scores is a decimal higher or lower than .5, your score will be rounded (for example, a 6.25 raw average becomes a 6.5 band score).

I got a 6.5 in Speaking. Does this mean I’m a ‘Competent User (6)’ or ‘Good User (7)’?

If you receive a score ending with .5, it’s an indicator that you fall somewhere between two band scores. To award a score of 6.5, the examiner noted that the user’s language proficiency is not fully demonstrative of a Band 7 speaker but they are more proficient than a Band 6 user.

For a more in-depth look at IELTS scoring, check out this article written by one of our teachers.

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