Scoring for the IELTS
Summary of the IELTS Scoring System
IELTS scores are reported in terms of component scores and overall scores. Students receive a component score for each IELTS module and an overall score that is the average of the four component scores (the marks for each module contribute equally). IELTS uses the "band" system for score reporting, which is on a scale of 0 to 9 in half-point intervals (e.g. 6.0 or 8.5). Because it is mathematically possible for the average of the component scores to end in a number other than .0 or .5, these scores are rounded up or down to the nearest half-point (5.25, for example, will be reported as 5.5, while 5.125 will be decreased to 5.0).
Scoring for IELTS Reading and Listening
The reading and listening modules on the IELTS are built entirely from multiple-choice questions (40 for each). The starting point for the assessment of these sections is the calculation of raw scores, or the total number of correct answers. All of the questions have the same value and factor equally into the module score. Raw scores are converted to the IELTS band system, and the concordances depend on question difficulty and which version of the test is taken. According to IELTS, raw listening scores of 23 and 30 typically correlate to respective band scores of 6 and 7. A total of 23 correct answers on the academic reading module usually results in a band score of 6, but the same number of correct answers on the general training reading section will likely produce a band score of only 5.
Scoring for IELTS Writing and Speaking
Because the IELTS writing and speaking modules involve subjective assessments, scoring for these sections is more complex. For the academic and general training writing modules, the second task (the discursive essay) is given twice as much weight as the first (descriptive essay or letter). Four equal criteria contribute to the writing band score: task achievement or response, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, and grammatical range and accuracy. Each of these areas is given a band score, and the final writing section score is the average. The speaking module is evaluated according to fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation. The speaking section exercises are not scored separately, and assessment of the above criteria is conducted over the course of the entire module. Each of the four assessment areas is equally important to the final speaking score.
Classifications for IELTS Band Scores
IELTS has classified each of the full-point band levels according to degrees of English language competence. The highest possible band score is 9, which IELTS characterizes as an "expert" user. Test-takers who receive this score have "full operational command" of the language, and their usage is "appropriate, accurate, and fluent." Band scores of 8 ("very good" users) are also "fully operational," but with "only occasional unsystematic irregularities and inappropriate usage." "Good" users receive a score of 7, which is distinguished by "operational command" of English, but with some "misunderstandings." "Competent" users (band score of 6) have an "effective" command of English, but understanding is often limited to "familiar situations." "Modest" users (band score of 5) have only "partial command" of English, while "limited" users (band score of 4) display "basic competence" in "familiar situations." "Extremely limited" users (band score of 3) understand only "general meaning" and suffer "frequent breakdowns in communication." Band 2 users are characterized as "intermittent," and these students have "great difficulty" understanding English. Band scores of 1 and 0 are classified respectively as "non-users" and "did not attempt the test." Non-users have no English abilities, and scores of 0 are given only to test-takers who do not respond to the questions.
IELTS Score Validity and Acceptance
Scores for the IELTS will be accepted for two years after the date of the test. If you allow your scores to expire, you will probably have to take the test again. Some organizations will accept expired scores if the test-taker can demonstrate the he or she has maintained or improved their English skills, through activities such as taking additional English courses. The relatively brief window of IELTS score validity is necessary because it does not take a very long period of time for language skills to deteriorate.
Previewing IELTS Scores and Enquiries on Results
Some IELTS test centers allow students to preview unofficial scores online before the official Test Report Form is released. Although these unofficial results are usually accurate, IETLS and test centers are not responsible for any discrepancies with official scores. Test-takers who believe that mistakes were made in the grading of their exams may submit an enquiry on results (request for remarking). There will be a fee for this service, and the process of remarking will take between 6 and 8 weeks.