IELTS Exam: how is your score calculated?

Some people think that the final score in the exam often depends on the examiner’s mood. «If the examiner is in a foul mood, they will lower your score on purpose.»

This couldn’t be further from the actual truth. Every examiner follows precise criteria and assessment guidelines. Moreover, even your interview is recorded and is then checked by two separate experts independently from one another. So, you shouldn’t be too worried about the fairness of the scoring process. However, it’s crucial to know how exactly your band score is calculated. Let’s discuss this issue in detail.

To begin with, every separate IELTS skill (4 parts in total: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) is assessed according to specific criteria. The Band Score is the average of the results scored in each part of the exam on the scale of 0 to 9.

Listening: there are 40 points in total in this part of the exam. You have to answer 40 questions, and for each of them, you receive one point. The total number of your correct answers is then converted according to the IELTS 9-point scale. For example, 16 correct answers amount to 5 band score points, while 23 correct answers will land you a Listening score of 6.   

The tasks are structured in a way that tests your abilities:

  •   How well you understand specific information;
  •   Whether or not you can single out the main ideas;
  •   Your ability to understand the logical information flow without «getting lost»;
  •   Your ability to understand the opinions and the attitude of the speaker(s), analyze their tone and the intonations as well as other factors.

Reading: this part also includes 40 questions, and the maximum amount of points is 40, just as in Listening. However, there’s a slight difference in the grading system between General and Academic Reading.

In Academic Reading correct answers give you more points. For example, 15 correct answers will be qualified as a band score of 4 in General Reading and as a band score of 5 in Academic Reading. This is because in Academic Reading the texts are usually more complicated, and working with them involves understanding complex terminology. Students usually manage to complete their General Reading assignments faster; that’s why in Academic Reading your correct answers carry more value.

Writing: this part consists of two separate tasks, and each of them is evaluated separately. For General Writing, it’s a letter (informal/formal/semi-formal) and an essay. For Academic Writing, it’s a graph/process/table description task and an essay.

These tasks are assessed on the basis of specific criteria, and you can receive a band score of 0 to 9 here. The first assignment constitutes 1/3 of the final result, while the essay carries more weight: 2/3 of the final result.

IELTS Writing Task 1 and Task 2 scores are calculated using 4 criteria:

Task Achievement (TA) = how well you answer the question.

To increase score for TA: present the information accurately, answer all parts of the task, provide a clear overview, highlight key features and support detail with data (Academic task 1), give a clear position, have a definite opinion (Task 2 and General task 1)

Coherence and Cohesion (CC) = how well is your text structured.

To increase score for CC: manage paragraphing: make sure that each paragraph has a central idea, use linking words and cohesive devices (firstly, in contrast, thus, in my opinion, to sum up etc)

Lexical Resource (LR) = how good is your vocabulary.

To increase score for LR: use a wide range of vocabulary, use less common lexical items, avoid errors in spelling and word formation

Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) = how good is your grammar.

To increase score for GRA: use a wide range of grammatical structures and tenses, manage punctuation, and avoid errors in sentences.

For example, if you get 7 for Task Achievement, 8 for Coherence and Cohesion, 6 for your Lexical Resource, and 7 for Grammar Range & Accuracy, then your Writing Band Score is the average of all these results: (7+8+6+7) / 4 = 7.

Speaking is evaluated on the basis of 4 special criteria, and here you can also receive a Band Score of 0 to 9 points. This part lasts for 11 to 14 minutes, and the interviewer will assess 4 separate skills before giving you your final result.

Fluency and Coherence (FC)

  1. The ability to speak very fluently, without repeating, taking pauses, and having the know-how to self-correct.
  2. Know the usage of the right words, vocabulary, and grammar.
  3. Speak coherently with appropriate, strong, cohesive features.
  4. Have a clear knowledge of the topic that is being asked to speak on.


Lexical Resource (LR)

  1. Make correct use of collocation.
  2. Use a varied range of words.
  3. Avoid making mistakes.
  4. Know how to paraphrase words.
  5. Use less common vocabulary.


Grammar Range and Accuracy (GR)

  1. Sentences should be well structured.
  2. Word flow and sentence construction should be accurate.
  3. Tenses should be used in the right manner.
  4. Answers should be grammatically correct.


Pronunciation (P)

  1. Use annotation.
  2. Correct pronunciation of a word.
  3. Ability to be understood throughout the test.


At the end of the Speaking part, 4 separate scores are added and divided by 4 to calculate your final result.

For example, the examiner gives you a score of 7 for Fluency & Coherence, but your lexical resource proved to be a bit underwhelming and earned you 6 points. Your Grammar knowledge is average, and here you also received a 6. Your pronunciation is on the same level: 6. Again, let’s calculate the average of these 4 scores: (7+6+6+6) / 4 = 6.625. It is then rounded to 6.5. This is your final band score for the Speaking part.

Your final Band Score is the average of all 4 scores for the separate parts of the exam which is then rounded to the closest available Band Score result: e.g. 6 / 6.5 / 7 / 7.5 and so on. Here the range is also from 0 to 9. For Example: Listening – 6.5, Reading – 7, Speaking – 7, Writing – 6. Your final Band Score: (6.5 + 7 + 7 + 6) / 4 = 6.6.25. It is then rounded to 6.5.

Now you know that each part of the exam has its own unique structure and assessment criteria. Even if you perform really well in one of the parts, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a good final Band Score. Sadly, there are cases where you can succeed in 3 parts out of 4, and you still won’t be able to meet the visa criteria. Very often immigration purposes require getting a score of 6 / 7 or higher in EVERY skill area. To reah those results you will need to retake the whole exam.

However, this situation can improve very soon.

Some test centers already offer an opportunity to retake only 1 part of the exam. This program is labeled «One-Skill Retake» and is currently available only in Australia. Nevertheless, it’s going to be gradually introduced in other countries around the world.

If you are currently living in Australia and have already received your test results, you now have 60 days to register for retaking one of the skills. The format will not differ from the full exam. You will get the same amount of time to complete standard IELTS tasks. This option is available only once. It means that you can only retake 1 skill after each separate exam attempt. The cost varies and depends on the location. Some centers offer you One-Skill Retake for as much as 259 AUD.

How to get a really good Band Score? How to prepare effectively to score the needed amount of points in your first attempt? Can you appeal to have your performance at the exam reevaluated if you feel like the decision was biased?

The Green Academy Australia can answer all these questions for you. It’s a school of English and our trusted partner. They specialize in teaching English for immigration purposes. This article has been written for us by the Green Academy’s team based on the most relevant information. Tatiana Green, who is the school’s founder, has vast experience working as an IELTS examiner, and she herself evaluated many test takers.

She also curates personalized online consultations where you can determine your level of English and pick the best English courses for free. This is a unique opportunity offered to clients and visitors of the Yulia Moiseeva & Associates website. It will be especially useful for those who are considering skilled migration and plan to take IELTS, PTE, Cambridge or other international exams to prove their level of English.

After testing you online, Tatiana will give you an approximate Band Score which you could potentially earn at your current level. She will also provide you with recommendations to help you pick the best strategy for your studies. This will include specific techniques to help you receive a higher Band Score at the exam.

Apart from the free consultation, I highly recommend you take advantage of the «IELTS Graphs» video course as well as other free materials which you can find if you follow the link below


Email the Green Academy: 

You can also send questions to Tatiana and her team on Facebook and Instargam.

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