Frequently Asked Questions about the IELTS test part 1.

info-31185_1280During all my years of teaching, there have been certain questions about IELTS that I hear time and time again.  In these next three posts, I’d like to deal with some of these frequently asked questions.

First of all:

·         What level of English do I need to ‘pass IELTS’?

It is very common for people to talk about ‘passing IELTS’.  Please remember that there is actually no pass or fail in IELTS; candidates are given a Band Score of 0-9.

Below I have given you a list of the band descriptors which I have taken from the official IELTS website.

Band 9: Expert user: has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.

Band 8: Very good user: has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.

Band 7: Good user: has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.

Band 6: Competent user: has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

Band 5: Modest user: has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.

Band 4: Limited user: basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.

Band 3: Extremely limited user: conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.

Band 2: Intermittent user: no real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

Band 1: Non-user: essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.

Band 0: Did not attempt the test: No assessable information provided.

Please be aware, however, that the IELTS test is pitched at intermediate level and above.


·         How do I know when my English is of a good enough level to get the band score I need?

For reading and listening, you can do various practice tests to get an idea of your Band level

Every reading or listening paper has 40 questions and each question is worth one point

The official IELTS website tells you the way to calculate your likely band score in reading and listening based on the number of correct answers you get.

IELTS Academic Reading

The *average number of correct answers for various band scores is as follows:

  • 15/40 is a band score of 5
  • 23/40 is a band score of 6
  • 30/40 is a band score of 7
  • 35/40 is a band score of 8

IELTS General Training Reading

The *average number of correct answers for various band scores is as follows.

  • 15/40 is a band score of 4
  • 23/40 is a band score of 5
  • 30/40 is a band score of 6
  • 34/40 is a band score of 7

IELTS Listening

The *average number of correct answers for various band scores is as follows.

  • 16/40 is a band score of 5
  • 23/40 is a band score of 6
  • 30/40 is a band score of 7
  • 35/40 is a band score of 8

*Please be very careful with IELTS band score calculators. Although all test materials are pretested, there are sometimes small differences in the difficulty level of tests.  As a result, the number of correct answers needed to get a particular band score is based on how difficult a particular test paper is.  Hence the reason why I use the word ‘average’.

In order to get an idea of your writing and speaking band level, you also need to do some practice tests but you will need feedback from a professional about your performance.

If you are interested in me marking some practice writing tests or conducting a practice speaking test on skype, please contact me through my contact page to discuss prices.

Please note that I will be using the public version band descriptors from the official IELTS website.

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Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

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