Twenty tips for IELTS success

  • 1, In Listening, use the example at the beginning of the first section to familiarize yourself with the sound, the situation, and the speakers.
  • 2, Keep listening until the recording stops, looking only at the questions that relate to the part being played.
  • 3, There are often pauses in the recording between different sections. Use these to prepare for the next set of questions.
  • 4, Answer Listening questions in the order they appear on the Question Paper. Remember that they normally follow the order of the information in the recording.
  • 5, At the end of the recording you have some time to transfer your answers to the Answer Sheet. Check your grammar and spelling as you do so.
  • 6, In Academic Reading, begin by going quickly through each passage to identify features such as the topic, the style, the likely source, the writer’s purpose and the intended reader.
  • 7, As you read, don’t try to understand the precise meaning of every word or phrase. You don’t have time, and those parts of the text might not be tested anyway.
  • 8, Reading tasks sometimes have an example answer. If this is the case, study it and decide why it is correct.
  • 9, Some tasks require you to use words from the text in the answer; in others you should use your own words. Check the instructions carefully.
  • 10, The instructions may also include a word limit, e.g. Use no more than three words. Keep to this by avoiding unnecessary words in your answer.
  • 11, In Academic Writing, you must always keep to the topic set. Never try to prepare sections of text before the exam.
  • 12, Keep to the suggested timing: there are more marks possible for Task 2 than Task 1.
  • 13, Organize and link your ideas and sentences appropriately, using a wide range of language and showing your ability (in Task 2) to discuss ideas and express opinions.
  • 14, If you write less than 150 words in Task 1 or less than 250 in Task 2 you will lose marks, but there is no maximum number of words for either.
  • 15, When you plan your essay, allow plenty of time at the end to check your work.
  • 16, In Speaking, don’t try to give a prepared speech, or talk about a different topic from the one you are asked to discuss.
  • 17, Always speak directly to the Examiner, not to the recording equipment.
  • 18, Whenever you reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the Examiner’s questions, add more details to your answer. In each case, aim to explain at least one point.
  • 19, Remember that you are not being tested on your general knowledge but on your ability to communicate effectively.
  • 20, Organize and link your ideas and sentences appropriately, talking clearly at normal speed and using a wide range of structures and vocabulary.

Candidates receive scores on a Band Scale from 1 to 9 for each skill tested (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking). They are of equal importance. These four scores are then averaged and rounded to produce an Overall Band Score.

Each candidate receives a Test Report Form setting out their Overall Band Score and their scores for each test. The scores are reported in whole bands or half bands according to the nine-band score given below.

The Listening Test contains 40 items and each correct item is given one mark. the maximum raw score a candidate can achieve on a paper is 40. Band scores ranging from Band 1 to Band 9 are awarded to candidates on the basis of their raw scores.

The Reading Test contains 40 items and each correct item is given one mark. The Academic and General Training Reading Tests are graded to the same level. However, because the texts in the Academic Reading Test are more challenging overall than those in the General Training Test, more questions need to be answered correctly on a General Training Test to receive the same grade.

The tables below indicate the mean raw scores achieved by candidates at various levels in each of the Listening, Academic Reading and General Training Reading tests. They provide an indication of the number of marks required to achieve a particular band score.


Band scoreRaw score out of 40

Academic Reading

Band scoreRaw score out of 40

General Training Reading

Band scoreRaw score out of 40

The Writing Test (both Academic and General Training) is marked on the following areas: Task Achievement (for Task 1), Task Response (for Task 2), Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy. Examiners give a Band Score for each of these criteria, which are equally weighted.

For the Speaking Test, a Band Score is given for each of the following which are equally weighted: Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Pronunciation.

When marking the Writing and Speaking components, examiners use detailed performance descriptors which describe written and spoken performance at each of the 9 IELTS bands.


Task achievement (Task 1)/
Task response (Task 2)
Coherence and cohesion25%
Lexical resource25%
Grammatical range and accuracy25%


Fluency and coherence25%
Lexical resource25%
Grammatical range and accuracy25%

Overall band scores are reported to the nearest whole or half band. The following rounding convention applies; if the average across the four skills ends in .25, it is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, it is rounded up to the next whole band.

Thus, a test taker achieving 6.5 for Listening, 6.5 for Reading, 5.0 for Writing and 7.0 for Speaking would be awarded an overall band score of 6.5 (25 ÷ 4 = 6.25 = Band 6.5).

Likewise, a test taker achieving 4.0 for Listening, 3.5 for Reading, 4.0 for Writing and 4.0 for Speaking would be awarded an overall band score of 4.0 (15.5 ÷ 4 = 3.875 = Band 4.0).

On the other hand, a test taker achieving 6.5 for Listening, 6.5 for Reading, 5.5 for Writing and 6.0 for Speaking would be awarded band 6 (24.5 ÷ 4 = 6.125 = Band 6).

If you do the practice tests under exam conditions, you need to score approximately 20 marks on both the Reading and Listening Test for a Band Score of around 5.5. To achieve a Band Score of 7, you need approximately 30 marks on Reading and Listening.

IELTS Band Scores

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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