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Band Score Calculator






How is the IELTS exam scored?



You will be given a mark between 0 and 9 for each of the 4 Sub-tests (there is now the possibility of overall scores with half marks given in all the Sub-tests – yes, in the Writing and Speaking Sub-tests too). Your Overall Band Score is an average of the 4 Sub-test Band Scores, with fractional scores rounding up or down to the nearest x.0 or x.5 score (with x.25 and x.75 always rounding up.)

Therefore, if you score   6.5   in the Listening Sub-test
    5.0   in the Reading Sub-test
    7.0   in the Writing Sub-test
    6.0   in the Speaking Sub-test
Your total score is   24.5      


    By averaging the scores (dividing the total score 24.5 by 4) in the example above, you would achieve an overall Band Score of 6.0 (which is 6.125 rounded down).

(Adapted from "101 Helpful Hints for IELTS".)


Half Band Scores


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Just one extra mark can make the difference...

Basically, you are scored on a scale from 0 to 9. An overall Band Score of 0 simply means you registered for the test, but didn't show up on the day! An Overall Band Score of 9 doesn't mean you are a native speaker ? native speakers don't usually take the test (although in recent years this is becoming more common). A score of 9 means you are just about at the same level as a native speaker, but English is not your first language. It is very difficult to score 9 but not impossible.

Since July 2007, ALL the IELTS Sub-tests ? including both the IELTS Writing and Speaking tests – are marked with the possibility of half Band Scores.

The importance of half scores can only be appreciated by understanding that the overall IELTS Band Score, which is the average of all 4 Sub-test Band Scores, is rounded up or down to the nearest whole or half Band Score.

So, if you score:


Listening – 6.5
Reading – 5.5
Writing – 6
Speaking – 8

Your overall Band Score is 6.5 + 5.5 + 6 + 8 = 26/4 = 6.5

No problems here. Your Overall Band Score is 6.5.

Also, if your Listening score in the example above had been 6 instead of 6.5, you would still have scored an Overall Band Score of 6.5 because the average of 6.375 rounds to the nearest half score – in this case up to 6.5.


Listening – 6.5
Reading – 5.5
Writing – 7
Speaking – 8

OK. In Example 1, if your Writing score had been 7 instead of 6, you would have scored an Overall Band Score of 6.75 which rounds up to 7.

Yes, x.75 is rounded UP to the nearest whole score and x.25 is rounded UP to the nearest half score.

But in this second example, if your Listening Score had been only 6 instead of 6.5, your Overall Band Score would have been 26.5/4 = 6.625 which rounds down to 6.5.

So, if you had not got one of those two half scores, your overall Band Score would have been 6.5 only. Some Academic Module candidates need a score of 7 to be accepted into their chosen University course.

Half scores are therefore VERY IMPORTANT. Why?

Well, we know there are 40 questions in both the Listening and the Reading sub-tests (which give half Band Scores). We are told these questions are not weighted, that is, all questions are worth the same (even if some questions are more difficult than others ? which is why it is important to do well in the early part of both Sub-tests). So let us say that, mathematically speaking, a full half score in either the Listening or the Reading sub-test is the result of getting 40/18 = 2.2 questions correct. (18 because there are 9 full Band Scores and thus 9 x 2 = 18 half Band Scores.)

Admittedly, IELTS doesn't use a mathematically derived method of determining the number of marks to achieve a particular band score. In fact, their benchmarks seem somewhat arbitrary. For instance, it takes only 5 more marks (or correct answers) to be given a Band Score of 8 from 7, yet it takes 7 more marks to achieve a Band Score of 7 from a 6 (or a Band Score of 6 from a 5):

     e.g.  Listening Band score       Raw score out of 40
                             5                                  16
                             6                                  23
                             7                                  30
                             8                                  35

This doesn't mean the questions are weighted differently, just assessed differently depending on how many previously correct answers are given – a logarithmic progression of sorts (with quite a few anomalies at the top and bottom of some of the ranges you would think).

Obviously, then, a half Band Score does not equal our mathematically derived 2.2 correct questions. It would vary between, say, 2 and 4 questions depending on the test, the module, and the position of the half Band Score within the full range.

But it does appear that the difference between getting an Overall Band Score of 6.5 or 7 in IELTS could be the consequence of getting at most just THREE more questions correct in either the Listening test or the Academic Reading test (27+3)...

     Listening Band Score:      7           6.5          6
     Score / 40:                    30-31     26-29     23-25

In the General Training Module Reading test, it seems you only require THREE more correct questions to score an entire extra band: a score of 7 from 6 (31+3)...

     GT Reading Band Score:      7          6.5           6
     Score / 40:                         34-35    32-33      30-31

This is surprising because if – for the purpose of demonstrating a point only – we balance up the relative scores of the Writing and Speaking sub-tests to the other two tests (which we know have 40 questions each), we would then have four tests of 40 marks each = 160 marks. (Yes, we know the Writing and Speaking tests do not consist of 40 questions or marks. We are merely balancing what must be theoretically assessed as equally difficult sub-tests.) If the scores were mathematically derived, an overall half Band Score would be the equivalent of getting 160/18 = 8.8 questions correct in each test.

But the difference between getting an Overall Band Score of 7 instead of 6.5 is NOT the result of getting some 8 or 9 extra questions correct in either the Listening or the Reading tests. It could be as little as getting at most THREE extra questions correct in either test as we believe we have demonstrated ? at least mathematically.


We write this not to panic students, but to show that every question counts, and it is possible to succeed just by knowing a little more than you do at present. Every piece of advice or information you have about the test or about the English language itself is important.

Practice is everything.