IELTS Preparation: Getting the band score you need
More than three million people take the IELTS test every year for various reasons. Some use their scores to get into university, other people need an IELTS score for work. If you think you may need to take an IELTS test, this post will explain everything you need to know about the IELTS test.
What is IELTS?
Let’s start with the basics – what is the IELTS test? IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. When you do the test, you are essentially showing how well you can read, write, speak and listen in English.
What is an IELTS score?
IELTS is scored from 0 (didn’t attempt the test) to 9 (expert user). Click here to see the full scale. Nobody takes IELTS for fun, so you will be taking it for a good reason. Perhaps you want to emigrate to another country; maybe you are applying for a university place in the UK, the US or Australia. In either case, you will be told what IELTS band score you need to achieve. Or you can look it up online.
So, for example, if you want to study Psychology at the University of Bath, UK, the University’s website tells you: ‘You will normally need: IELTS 7.0 overall with no less than 6.5 in all components’.
The first thing to note, then, is that there is no such thing as ‘a good score’ in IELTS. There is only the score you need. Either you get it, and you’ve succeeded, or you don’t.
What are ‘components’?
The next question is what this means: ‘no less than 6.5 in all components’. IELTS is made up of four papers: IELTS Reading, IELTS Writing, IELTS Listening and IELTS Speaking. You will get a score for each of those papers — again between 0 and 9 — and these will be averaged to get your overall band score. How is this done?
IDP, one of the three publishers of IELTS, along with Cambridge and the British Council, explains it like this:
‘The Overall Band Score is the average of the four component scores, rounded to the nearest whole or half band. The component scores are weighted equally. If the average of the four components ends in .25, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next whole band. If the average ends with a fraction below .25 or .75, the overall score is rounded down.’
So, if you get Reading 6.0, Listening 6.5, Writing 5.5 and Speaking 6.5, the total is 24.5. Divide by 4 and you get 6.125. That means your band score will be 6.0.
But if you can manage to get 6.0 in Writing, that will push the total score up to 25. Divide that by 4 and you get 6.25, which is rounded up to 6.5. Which could make all the difference!
How does IELTS compare with other exams?
Maybe you already have a test result in another English exam, and you would like to cross-reference it with IELTS to find out where you are now. It’s easy to do this online. For example, if you have a TOEFL score, simply search for ‘IELTS-TOEFL cross-reference’ in Google, and you will probably end up on this site. There you can use a simple calculator.
What if I don’t have another test result?
If you don’t already have a test score to cross-reference, you can predict your IELTS score using IELTSPractice. First, go to IELTSPractice.com, choose your module (Academic or General Training), click into the Listening section and complete a free practice test. Then, note down your score, and do the same for the Reading section (or vice versa). From there you will be able to use the British Council approved IELTS score calculator to find out what scores you need to get in the other papers to achieve your overall band score goal.
Take a look at the IELTSPractice website here for more preparation advice, interactive activities and practice tests to prepare you for your IELTS test.