• Pallavi Kumar — IELTS Grader

Your Guide to How IELTS Scores Are Calculated

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Read the ultimate guide that will help you prepare for IELTS.

Before you dive deeper into studying for IELTS, it’s important to understand the structure of the test. It's divided into four sections: Writing, Speaking, Reading, and Listening. In this post, I will give you details about each section, and describe how they are evaluated.

Writing Section

The writing section in IELTS is 60 minutes long. It consists of two writing tasks:

  • Task 1: In the Academic test, you are presented with a figure--a table, graph, chart or diagram--and are asked to explain and summarize the information in the figure. In the General Training test, you are presented with a situation and must respond in the form of a letter. There is a 150-word minimum.

  • Task 2: You are asked to write an essay in response to an argument or problem. There is a 250-word minimum.

The writing section is scored in the areas of four criteria: Task Achievement (Task 1)/Task Response (Task 2), Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

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Speaking Section

The speaking section is similar to a conversation that you might have in your everyday life. The test is conducted one-on-one with a certified examiner. The conversation is interactive and attempts to mimic a real-life situation.

The speaking section lasts between 11 to 14 minutes. It is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1: You will be asked about yourself, your family, interest, and work.

  • Part 2: You will be presented with a task card, which gives you a particular topic to speak about. You are allowed 1 minute to let you think about the topic and prepare your talk. Then you speak about the topic for 1-2 minutes, answering any additional questions the examiner might ask.

  • Part 3: The examiner will ask you further questions connected to the topic in Part 2. It will be a longer discussion, up to about 5 minutes.

You will be marked on four criteria: Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Pronunciation, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

The Speaking test is the same for both Academic and General Training Tests.

Reading Section

In the reading section, you will answer 40 different questions of varying types. The question types may include multiple choice, identifying information, flow-chart completion, matching sentence ending, true/false/not given, table completion, or short-answer question. The test lasts for 60 minutes.

The marking of the reading section is different than the writing and speaking sections in that you will receive one mark for each correct answer. The total number of marks will determine your band score.

The texts for the Academic and General Training Reading tests are taken from newspapers, journals, books, and magazines, but the content of each is different. The Academic texts will be more appropriate for university students, while the General Training texts would be relevant to everyday life.

Listening Section

The listening section is designed to assess your listening abilities. The test format and module are the same for both Academic and General IELTS. This part lasts for 40 minutes and consists of 4 sections of listening with 10 questions in each section to answer on the answer sheet. The sections include:

  • Conversation between 2 speakers about everyday situations

  • A monologue about everyday situations

  • Conversation between 2, 3, or 4 speakers about educational or training situations

  • A monologue on academic subject

For every right answer, you will receive one mark, with the total number of marks determining your band score.

The types of questions you might get in this section include:

  • Classification

  • Labelling a diagram

  • Matching

  • Multiple choice

  • Notes, summary, plan, table or chart completion

  • Sentence completion

  • Short-answer questions

How is the Overall Band Score calculated?

The Overall Band Score is the average of the all four component scores--Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Reading. The overall score is rounded to the nearest whole or half band score. All sections are weighted equally.

For example:

Reading 7 + Writing 5 + Speaking 6 + Listening 6.5 = 24.5

Divide 24.5 by 4 = 6.12

Score is rounded down to the next whole band: Overall band score = 6


There are a lot of different criteria to keep in mind when understanding how the IELTS scores are calculated. However, hard work and practice can help you in achieving a higher score in the test. Keep practicing and you can reach the score that you are aiming for!

Do you have any questions? Or would like to share your thoughts on the structure of the exam? If so, please comment below!

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