IELTS Band Scores Explained

ielts band scores explained
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Understanding the overall IELTS band score

This article would provide you with a better understanding of the overall IELTS band score and get the IELTS Band Scores Explained, once and for all.


Each band score is a measure of your English language skills. In the IELTS test, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking sections are all marked separately. An average of these individual scores gives out your overall band score. Now, I am sure you would be targetting a particular band score, it might be a band 6, 7, or higher. Thus, I would suggest you read the tables carefully and get a better understanding of the overall band score.

Read the table below, in detail, and make sure you start reading from band 9.

NOTE – The tables below are not an explanation of the IELTS band descriptor, not yet! Instead, this is an explanation of an IELTS OVERALL BAND SCORE. Before you dive into the complex structure of the IELTS band descriptors, it is important to know what an overall band score means.

IELTS Band 9 Score Explanation

Skill levelIELTS Band Descriptor –
What it says in the document
Expert User – Among Gods1. You have full operational command of the language.
2. Your use of English is appropriate, accurate
3. and fluent,
4. and you show complete understanding.
You stand above all, indeed a God.

1. You know to use the English language with complete command. You are not wrong, ever.
2. You can convey your ideas correctly(accurately) and with the right set of emotions(appropriate).
3. You are fluent with your language; without inappropriate breaks and pauses.
4. You are flexible with English; twisting and turning ideas as you deem fit, using complex structures and vocabulary. It’s quite easy for you to present difficult ideas and complex thoughts, in your own words.
IELTS Band 9 Descriptor explanation

IELTS Band 8 Score Explanation

Skill levelIELTS Band Descriptor –
What it says in the document
Very good user – An angel, cherub1. You have a fully operational command of the language
2. with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage.
3. You may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations.
4. You handle complex detailed argumentation well.
You stand above most men(and women), certainly a heavenly being.

1. You have complete command over the language but you might go wrong. However, you don’t go wrong often, it is RARE.
2. Often, your errors are due to unsystematic inaccuracies. Basically, it means that you couldn’t follow the right grammatical structure.
Inappropriate usage – It means that you do not use the most appropriate(correct) words to describe your thoughts.
3. You may misunderstand certain concepts and ideas, but this happens rarely, especially when you face unknown concepts or situations.
4. However, you are capable of handling detailed and complicated arguments. Now, this means that you can exchange complicated ideas(thoughts) and have a strong capability to question and reason, in English.
IELTS Band 8 Descriptor explanation

IELTS Band 7 Score Explanation

Skill levelIELTS Band Descriptor –
What it says in the document
Good User – A hero1. You have an operational command of the language,
2. though with occasional inaccuracies,
inappropriate usage
3. and misunderstandings in some situations.
4. Generally, you handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.
You are as good as angels but prone to errors, alas you are just human!

1. You have a good command over the language but on certain occasions, you might go wrong. The errors that you make are more frequent than a Band 8 user.
2. Sometimes, you can be inaccurate with Grammar and structure. Other times, your words might not be appropriate, they might be too soft or harsh.
3. Sometimes, this might lead to misunderstandings while discussing complicated thoughts, ideas and arguments. However, this does not happen often.
4. Mostly, you can understand complex grammatical structures and vocabulary. You are capable of participating in complex discussions. You are able to question and reason (understand) difficult ideas and thoughts, in English.
IELTS Band 7 Descriptor explanation

IELTS Band 6 Score Explanation

Skill levelIELTS Band Descriptor –
What it says in the document
Competent user – A warrior1. Generally, you have an effective command of the language
2. despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage
3. and misunderstandings.
4. You can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
You are strong and tread bravely into the unknown. An IELTS warrior indeed!

1. Your command over English lets you successfully produce a desired or intended thought, idea or argument. But, again, there are errors. You tend to make more errors than a band 7 user.
2. These errors are usually with grammar, and the use of incorrect words(vocabulary).
3. When discussing an unfamiliar(unknown) topic you might go wrong. Sometimes, you might struggle with Grammar and Vocabulary in such situations. Thus, leading to misunderstandings.
4. However, while discussing familiar(known) topics you are able to use advanced words and complex grammatical structures.
IELTS Band 6 Descriptor explanation

IELTS Band 5 Score Explanation

Skill levelIELTS Band Descriptor –
What it says in the document
Modest user – A mere soldier1. You have a partial command of the language and cope with overall meaning in most situations,
2. although you are likely to make many mistakes.
3. You should be able to handle basic communication in your own field.
Now, you are not bad, but not good either. You fight well, Soldier.

1. Your overall understanding of any topic is mostly correct. But, the details do go wrong. Thus, Your command over the language is incomplete.
2. You make many errors. Especially with Grammar, Vocabulary, Fluency; and also show a lack of flexibility. This leads to more mistakes in understanding the topic and developing valid comprehension. Thus, a complex or advanced discussion is difficult for you to understand.
3. However, you are good with basic communication and you can understand topics that are familiar to you.
IELTS Band 5 Descriptor explanation

I have not discussed Band 4,3,2,1, and 0. I assume that if your level of English is below a band 5 then you might not understand anything written here. So, it’s literally pointless to explain a band 4 and below, in English. I would recommend you to find a local trainer( an IELTS trainer from your area, city) to explain the lower band scores, in person, in your local language.

If you like to research more about the underlying structure of these band scores, then I would recommend you read my article on CEFR. All major English language tests are based on CEFR, even IELTS. In short, CEFR is the underlying scale for IELTS, PTE, OET and many other English Language Tests.

Angel Joseph

Two words that describe Angel are – people’s person and kind-hearted. As the co-founder and head Speaking coach at Asklearning, she backs up her sessions with tricks to help you speak your mind. Being a mom, an entrepreneur and an orator, she teaches her students to overcome naysayers always. Her sessions are lively and fun-filled, and her feedbacks are witty. You may contact Angel on her Official email id.

Angels School of Knowledge – We are a language school located in Kochi, Kerala, and we provide the best IELTS coaching in Edappally, Kochi. Our specialized training would let you score higher in the IELTS test and make you cross the dreaded band 7 in IELTS. If you are looking for an 8777 in IELTS, then we are your best bet!

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