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Secrets of the Bands, Speaking, Writing

The Secrets of the IELTS Bands (Speaking and Writing)

Have you ever wondered how the examiners decide what band you should get in speaking and writing? Do you get scared that you might get a strict examiner who will give you a lower band than you deserve? Have you heard that the examiners in one centre give higher marks than examiners in another centre? Are you worried that the examiner may decide he/she doesn’t like you? With all these rumours floating around, it’s not surprising that students often feel anxious and confused. We want to stop that. So here’s the truth about how who the examiners are and how they decide on your band.

Our Guides to the Speaking and Writing Bands

Click on the images to get free access to our online interactive pdf guides to the speaking and writing bands. These guides contain the complete set of descriptors from the official IELTS public bands. Their easy-to-access format makes them a great choice for all IELTS students and teachers.

Who are IELTS examiners?

First of all, you should know that IELTS examiners are very experienced EFL teachers. They have spent many years teaching students just like you. When they first become examiners, they go through a training programme. There’s an exam at the end of the training; they have to mark several papers and interviews. If they don’t give these the right band, they’re not allowed to be examiners.

But it doesn’t finish there. IELTS checks up on the bands that these examiners are giving. Without any advance warning, representatives from IELTS will remark the writing papers and the interviews to check that the examiners are giving the correct bands. Did you ever wonder why the interviews are recorded? If an examiner isn’t marking properly, he/she has to retrain and take another test so that he/she can continue. Even if an examiner is doing his/her job properly, he/she still has to retrain and be retested every two years.

So, don’t worry. If there are any examiners who are too strict (or too kind), they are quickly identified and not allowed to examine any more.

What are the marking criteria?

In IELTS, there are several different criteria that the examiners look at. The examiners give you a band for each category and this then leads to your overall band for that skill.

  • In the speaking, the examiner will assess your Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Pronunciation.
  • In writing task 1, the examiner will assess your Task Achievement, Coherence & Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range & Accuracy
  • In writing task 2, the examiner will assess your Task Response, Coherence & Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range & Accuracy

The official marking criteria is kept under lock and key. Even examiners are only allowed to look at it while they are training or examining, and they are never allowed to take copies. However, there are public bands and these are very, very similar to the official documents. It’s a good idea for you to have a look at these bands.

Let’s imagine you want a band 7. Read what you need to know for band 7. After you’ve done that, read what a band 6 looks like. Then read the criteria for band 8. That is what you should be aiming for. If you are working with a teacher or a tutor, then he/she will look at your writing really carefully and tell you exactly what you need to do to improve your chances of getting that band.

We’ve made it easier for you to focus on what you need by creating online interactive guides. You can find these by clicking on the pictures at the top of this post, or look under the ‘free IELTS resources‘ tab. These guides are also really for teachers and tutors as they discuss your strengths and weaknesses in writing and speaking with you.

You don’t have to understand everything in these bands, but make sure that when you go into the exam you know what you need to do to get the band you want. And, of course, you should bear in mind that the examiners understand these criteria and know how to use them. You can be confident that the band you are given when you take the IELTS reflects your performance on that particular day.



5 thoughts on “The Secrets of the IELTS Bands (Speaking and Writing)

  1. I think some IELTS centers give different bands. I did IELTS exam 2 times this summer. I was band 5 when I took it in my university then my writing was band 6.5 after 2 weeks when I took the exam outside.

    Posted by o0Alyazyeh0o (@o0Alyazyeh0o) | September 2, 2011, 12:57 pm
  2. I presume that the IELTS in your university was an official IELTS. So, that would mean that you went up by 1.5 bands in 2 weeks. That sounds like a lot and it almost certainly wasn’t only because your writing improved!

    You don’t say what your other bands were, but I’m guessing that something went wrong with the writing in the first exam. Maybe you didn’t write enough words. If your writing is too short, you can lose a lot of marks. Another problem may be that you didn’t answer all parts of the question in Task 2. If you only write about part of the question, you’ll lose marks. Another problem may be that you didn’t use paragraphing correctly the first time, but you did the second.

    There are a lot of things you have to be careful about with the IELTS writing. If you know these before you go into the exam, they really can increase your band … or rather make sure you get the exam you deserve.

    Posted by help4ielts | September 2, 2011, 8:11 pm
  3. There are many ielts sample tests in the online internet which enable you to practice enough for the ielts exam. Nice post.. keep post…

    Posted by IELTS | September 9, 2011, 7:09 pm
  4. I think doing *some* practice tests is useful. However, you need to be careful with online practice tests.

    Some online practice tests are not written by experts. They might not provide good feedback or might have no explanations as to why particular answers are right or wrong. Some of the listenings don’t have tapescripts. These are useful to look at (after the exam). Then you can work out why answers are right/wrong, how the question could trick you, and what to look out for in the future.

    Other tests may have mistakes. I’ve seen quite a few that are not written by expert speakers of English and contain grammar mistakes or unnatural language. Others have questions which are confusing/misleading. Writing good tests is incredibly hard (one reason why IELTS is so expensive!)

    I usually recommend that students use published tests so that they can be confident about the quality. Another reason for doing this, though, is that when you take a practice test, you should be trying to reproduce exam conditions. Reading on a screen (whether you’re reading a text or just the questions) is different from reading on paper. So, if you do use online practice tests, print them out sometimes so that you can get a ‘real’ experience of taking the exam.

    But why should you do practice tests?

    (1) to develop your time management and exam taking strategies
    (2) to focus on why answers are right / wrong. This can help you know what to look out for in the real exam.

    Is it enough just to do practice tests?

    That depends on your language level. You may need to improve your general level of English. Practice tests alone won’t help with that.

    You should also be aware of tips and strategies so that you don’t lose marks and so that you get the band you deserve.

    Posted by help4ielts | September 10, 2011, 12:47 pm
  5. Thanks for this post, ielts test is one of the best exam for the candidates aspiring for the best english certification. Nice one…

    Posted by IELTS | September 30, 2011, 9:08 pm

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