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Characteristics of TEN IELTS Bands

There are ten IELTS bands. The creators of the IELTS exam describe them in this way:

9 Expert user Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding .
8 Very good user Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
7 Good user Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
6 Competent user Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
5 Modest user Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field .
4 Limited user Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
3 Extremely limited user Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.

Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.

2 Intermittent user No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.

Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

1 Non user Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test No assessable information provided.


If youve already taken the IELTS exam and not got the score you wanted . . .

Here are ten questions to ask yourself:

  • Which skill was my weakest?
  • Do I accept that this is not a matter of luck but an indication of my level?
  • Which qualified person can I ask about why this is my weakest skill?
  • Can I seriously devote time to improving this skill? Can I find an IELTS buddy?
  • Can I take an English course or private lessons?
  • Do I accept that improving all my skills is not a matter of doing ever more practice tests (especially many online ones that resemble actual exams only in appearance)?
  • Do I accept that I need to understand skills more deeply and practise more meaningfully?
  • Can I work on my vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation consistently?
  • If I don’t get the score I need within one year, what is Plan B?