IELTS Speaking – band scores explained

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How is your IELTS speaking band score calculated? This is an important question for any IELTS candidate because many mistakes can be avoided by knowing what the examiner is looking for and how your speaking is graded. This post gives you a brief outline of the grading criteria, how band scores are calculated and how examiners typically grade the speaking.

The 4 grading criteria

Fluency and coherence

How fluently you speak and how well you link your ideas  together

Pronunciation

How accurate your pronunciation is

Lexical resource

How accurate and varied your vocabulary is

Grammatical range and accuracy

How accurate and varied your grammar is

What do these criteria mean?

This is IELTS and IELTS examiners are trained to interpret these criteria in a particular way. In theory it should not matter where you take your test as all examiners grade consistently. I suggest you should spend time understanding the detail here as that way you can avoid many common mistakes.

One main point is that in all the criteria a key idea is being clear. The main idea is whether you can express yourself clearly so that someone else can understand you.

Fluency and coherence

Fluency is a combination:

  1. speed of speech
  2. length of answer
  3. pausing correctly

Coherence is the ability to:

  1. expand your answers
  2. answer the questions directly
  3. add relevant detail to explain or illustrate your answers
  4. connect your sentences by using tenses and connectors

Common mistakes

You should note that very fast or very long answers are not necessarily good, as you may be penalized for poor pronunciation or lack of coherence. In the speaking the main point is that you are able to express yourself clearly.

Another common mistake is to not answer the question. This is where you will be penalized.

Pronunciation

The main point here is that your pronunciation is easy to understand and whether your are able to make your meaning clear. Features of good pronunciation include:

  1. basic word pronunciation
  2. linked speech sounds
  3. correct sentence stress
  4. correct use of intonation (rising and falling)

You should note that there is no need to have a “British” or “American” accent.

Lexical Resource (Vocabulary)

Once again the key concept here is clarity: do you have enough words to express yourself clearly? This is judged by your ability to:

  1. have enough vocabulary to discuss a range of topics
  2. to use vocabulary accurately
  3. be able to explain yourself when you do not have the right word

Common Mistake

A common mistake here is to use long words without really knowing what they mean.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

There are two key points to understand here:

  1. you need to avoid grammar mistakes especially with your tenses
  2. you need to use a range of grammatical structures and you should not just use simple sentences all the time

When are they graded?

All 4 criteria are judged throughout all 3 parts of the speaking test – so it is important to concentrate from beginning to end. Although your test will be recorded, you will almost certainly be graded in real time in the test by the examiner sitting in front of you.

NB. Please be advised that it is IELTS policy that if there is a technical issue with a candidates speaking interview (ie not recorded) then the candidate must return to the centre for a re-sit.

We can appreciate that this is an inconvenience for any such candidates but all IELTS candidates must have a speaking interview recorded on file before final results can be processed and a test report form released.

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