Understanding IELTS Speaking Scores

It's important to understand how your English skills are scored in the IELTS Speaking test

What are the differences between IELTS Speaking band scores?

Watch these IELTS Speaking test samples and read the examiner comments below each one to better understand the differences between Speaking band scores.

Band 3.5 – IELTS Speaking test sample – Part 3 (Harry)

Here's why this performance was given a Band 3.5:

"This test taker is unable to keep going without noticeable pauses as he searches for language. His speech is slow with frequent repetition and self-correction and there are some breakdowns in coherence. He links some ideas but can only use simple connecting words (so; because).

Vocabulary is this test taker’s strongest feature and allows him to talk about topics familiar to him. However, it is sufficient for only limited discussion of unfamiliar topics (balance; relax; salary; ability; free time for chatting; rely on drinking – it’s not good for society or people’s health).
Some ideas are repeated (good for their health).

His grammatical control is weak. Some simple sentence forms are produced fairly accurately (has more ability to meet others; may be more developed) and he sometimes attempts more complex forms. Subordinate clauses, however, are rare, turns are short and errors frequent.

He uses a very limited range of pronunciation features. His problems with hesitations and false starts have a serious impact on his ability to produce connected speech and there is little evidence of control of stress and intonation. However, it is his production of individual sounds which causes greatest strain to the listener. 

Final consonants are often not pronounced (becau(se); balan(ce); li(ke); heal(th)), and some are incomprehensible without context (wishen for ‘question’). Understanding requires considerable effort and there are patches of speech that cannot be understood.

This test taker’s vocabulary is stronger than other features of his performance, but his pronunciation is poor, restricting his rating to a Band 3.5."

Band 5.5 – IELTS Speaking test sample – Part 3 (Ali)

Here's why this performance was given a Band 5.5:

"This test taker is willing to speak at length but his speech is not always coherent. He uses a variety of linking words and markers (it’s possible that; while; especially;) but maybe is overused.

He uses a range of vocabulary, including a few less common items, with some awareness of collocation (internet website; a specific group; local society; easy come, easy go).

His meaning is usually clear despite some inappropriate vocabulary use (they are interesting about; the another people) and he is able to paraphrase (touch the feeling of the people).

Grammar is his weakest feature. Basic sentence forms are fairly well controlled for accuracy and he produces some complex structures, but errors in areas such as articles, pronouns and verb tenses are frequent and sometimes impede communication (people whose they can; know them since when we were a child; everybody will forgot them; read it only which is enjoyable to them).

He uses a range of pronunciation features. He uses pausing quite effectively to break up the flow of speech into word groups and there are some good examples of the use of intonation and both emphatic and contrastive stress (sports stars or maybe movie stars; the young ones; create or produce). However, there are a few problems with syllable stress (colleagues; interesting), and some sounds are poorly formed, with a redundant ‘s’ added to the end of some words (buts; in the futures). Generally, he can be understood without much effort.

This test taker’s weakness in grammar restricts his score to Band 5.5."

Band 6 – IELTS Speaking test sample – Part 3 (Brian)

Here's why this performance was given a Band 6:

"This test taker is willing to give extended responses but there is occasional loss of coherence as a result of hesitation and repetition. He tends to overuse certain fillers (well; like; ‘cos; yeah), although he draws on a reasonable range of linking words (for example; actually; as a result).

Grammatical constructions are also used well to introduce his ideas (by having a hobby; by doing sports).

His range of vocabulary is sufficient to discuss topics at length and he displays some ability to use less common items and collocation (get on very well with each other; increase money for the charity; good for the community; developed country; psychologically; physically). Even when he makes wrong word choices, his meaning is clear and he can convey his ideas and opinions quite effectively (fast speed work; relieve themselves after work; release their body pressures). 

He does not always demonstrate awareness of register or style and he tends to use the rather too informal gonn’ and wanna. He can produce a range of structures and a mix of simple and complex sentence forms. Grammatical control of more complex structures is variable (they just want to get big car big house and that’s the reason that forces them to work very hard than before), but errors rarely cause comprehension problems.

His pronunciation is generally clear and there is some use of stress and intonation to convey meaning, although on the whole his intonation is somewhat flat. His speech is often syllable-timed and this leads to a rather mechanical rhythm.

Certain words are sometimes mispronounced, resulting in an occasional loss of clarity (wail for ‘while’; lerer for ‘leisure’; louts for ‘lots’). Overall, he can be understood without much effort.

This test taker is willing to speak at length, but he does not display the features of performance necessary to lift his score above Band 6."

Band 7 – IELTS Speaking test sample – Part 3 (Mauricio)

Here's why this performance was given a Band 7:

"This test taker can speak at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence. He does, however, demonstrate some language-related hesitation, repetition and self correction.

He develops topics appropriately, using a range of markers and linking words to give cohesion (lately; in my opinion; if I’m not wrong; maybe you know; actually).

He has a good vocabulary and shows some awareness of style and collocation (working for peace; internal problem; people in need; in conflict; a border city) but he sometimes makes the wrong word choices (if I do something very queer; to be in-between everyone).

He has good grammatical control and produces many error-free sentences, using both simple and complex structures (more easily than before; without being treated differently). However, there are some problems with tenses (they bring instead of ‘they brought’; if I will like to read;

I can be famous instead of ‘I could be famous’; I prefer my privacy instead of ‘I would prefer my privacy’), with articles (they don’t have private life) and with word order (even you can upload).

There are many examples of very natural pronunciation and he can be easily followed, as he uses intonation and stress to good communicative effect. There are just a few problems with the production of individual sounds but, overall, his accent is slight and has very little impact on intelligibility.

This test taker is a clear example of a Band 7."

Band 7.5 – IELTS Speaking test sample – Part 3 (Aashish)

Here's why this performance was given a Band 7.5:

"This test taker speaks fluently and he engages with the questions without any obvious effort. There is only occasional hesitation, repetition and self-correction, which is mostly content-related and only rarely to search for language. His relaxed delivery is supported by his flexible use of markers (I am both; basically; as well as; every now and then; that would be French).

His vocabulary is sufficient for him to engage with a variety of topics and he demonstrates an ability to use idioms and collocations with some sense of style and skill. However, he makes a number of inappropriate vocabulary choices (all over the place; that’s not just my cup of tea; someone to confront and talk to; I haven’t got a chance), which restrict his rating on this criterion.

He has a wide range of grammatical structures at his disposal and the majority of sentences are error-free. Even when errors do very occasionally occur (I work part-time as well as a student; it just does not come into me), they do not detract at all from meaning.

He uses a wide range of pronunciation features and is able to use stress and intonation effectively. There are just a few lapses and very occasionally sounds are poorly formed (bot for ‘both’; vent for ‘went’), but overall, his accent has only minimal effect on intelligibility.

The test taker’s vocabulary is not as strong as other features of his performance and restricts his rating to Band 7.5"

Band 8.5 – IELTS Speaking test sample – Part 3 (Kenn)

Here's why this performance was given a Band 8.5:

"This test taker speaks fluently for most of the time and develops topics coherently and appropriately, with only slight content-related hesitations as he engages with the topics.

His vocabulary is precise and sophisticated throughout this part of the test (prominent businessmen; emulate; a growing number of television celebrities; to promote charitable causes; endorsing a cause; negative repercussions; conscious of body image; susceptible to; prevalent).

He uses a wide range of grammatical structures naturally and accurately, with no noticeable error.

He also uses a full range of pronunciation features to convey precise and subtle meaning such as emphatic stress (one example that comes to mind is celebrities) and contrastive stress (it’s not necessarily for causes ... it’s also for celebrity behaviours). He sustains this flexible use of features of connected speech throughout and is effortless to understand.

Only this test taker’s occasional hesitations prevent him reaching Band 9."

Band 9 – IELTS Speaking test sample – Part 3 (Anuradha)

Here's why this performance was given a Band 9:

"This test taker speaks fluently, with only rare repetition or self-correction. Any hesitation is not to search for language but to think of ideas. Her speech is coherent, with fully appropriate cohesive features (if you’re talking about; other than that; I think it’s more; as you can see). 

She uses vocabulary with full flexibility and precision in all topics with a wide range of idiomatic language (have a tendency; be exposed to; the world is becoming more globalised; the norm; strikes a chord; communication tool; actors that sponsor; materialistically; cool gadgets; grasp of people’s mindset). 

Her grammatical structures are precise and accurate at all times. She uses a full and natural range of structures and sentence types and makes no noticeable errors. 

She uses a full range of phonological features with precision and subtlety. The rhythm of her language is sustained throughout and stress and intonation are invariably used to good effect. This and her very clear production of individual words and sounds result in her being effortless to understand."