IELTS Language Levels Explained
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an international standardised test of English language proficiency. It is jointly managed by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP Education Pty Ltd, and was established in 1989.
International acceptance and usage
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organisations. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
No minimum score is required to pass the test. An IELTS result or Test Report Form is issued to all candidates with a score from 1 (no knowledge) to 9 (expert user) and each institution sets a different threshold.
IELTS academic version
Intended for those who want to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education and for professionals such as medical doctors and nurses who want to study or practice in an English-speaking country.
IELTS general training version
Intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or for immigration purposes.
The 9-band scale
IELTS is scored on a nine-band scale, with each band corresponding to a specified competence in English. Overall band scores are reported to the nearest half-band.
The band rounding convention
If the average across the four skills ends in 0.25, it is rounded up to the next half band. If it ends in 0.75, it is rounded up to the next whole band.
Band 0: You are in the Did not attempt a test band if…
- You have provided no assessable information at all
Band 1: You are in the Non-user band if…
- You have essentially no ability to use English beyond possibly a few isolated words
Band 2: You are in the Intermittent user band if…
- You don’t find real communication possible, except for the most basic information using isolated words, or short phrases in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs
Band 3: You are in the Extremely limited user band if…
- You can only convey and understand general meaning in very familiar situations
Band 4: You are in the Limited user band if…
- You have basic competence limited to familiar situations
- But also have frequent problems in using complex language
Band 5: You are in the Modest user band if…
- You have partial command of English, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though are likely to make many mistakes
- You should be able to handle basic communication in your own areas of knowledge
Band 6: You are in the Competent user band if…
- You have generally effective command of English despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings
- You can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations
Band 7: You are in the Good user band if…
- You have operational command of English, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations
- You generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning
Band 8: You are in the Very good user band if…
- You have full operational command of English with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies
- You handle complex detailed argumentation well
- But you find that misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations
Band 9: You are in the Expert user band if…
- You have full operational command of English, speaking it appropriately, accurately and fluently with complete understanding