How is your IELTS 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 writing is graded. More than that you may be surprised by some of the detail. Many candidates are.
This post gives you a brief outline of the grading criteria, how band scores are calculated and how examiners typically grade the writing.
The 4 grading criteria
There are 4 criteria:
|Task response||How well you answer the question|
|Coherence and cohesion||How well your writing links together|
|Lexical resource||How good your vocabulary is|
|Grammatical range and accuracy||How good 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.
Task Response in detail – how to avoid some common mistakes
Coherence and cohesion in detail- how to avoid some common mistakes
Lexical Resource in detail- how to avoid some common mistakes
Grammatical range and accuracy in detail- how to avoid some common mistakes
How are band scores calculated?
All the criteria count equally
One mistake candidates make is to focus on one or other of the criteria (normally grammar) or forget about one altogether (normally cohesion and coherence). Why is this wrong? They all count equally.
What happens is that you get a score out of 9 for each of the criteria, they are added together and then that score is divided by 4.
An example: So let’s take an example. Here is someone who has forgotten to think about coherence and hasn’t fully answered the question. S/he has good general English so does well in grammar and vocabulary, but sadly that is not enough.
- grammar 7
- vocabulary 7
- task response 6
- coherence 4
7+7+6+4 = 24 and 24 divided by 4 equals 6. The message is grammar and vocabulary are not enough – you need to focus on all the criteria as you write.
All the criteria are complex – you need to understand it all
If you read through my in detail posts on the criteria, you will see that each criteria is complex. Task response is not just about answering the question, it is about extending and supporting main ideas and maintaining a clear position throughout the essay. This may not be simple, but it is worth understanding. To get your target band 7, you at least need to average 7 in each of these sub criteria. This means that if you do everything to band 7 in task response, but you do not write enough words, you may not get a 7 for task response.
This bit is the really bad news. There are certain penalties you can get if you make certain mistakes. This means that if you make this type of mistake, you can’t get above a certain score for that criteria. Here is a selection of penalties I have borrowed from the British Council site:
- Band 5 (for Task Response): the essay only partially addresses the task.
IELTS writing is graded
- Band 5 (for Coherence and Cohesion): the essay doesn’t use paragraphs, or paragraphing is inadequate.
- Band 4 (for Task Response): the answer is tangential.
- Band 3 (for Task Response): the essay has few ideas, or the ideas are largely undeveloped or irrelevant.
- Band 1 (for Task Response): the answer is totally unrelated to the essay question.
I would emphasise that these are only a selection of penalties and that you should spend time getting to know the IELTS format before the exam.If you read the British Council article, it advises you to take a preparation course. That is good advice.
It is also good advice to look at the public version of the grading criteria for yourself.