IELTS successfully linked to China’s Standards of English Language Ability

IELTS has been officially mapped to China’s Standards of English Language Ability (CSE).

The announcement is the culmination of a collaborative research project between the National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA), Ministry of Education, China and British Council, one of the IELTS partners.

The CSE categorises the ability of Chinese English learners into nine proficiency levels across three broad stages depicting the development of language ability, serving as a fundamental strategy in promoting English learning, teaching and multi-dimensional assessment in China.

Launched at the beginning of 2017, the collaborative research on linking IELTS to the CSE took two years to complete. 

Commenting on the announcement, Professor Barry O’Sullivan, the academic team leader from the UK side of the collaborative research project and Head of Assessment Research and Development at the British Council said, 
“The linking results will encourage the improvement of teaching methods, learning materials and teaching practices in classroom. The results will also allow test-takers to have a deeper understanding of their English proficiency by referring to the descriptions of language ability in the CSE that are mapped to their IELTS score. This will enable them to devise an appropriate learning plan. In addition, test users such as schools and employers will be able to select the appropriate test score boundary, by referring to the linking results and CSE level descriptors which meet their requirements of students’ English proficiency.”

IELTS is the world’s leading high-stakes English language test for study, work and migration, delivered at over 1200 locations in over 140 countries and accepted by over 10,000 organisations globally. 

IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English.

Table 1:  Results of Linking IELTS to China’s Standards of English Language Ability

Level/CSE CSE Level 4 CSE Level 5  CSE Level 6 CSE Level 7 CSE Level 8 
Total 4.5 5.5  6 7 8
Listening 5 6 6.5 7.5 8.5
Reading 4.5 5.5 6 7 7.5
Speaking 5 5.5 6 6.5 7
Writing 4 5 6 7 7.5


  1. CSE is short for China’s Standards of English Language Ability, which includes 9 levels. This research focuses on CSE Levels 4 to 8. 
  2. The IELTS score is reported with a total score (an average of the scores achieved across the four skills papers) and scores for each of the four skills, i.e. listening, reading, speaking and writing. All scores are between 1 and 9, with 0.5 as the minimal unit.
  3. Table 1 displays the cut scores of the IELTS test mapped to CSE levels. For example, a score of 5 in IELTS listening is equivalent to CSE level 4; a score of 5.5 in IELTS reading is equivalent to CSE level 5; a score of 6 in IELTS speaking is equivalent to CSE level 6.