IELTS results are designed to be simple and easy to understand. Results are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest). The IELTS band scale has remained consistent and has acquired currency around the world over the past three decades.
The IELTS scale
||The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.
||Very good user
||The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.
||The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.
||The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
||The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.
||The test taker's basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.
||Extremely limited user
||The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.
||The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
||The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.
||Did not attempt the test
||The test taker did not answer the questions.
Calculating the overall band score
A score is given for each test component – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. These individual scores are then averaged and rounded to produce an overall band score.
Learn more about how band scores are calculated
IELTS results validity period
While it is up to each organisation to set a validity period that works for their purposes, the IELTS partners recommend a 2-year validity period for IELTS test results based upon the well-documented phenomenon of second language loss or 'attrition.'
Read research relating to language attrition