Speaking Band Descriptors

IELTS Public Speaking Band Descriptors

Discover how examiners award your speaking band score.
View descriptors

Note: we also have writing band descriptors.

What are band scores?

Your final band score tells potential employers, schools and institutions your overall level of English. You can see the descriptor for each band level here.

How does the examiner arrive at the final band score?

Your examiner will ask you a series of questions in an 11 – 14 minute semi-formal interview. The first set of questions will be on simple, general topics to get you warmed up. The second part of the test has a preparation – presentation structure where you are given a topic card and asked to talk about it for 2 minutes. The final part of the test will be more difficult as the examiner will test your ability to accurately express your opinion on more complex or abstract topics. Learn more about the parts of the speaking test with our Speaking Courses.

The examiner will listen carefully to your answers and assess you on 4 criteria: Fluency and Coherence (FC), Lexical Resource (LR), Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) and Pronunciation (Pron).

Fluency and coherence (FC) measures the speed and clarity of your speech; your fluency is how quickly you can produce language, while your coherence is how well your ideas connect together in a logical flow.

Lexical resource (LR) measures the range of vocabulary you use. Using plenty of interesting words is not enough; you must also use them at appropriate times and in the right form (i.e. interested vs interesting). You can also boost your vocabulary score with collocations.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) measures the range of grammatical structures you use (passive vs active forms, complex noun phrases, comparatives, etc) and how frequently you use those grammatical structures correctly. Develop your grammar with our grammar courses.

Pronunciation (Pron) measures how clearly you pronounce individual words and how accurately you use stress and intonation to convey meaning.

The public band descriptors for the speaking test are below.
IELTS speaking band descriptors

What is the most important aspect of the descriptors to remember?

The key word if you are aiming for a band 7+ is flexibility. To reach band 7 you need to make it clear to the examiner that you can communicate using a flexible range of language. This means you don’t just use the same types of vocabulary and grammar structures to answer different questions.

What should I study?

Examiners can very quickly assess your pronunciation, and this is a skill which can only be improved gradually. As a result, if you have a test soon, we recommend you focus on the skills you can develop more quickly:

Coherece | Study and practice using linking words to connect your ideas. These include because, as a result, consequently, although, however, in my opinion, I would say that. Learning to use these kinds of words in your answers tells the examiner that you can rationally link your sentences and ideas.

Collocations | Improve your vocabulary score by learning and applying collocations (words that are often found together, such as interested in or responsible for) in your answers. You can study both everyday and academic collocations in our vocabulary courses. Many teachers recommend learning idioms (such as I was over the moon meaning very happy) but native speakers actually only use idioms rarely when compared to collocations.

Test Taking Skills | Become comfortable with the format of the test by completing many practice tests. Join our speaking test courses to get more experience and upgrade your language.

IELTS speaking band descriptors