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What’s the difference between Band 5, Band 6, and Band 7 speaking?

These are official speaking samples from IELTS. They are marked according to this rubric (click here for the PDF):

IELTS speaking assessment criteria

 

Band 5

The examiner gave this a Band 5 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: Despite the long answers, coherence is lost due to hesitation.
  • Lexical resource: Good vocabulary; errors do not interfere with communication.
  • Grammar: Uses only a limited range of complex structures; frequent errors with verb tenses, subject verb agreement.
  • Pronunciation: Speaking is overly syllable-timed; stress and intonation are okay; some words/sounds are mispronounced.

 

Band 5.5

The examiner gave this a Band 5.5 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: Despite the long answers, coherence is lost due to “repetition and self-correction”, linking words/phrases not always being used appropriately, and word order problems.
  • Lexical resource: Problems with word classes (“famous” vs. “fame”, “social workers” vs “social work”); errors somewhat interfere with communication.
  • Grammar: Significant word order problems; frequent errors
  • Pronunciation: Rapid speech rate negatively affects rhythm; flat intonation (and sometimes inappropriate rising intonation at the end of sentences); problems with certain sounds (“vork” vs “work”, “evryting” vs “everything”)

Band 6

The examiner gave this a Band 6 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: Despite the long answers, coherence is lost due to “repetition, self-correction, and hesitation”; being unable to answer one question; linking words/phrases not always being used appropriately; excessive use of fillers such as “how to say/how do you say”.
  • Lexical resource: Problems with collocations (which rarely interfere with communication)
  • Grammar: Despite the variety of sentence structures, overall control of grammar is inconsistent (although these errors do not hinder communication).
  • Pronunciation: Speech is divided into “meaningful word groups with good use of stress and intonation” (vs. being syllable timed); problems with certain sounds (“bose” vs “both”, “zen” vs “then”, “word vs “world”) somewhat hinder communication.

Band 6.5

The examiner gave this a Band 6.5 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: The candidate is able to speak at length without much repetition.
  • Lexical resource: There is a wide range of vocabulary, including correct collocations. Word choice problems do not interfere with comprehension.
  • Grammar: Despite verb tense problems, there are frequent error-free sentences with a range of complex structures.
  • Pronunciation: In general, the candidate speaks clearly. Despite a strong accent, only individual words are mispronounced..

Band 7

The examiner gave this a Band 7 for the following reasons:

  • Fluency and coherence: “speaks at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence; may demonstrate language-related hesitation at times, or some repetition and/or self-correction; uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility”
  • Lexical resource: Occasional word choice issues
  • Grammar: Uses a variety of complex sentence structures and produces many error-free sentences. However, there are verb tense issues.
  • Pronunciation: “Very natural pronunciation”; good use of intonation and stress; accent does not impede intelligibility. Some problems with certain sounds.

What’s the difference between Band 5, Band 6, and Band 7 writing?

These are official writing samples from IELTS. I’ve colour-coded the errors based on their seriousness, i.e. based on how much they affect your score.

  • Yellow = Awkward language/minor grammar issue
  • Orange = Moderate language/grammar issue
  • Red = Serious language/grammar issue

Even without reading them, you can tell the difference from a distance.

Band 5

IELTS writing task 2 Band 5 sample

IELTS Official Writing Task 1 Sample – Band 5. Errors are highlighted: yellow represents awkward language or minor grammar issues; orange represents moderate language/grammar issues; red represents major language/grammar issues.

The examiner gave this a Band 5 for the following reasons:

  • It’s too short and low on detail. There are no specific references to the data.
  • Overall, it’s difficult to understand.
  • There are major sentence structure problems (highlighted in red).

Band 6

IELTS writing task 2 Band 6 sample

IELTS Official Writing Task 1 Sample – Band 6. Errors are highlighted: yellow represents awkward language or minor grammar issues; orange represents moderate language/grammar issues; red represents major language/grammar issues.

The examiner gave this a Band 6 for the following reasons:

  • Some information is missing.
  • Some information is inaccurate.
  • Cohesion problems: connections between some ideas are unclear.
  • Awkward language
  • Lack of sentence structure variety

Band 7

IELTS writing task 2 Band 7 sample

IELTS Official Writing Task 1 Sample – Band 7. Errors are highlighted: yellow represents awkward language or minor grammar issues; orange represents moderate language/grammar issues; red represents major language/grammar issues.

The examiner gave this a Band 7 for the following reasons:

  • Lack of sufficient detail in the general overview
  • Awkward expressions
  • Minor issues with word forms