Now we will look in more detail at how these tasks are assessed and what you need to do well to get the IELTS band score you need.
The IELTS Scale
Each part of the IELTS Test is scored using a 9-band scale, ranging from Band 1, where a person only knows a few words in English, up to Band 9 for someone who has full command of the language. The band score that you need depends on what you are taking the test for. If you’re applying to an English-speaking university for an undergraduate degree programme, they will normally ask for a band score of between 6 and 7, although some courses can go as high as 7.5. Lower level courses or pre-university courses may ask for 5 or 5.5. Some professions also ask for IELTS as evidence of English ability. In order to practise in the UK, for example, Doctors need a minimum of 7.0 in every part of the test and a score of 7.5 overall.
Take a look at the description of each band:
At Band 7 you have an operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally you handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.
At Band 6 you generally have an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. You can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
At Band 5 you have a partial command of the language, and cope with overall meaning in most situations, although you are likely to make many mistakes. You should be able to handle basic communication in your own field.
The assessment criteria
So how are these qualities assessed in the IELTS Writing test? Writing is assessed based on these four criteria:
Task Achievement (Task 1) / Task Response (Task 2)
Basically this means how well you carry out the task. Do you cover all the necessary points? Do you include the key information that is required in Task 1? Do you develop your ideas effectively in Task 2 and support your ideas or opinions with evidence and examples?
Coherence and Cohesion
This looks at how well you order and present the content of your writing task. Is it organised logically? Is it divided into paragraphs correctly? Do you link ideas or information together so the reader can easily follow you?
This concerns vocabulary and whether you use a wide enough range of vocabulary, as well as whether you use it correctly and appropriately.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy
This assesses how wide a range of different structures and sentences you use and how effectively you use them. Do you have a good control of grammar and sentence construction? Are there many errors or only a few occasional ones?
You can download the full band descriptors from the Internet. You will also find a sample Academic Writing test there, with tasks, sample answers and examiner comments on each of the criteria above to help you see how these band descriptors are applied.
We will be looking at each of these criteria in detail during the course. Which ones do you feel quite confident about and which ones do you feel you need to improve most? Tell us in the comments.