‘What’s My Current English Level and IELTS Band Score?’

‘What’s My Current English Level and IELTS Band Score?’

To be honest, you can’t really know your IELTS band score without a qualified teacher.

Wait, don’t go! I’m not wasting your time!

You won’t be able to get a completely accurate score but it is possible to figure out within a band score what you should be getting for each part of IELTS.

I’m a former IELTS examiner so I know the band scores well.

Read below to learn how to test yourself, figure out your score, and afterwards be sure to also check out my sister post on How Long it Will Take to Get Your IELTS Score.

 

 

How to Figure Out Your IELTS Speaking Score

This will take some time and effort but if you follow my instructions you will have a good idea of your speaking score without having to overpay a teacher!

This is Nguyen, the first ever customer for our Band Scores and Writing Corrections Service and a current employee. She lived in Australia for years and her speaking (and overall) scores on two recent tests for speaking were 7.5 and 8.

She uses tons of natural language, accurate vocabulary and has a nice accent.

To figure out your speaking level you are going to compare yourself with her.

Here is the Part 2 Speaking question she will be talking about:

Describe a sci-fi film that you watched.

Practice and record yourself answering the question above for about 2 minutes. Keep the recording – you will need it.

Listen to her response (In this video she speaks for more than 2 minutes. That’s not what will happen on the real test – it is just for you to get as much practice as possible!)

If you can understand 80 – 100% that doesn’t mean you are a band 8 – it just means your listening skills are good. You can’t always use all the language that you understand.

Now it is time to compare your response and hers. Some of the hesitations, repetition, and grammatical mistakes in this answer could bring her fluency and grammar down and make this a 7.5. Her level in this video is 7.5/8.

I’m a former examiner so let me show you exactly what is going through the mind of the examiner when he is listening to you speak.

Examiners always have the band descriptors out and look at them before and after the test. In their small heads with their tiny brains, they are highlighting them to get an idea of your score.

Here are Nguyen’s scores (which are mainly from Band 8 with some parts from Band 7):

Her score might go up or down depending on the part and part 2 speaking is usually full of the most hesitations. If she uses more complex structures and hesitates a little less she should be able to get an 8.

Most examiners would give her a 7.5 based on this section of the test because of hesitations and the grammatical mistakes.

Here is some of the good vocabulary that she uses:

had a chance, basically, astronaut crew, revive, dead alien cell, in the end, just a few days, full-grown octopus shape, manages to break free, at this point, horror, gory, killing spree, prevent, reaching earth, threat, human race, locked himself in, eliminate, back into space, for some reason, take control of, twist.

Use your recording to make a list of the vocabulary that you used. You don’t know exactly how accurate or good the vocabulary that you used is – that’s OK. Look it up in the dictionary to check what you can.

Here are some of the different types of grammatical structures that she uses:

Past Simple: had a chance, killed

Present Simple: the movie is about, they succeed, he manages to, the movie turns out to be, etc.

Passive Voice: the astronauts are being killed, the astronauts are killed

Present continuous: are trying, driving them

‘Will’ for future: there will be

Here is the full transcript (the bolded words are corrections):

Recently I had a chance to watch a sci-fi movie called ‘Life.’ Basically the movie’s about an astronaut crew living in space and they were trying to – they are trying to revive a dead alien cell. And the succeed in the end and they name the cell Kevin. And Kevin grows so fast that its size increases incredibly after just a few days into a full grown octopus shaped creature. And Kevin tries to escape from the cage where he was kept inside for so long for the experiments. And in the end he manages to break free. And at this point, the movie turns out to be a horror film and a gory sort of movie because Kevin goes on a killing spree. And the astronauts are being killed slowly, one by one. And the astronauts’ mission now is to survive and prevent Kevin from reaching Earth because they believe that Kevin is a dangerous threat to the human race. After the chasing and the killing I think all the astronauts are killed and only one manages to survive. And I think in the end, he locks himself into a space capsule with Kevin and tries to eliminate Kevin by driving both of them back out into space instead of going back to Earth. But then somehow Kevin manages to take control of the spaceship and both of them land on Earth. And the movie ends there. So I think there will be a part 2 (sequel) for the movie. ‘Did you enjoy the movie?’ It was a good twist at the end and I’m kind of excited to see what will happen next.

Use your recording to make a list of the grammar that you used. When talking about a movie you can refer to it in the past or the present or use a combination. Nguyen smartly sticks to present simple to talk about the events of the film.

Check out one of these grammar sites to see how accurate your grammar is: http://howtodoielts.com/ielts-five-grammar-websites/

If there is a grammatical mistake in every sentence you will not be getting above a 5 or possibly 6 for your grammar score.

You should now have a general feeling how her response compares to yours. Are you at Nguyen’s level? Lower? Higher?

Now try searching for some band 6 and 7 speaking tests on YouTube and repeating the same method.

You can also try this same method with another of Nguyen’s tests here (subscribe to our YouTube channel here):

 

 

I recommend practicing that same technique with as many speaking tests on YouTube as you can find. Here is another example with Minh who also got a Band 8 for IELTS speaking:

 

After watching a few and recording your own responses you should know your score to within 1 full band.

If you are still not sure, you can comment below and I will message you and we can work out another way to know your speaking score.

 

 

How to Figure Out Your IELTS Listening and Reading Scores

This is the easiest one to do. Without too much trouble you can figure out what both your listening and reading scores are!

Buy the past Cambridge Practice Tests. You can get the latest one here: https://goo.gl/t3vDVJ or take a look and see if they are available at the local bookstore in your country.

These are all past tests. Don’t worry about which number book. Anything from 7 to the most current one is fine (ones before 7 are also OK, there are just some small ways in which the test has changed).

Do it under real test conditions. The listening test is 30 minutes and the reading test is 1 hour.

Check your answers in the back of the book and use this guide to roughly figure out your score (scores vary slightly based on the difficulty of the test that week):

IELTS Listening

IELTS Reading (Academic)

IELTS Reading (General Training)

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

5

16

5

15

4

15

6

23

6

23

5

23

7

30

7

30

6

30

8

35

8

35

7

34

Don’t just do 1 test! It might not give you an accurate score (maybe you were lucky or unlucky with the topics).

Do at least 3 listening and reading tests. If the scores are similar that is your level – now you know before you go to the real exam.

If the scores are very different each time, keep doing them until the scores become more similar – it shouldn’t take too many practice tests for that to happen.

Here are the 6 Basic Tips You’ll Learn in Every IELTS Course and here is The Most Important Skill for the Reading Test.

 

 

How to Figure Out Your IELTS Writing Band Scores

For writing, there are a number of services online that you can use to get a very accurate Band Score estimate. Well actually, there’s only 1 that’s very accurate because it comes from former examiners.

You can trust and rely on the marks we give you. We highlight the band descriptors and give a report on each category to ensure complete accuracy and transparency.

For $9 (for that price in April only!) you can get your band scores for your Writing Task 1 or 2!

IELTS costs between $200 and $300! If you use our service, you can figure out your score and won’t waste as much money later.

If you also want to get complete writing corrections along with your band scores that is more expensive ($29) but could end up making a huge difference for you!

 

 

Using the CEFR to Guide you

There’s one other way that might help you know your English level and IELTS band score.

The CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is the most important, internationally recognized system for defining English ability.

Here is how it defines each level:

Beginner (A1): You can interact in the most basic ways if the other speaker talks slowly and is helpful. You can introduce yourself and others and can ask and answer questions bout where you live, people you know and things you have.

Elementary (A2): You can understand some sentences and frequently used expressions related to personal and family information, shopping, local geography and the environment. You can communicate in simple and routine tasks on familiar topics.

Intermediate (B1): You can deal with most situations while traveling abroad. You can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Upper Intermediate (B2): You can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without difficulty for either part.

Advanced (C1): You can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. You can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.

Master (C2): You can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. You can express yourself spontaneously, very fluently, and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations. You understood this paragraph easily.

Here is how those levels compare with IELTS according to their official website. Most examiners would say these scores are a little low. As an Intermediate you should be able to get up to around a 6, for example.

I hope that is helpful but I fear you might just be guessing. That’s why I strongly recommend that you take some time and try the tips I talked about earlier in the post so that you get a more accurate idea of your current level.

Now let’s move on to the big question – not where you are – where you are going

 

‘How Long Will it Take Me to Get to Band ____?’

It’s really hard to say. So hard that I wrote a whole other post about it: ‘How Long do I Need to Study to get my IELTS Score?’

Best of luck!

Oh and if you’re still reading don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube or even all 3 if you’re a fanatic!

 

Comment below: What’s your current level?

Here’s some help starting your comment:

I think my level is probably around…

On my last test I got …. but I think I have improved to a …

I’m not sure but it isn’t below …

I still don’t really know. The band score I need is …

IELTS Grammar: How to Use Modals for Opinions and Suggestions

IELTS Grammar: How to Use Modals for Opinions and Suggestions

Students who want to achieve band 7+ for their IELTS Writing Task 2 need to use a wide range of grammar structures. In this article I show you how to use a range of modals naturally to express opinions, as well as make suggestions and predictions, which will help improve your grammar band score.

For more examples of good grammar in use, check out our Task 2 sample answers here: IELTS Sample Answers.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel for some IELTS Speaking Sample Answers: HowtodoIELTS YouTube.

Grammar Doesn’t have to be Complex 

Although there is no ‘grammar test’ as part of the IELTS exam, it makes up 25% of your IELTS writing and speaking scores.

In order to get a high band score for your writing you need to be able to naturally use a wide range of grammar structures. For Task 2 writing, this means correctly using complex structures, but it also means using more basic structures naturally, including modal verbs.

Sample Essay

Below is a sample essay for the following question.

Some people think that all university students should study whatever they like. Others believe that they should only be allowed to study subjects that will be useful in the future, such as those related to science and technology. 

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Look at the phrases that are in bold. For each one, do you think they are expressing (saying) something more certain or less certain?

One question that has caused a great deal of controversy over the years is which subjects students study at University. I believe that students should have the choice to study whatever they like. However we have to overcome the problem of enough graduates in important subjects. In this essay the arguments surrounding this issue will be discussed.  

Many people argue that students should choose their own subjects at university. The principle reason for this is because students will probably be more motivated so they will be more likely to work harder and for longer and therefore achieve more, be more successful and probably more satisfied. A good example is a student who has a passion for art or science. They will be more likely to do extra work to improve their knowledge or develop their skills to a higher level. Another reason is that if students follow their passion it can often lead to more creativity. An example here is Steve Jobs, who followed his passions to become one of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs of modern times.

Other people suggest that students should not be allowed to choose. They argue that if society allowed students to do this, then we might be left with a lack of graduates in some ‘core’ subjects essential for the future. An example here is important subjects such as science or technology, which might not be popular without encouragement. This could result in a less skilled labour force with a negative impact on the economy. However I would suggest that this is not a serious problem as we could deal with this issue by making core subjects more attractive. This could be done through financial policies, for example reduced fees, offering bursaries or guaranteeing jobs for studying the target subjects.

In conclusion, there are clear advantages of allowing students to choose their own subjects both for individuals as well as wider benefits. Nevertheless we must ensure there are enough students who select important subjects. This could be achieved using financial incentives or job guarantees. Regardless, we must always make sure our Universities are flexible enough to meet the challenges that society will face in the future.       

Use the Correct Grammar for the Right Situation

Let’s look at the sample answer again. I’ve coloured phrases that are more certain in red and phrases that are less certain in green. It’s now clear to see that in my first body paragraph I am more certain about my opinions, whereas in the second body paragraph I am less certain.

First Body Paragraph: 

Many people argue that students should choose their own subjects at university. The principle reason for this is because students will probably be more motivated so they will be more likely to work harder and for longer and therefore achieve more, be more successful and probably more satisfied. A good example is a student who has a passion for art or science. They will be more likely to do extra work to improve their knowledge or develop their skills to a higher level. Another reason is that if students follow their passion it can often lead to more creativity. An example here is Steve Jobs, who followed his passions to become one of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs of modern times.

Second Body Paragraph: 

Other people suggest that students should not be allowed to choose. They argue that if society allowed students to do this, then we might be left with a lack of graduates in some ‘core’ subjects essential for the future. An example here is important subjects such as science or technology, which might not be popular without encouragement. This could result in a less skilled labour force with a negative impact on the economy. However I would suggest that this is not a serious problem as we could deal with this issue by making core subjects more attractive. This could be done through financial policies, for example reduced fees, offering bursaries or guaranteeing jobs for studying the target subjects.

Analysis: First Body Paragraph (more certain)

In this paragraph I am confidently explaining my opinion about why students should choose their own subjects, by suggesting they’ll probably be more motivated, work harder and be more successful.

So I use language that matches my confidence. However this is academic writing so I’m still not 100% confident. Look at the table that compares good and bad ways to express certainty.

I didn’t say “Students will be more motived so they will work harder” or “If students follow their passion they will be more creative.” 

This is too strong so instead I used “will probably be more motivated” or “can often lead to more creativity

Good phrases for strong opinions

(Strong – 80%)

Poor phrases for strong opinions

(Too Strong – 100%)

Students will probably be more motivated……

…will be more likely to work harder.

If students follow their passion it can often       lead to more creativity.

Students will be more motivated…

…so they will work harder.

If students follow their passion they will be more creative.

Analysis: Second Body Paragraph (less certain)

In this paragraph I first make predictions about possible negative effects of allowing students to choose (a lack of graduates for important subjects and it’s possible impact on the economy). Then I suggest a possible solution (making important subjects more attractive through financial incentives).

By using less certain language, I show that these are just possible ideas. I didn’t say “We will be left with a lack of graduates.” or “This will result in a less skilled workforce.” or even “This can be done through financial policies.” 

Those structures are too strong for academic writing so instead I used  We might be left with a lack of graduates.“, This could result in a less skilled workforce.andThis could be done through financial policies.” 

Good phrases for predictions and suggestions  

(Possible – 50%)

Poor phrases for predictions and suggestions

(Too Strong – 100%)

We might be left with a lack of graduates.

 This could result in a less skilled workforce.

This could be done through financial policies.

We will be left with a lack of graduates.

This will result in a less skilled workforce.

This can be done through financial policies.

Plan your Language

As well as brainstorming and organising ideasit’s important to think about how certain you want to be about these ideas.  Yes, I said want because remember your essay doesn’t have to follow your real opinions, and you should try to use a range of grammar.

When you are planning your body paragraphs, keep in mind what language you will use to express your opinions and suggestion/predictions. For example if you have a discuss both sides question, which requires you to choose a side, then use more certain language for your chosen side but use less certain language for the other side.

Likewise in a problem and solution essayyou could choose to use stronger language to talk about the seriousness of the problem, but weaker language to discuss solutions.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Brainstorm some main ideas – then write some strong/weak opinions and strong/weak suggestions or predictions using suitable language.

Need more help?

Check out our Facebook Group or our Instagram page for more tips and free resources about IELTS!

IELTS Grammar: Six Reasons Why Every IELTS Student Should Study Grammar

IELTS Grammar: Six Reasons Why Every IELTS Student Should Study Grammar

In my experience, IELTS students seem to focus less on grammar than other areas.

This is probably because it’s not very fun and it takes a long time to improve.

But here are six reasons to motivate you to open those grammar books!

1. Too Many Basic Mistakes are Very Bad for your IELTS Score.

Let’s be honest, grammar is worth 25% of your writing and speaking marks, which is a lot.  

If you know that you make a lot of mistakes in your speaking or writing but you don’t do anything about it, that isn’t a very smart strategy.

It’s really easy for an examiner to notice basic grammar mistakes so there’s no chance of avoiding losing marks for them.

Also, if you make a lot of basic grammar errors, it will be really easy to spot as it will make it difficult for the examiner to follow your ideas.

So this will mean you end up with a grammar score of 5 or worse.

You should identify your common mistakes and then study and practise these areas.

If you don’t know your common mistakes then looking carefully at your writing and listen to yourself (on your phone), or get a friend or teacher to help.

2. Bad Grammar Will also Affect Other Aspects of your Writing and Speaking.

As well as your grammar score being affected by bad grammar, it will also bring down other parts of your IELTS score.

In writing, a lot of mistakes will make it difficult for your ideas to link together well, so this will impact on your coherence and cohesion score.

 In speaking if you’re not confident about your grammar, it’s likely you will hesitate and self-correct a lot. This will decrease your fluency and pronunciation scores.

3. A Good Range of Grammar is Essential to Get a Band 6 or Above.

As well as avoiding basic mistakes, you need to demonstrate a good range of grammar.

If you use the same basic structures again and again, you will only get a 5 for your grammar, even if you don’t make any mistakes at all.

So for band 6 or higher you need to study your grammar so you can be comfortable using a range of tenses e.g. to talk about the past, present, and future, as well as being able to use a range of different complex structures e.g. conditionals and relative clauses.

4. The Better you Know your Mistakes, the More Able you are to Self-Correct.

I always ask my high-scoring students for their personal tips, and a lot of them talk about being able to notice and correct their own mistakes in their writing at the end of their exam.

In order to achieve a high band score (7+), most of your sentences must be error-free.

In the exam you will be rushing and feeling nervous, so you’ll probably make more mistakes than usual.

Therefore if you’re aiming for a high score, it’s important that your awareness of grammar is good so you can spot any errors as you’re writing.

Ideally, you should also finish with a few minutes to spare, so  you can review your writing and fix any mistakes.

However, if you lack the ability to spot and correct your mistakes, you won’t be able to do any of this.

5. Knowing your Grammar will Make Reading and Listening Easier.

Not only does mastering grammar help your speaking and writing scores, it will also improve your reading and listening ability too, so it really is a no-brainer!

The better you know your grammar, especially more complex grammar, the easier it will to follow the ideas in difficult reading or listening passages.

Therefore you’ll have more brain time to focus on the exact meaning of what is being said.  

6. It Feels Good to Master Something Difficult.

Taking on a difficult challenge requires focus, dedication and organisation.

So mastering something difficult will increase your mental toughness and build your self-confidence.

As a famous teacher and author once said the greatest satisfaction comes from mastering something that is truly difficult.

As well as improving your IELTS scores in some pretty fundamental ways, studying and mastering English grammar has the power to develop you as a person.

So, what are you waiting for?

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

What ways do you use to improve your grammar?

What are your common mistakes?

Need more help?

Check out our Facebook Group or our Instagram page for more tips and free resources about IELTS!

 

IELTS Grammar: How Complex Grammar Improves your Grammar AND Cohesion Scores

IELTS Grammar: How Complex Grammar Improves your Grammar AND Cohesion Scores

Here’s a tip that I make sure all my IELTS students know – complex grammar not only improves your grammar score, but it also increases your coherence and cohesion score.

What is Cohesion?

Good cohesion is about how well your writing is linked together. For many IELTS students, this means using a good range of linking phrases.

For low level students this means using a range of basic linking phrases like in the example below:

Many people argue that as modern life becomes more convenient, people are more inactive. Firstly, our homes and offices are equipped with devices that take care of so many tasks. As a result, people save significant time and effort on domestic and office chores. Secondly, the development of the internet allows people to shop, study and even pay their bills online.

This is a good start but it can feel unnatural and robotic, so the maximum score it will get you for coherence and cohesion will be a band 6.

If you want a band 7 or above, you will need to link your writing in a more natural way, and this is where grammar can help.

Complex grammar like relative clauses and participle clauses link your writing in a more natural way, while also helping to widen your range, which is needed for a band 7 for your grammar.

You should practise a range of structures so you can use them flexibly in your IELTS Task 2 essay. Don’t rely on one structure as that is not natural.

 

Complex Structures

Let’s look at some different ways to use complex structures. Compare the examples and see how different structures improve the flow of the writing.

Simple Sentences.

Junk food is readily available. Therefore it is high in sugar and salt.

Homes and offices are equipped with devices. This takes care of many tasks. Therefore this saves society significant time and effort.

Standard Complex Sentences.

Places are becoming increasingly similar because products are becoming ubiquitous.

Products are becoming ubiquitous so places are becoming increasingly similar.

Conditionals

If people use the internet regularly they are less active than those who don’t.

If products continue to become ubiquitous, then places will become increasingly similar.

 If smartphones and the internet hadn’t been invented, the world would be a very different place right now.

Non-defining Relative Clauses

Junk food, which is high and sugar and salt, is readily available.

Globalised products, which are becoming progressively ubiquitous, are making places increasingly similar.

Defining relative clauses.

People who use the internet regularly are less active than those who don’t.

This issue has been compounded by the development of the internet, which has allowed people to shop.

Junk food is heavily marketed through sophisticated advertising campaigns, which are increasingly aimed at children.

Homes and offices are equipped with devices that take care of so many tasks, which saves society significant time and effort.

Participle clauses

People using the internet regularly are less active than those who don’t.

Places are becoming increasingly similar, making products ubiquitous.

Junk food is heavily marketed through sophisticated advertising campaigns, increasingly aimed at children.

Homes and offices are equipped with devices that take care of so many tasks, saving society significant time and effort (relative clause & participle clause).

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments

In some countries, governments are making some criminals do voluntary community work rather than being put in prison.

To what extent do you agree with this?

Write some complex sentences about the above topic. Try to use a range of structures.

Need more help?

Check out our Facebook Group or our Instagram page for more tips and free resources about IELTS!

 

IELTS Grammar: Five Grammar Websites Every IELTS Student Should Know

IELTS Grammar: Five Grammar Websites Every IELTS Student Should Know

Let’s be honest, grammar is hard and kind of boring.

But it’s important – it’s worth 25% of your writing and speaking scores, and a good knowledge of grammar also improves your reading and listening skills.

The internet is full of websites that offer to help you with your grammar, so it’s difficult to know where to start.

So we’ve made it easy for you. Here is a list of our favourites:

1. Learn English by British Council

Containing very clear explanations and lots of examples to help you understand and practise a range of structures. Check out their section on relative and participle clauses.

2. English Grammar 101

Not the most beautifully designed but this site is very comprehensive and contains lots of online practice activities to help you review the basics and master more complex grammar as well.

3. Englishgrammar.org

A nice looking site with clear explanations and online practice activities as well as free PDFs to download.

4. Grammar Monster

A well presented site with a good focus on punctuation (commas, full stops etc) which also counts towards your grammar score in IELTS writing.

5. Using English

Lots of quizzes and printable worksheets to help you practise the basics and work on more advanced structures.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments

Try out these five websites. Which one is your favourite?

Do you know any other good grammar websites?

Need more help?

Check out our Facebook Group or our Instagram page for more tips and free resources about IELTS!