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What Does Your IELTS Score Mean? Interpreting Your Results

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Dec 25, 2019 1:00:00 PM

General Education

 

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If you've just taken the IELTS, you're probably anxious to see your scores. Did you do as well as you needed to do on this tricky English proficiency exam or not? When will you get your official IELTS score report, and when will you be able to see your IELTS results online?

We answer these questions and give you an explanation of what will be on your IELTS score report. We also offer some tips for what to do with your IELTS test results once you get them.

 

When and How Do You Get Your IELTS Results?

You'll be able to see your IELTS results online 13 days after taking the paper IELTS or 5-7 days after taking the computer-delivered IELTS. Your testing organization should notify you when your scores are ready to be viewed.

Where you must go to see your IELTS results depends on which website you registered through, as these vary with each country. For example, if you took the IELTS in the US, you would have to log in to the IELTS USA website with the account you made back when you registered. If you took the IELTS in Australia, you'd go to IELTS Essentials.

To access your IELTS results online, you'll need to know the ID/passport number you used when you registered and your test date. Your IELTS results will be available to view online for 28 days.

Around the time you get your online scores, your official IELTS score report will also be sent to you via postal mail from your test center. This hard copy version of your IELTS results is called the Test Report Form (TRF). Your TRF will be mailed to the address you wrote down during registration, so be sure that this address is correct.

You will only receive one TRF. If you lose it, you can request a replacement copy by contacting your test center and giving them a copy of the ID you used to take the exam.

Be aware that your online IELTS score report is technically just a provisional report. In other words, your TRF will be your only official IELTS score report.

Now, how do you send your IELTS score report to schools and organizations that need it?

In the US, you can send up to five IELTS score reports for free (although you might have to pay a small fee if you're sending them to places outside the US). Once your official IELTS test results have been released, your score reports will be automatically sent out to any institutions or organizations you indicated during registration.

When you choose to send out your score report, you'll get the option to choose a score delivery method: electronic or paper. Check the official websites of your schools/organizations to find out which method they prefer (if there is one).

While you may send your IELTS results after you've received them, you'll typically have to pay a fee for this service.

 

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What Will Be on Your IELTS Score Report?

Your official IELTS score report will contain the following information:
  • The type of IELTS you took (Academic or General Training)
  • Your test center number
  • Your test date
  • Your candidate number
  • Your photograph
  • Your full name
  • Your candidate ID
  • Your date of birth
  • Your sex
  • Your nationality
  • Your first language
  • Your band score for each section (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking)
  • Your overall band score (i.e., the average of your four section scores)
  • Your CEFR Level (a system used to determine proficiency in a language)

You can view sample IELTS score reports on IELTS-Blog to get a better sense of what your own TRF will look like.

The IELTS uses a band score system on a scale of 0-9 in half-point increments. The higher your score, the better you did (and the more fluent you are in English).

Here's an overview of what each major band level means in terms of English proficiency:

IELTS Band Score
English Skill Level
9
Expert user
8
Very good user
7
Good user
6
Competent user
5
Modest user
4
Limited user
3
Extremely limited user
2
Intermittent user
1
Non-user
0
Did not attempt the test

Source: IELTS.org

So if you scored 7 on Listening, 6.5 on Reading, 6 on Writing, and 7.5 on Speaking, your total IELTS band score would be (7 + 6.5 + 6 + 7.5) / 4 = 6.75 = 7 (rounded up). Your final IELTS score would be 7, indicating that you are a "good user" of English.

 

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What to Do With Your IELTS Results

Once you get your IELTS results, what comes next?

The first thing you'll want to do is look at your overall band score. See whether you got the score you were aiming for and compare it with the chart above to determine what your general English skill level is.

Next, you'll need to check that your score is high enough for the schools/universities you are applying to (assuming you took the Academic IELTS). To do this, you'll have to check each school's official website and look at its policy on English proficiency and minimum required IELTS scores.

Let's walk through an example. Say you're applying as an undergrad to the following US schools:

School
Minimum IELTS Score
Notes
University of Washington
   
Michigan State University
   
University of Minnesota
   

 

To figure out what IELTS score each school requires, search for "[School Name] minimum IELTS score" or "[School Name] IELTS score requirement." You want to find official school web pages that are specifically for international undergraduate students, not graduate or other programs.

Alternatively, you can go directly to a school's website and look for links to pages for international students; they should have a section on English proficiency requirements somewhere.

After doing some research, you find that UW requires a minimum 6.0 IELTS score, MSU requires a 6.5, and UMN requires a 6.5 (with a minimum 6.5 Writing subscore).

You put all this information in your chart:

School
Minimum IELTS Score
Notes
University of Washington
6.0
Recommended 7.0
Michigan State University
6.5
6.0 for provisional admission
University of Minnesota
6.5 (with 6.5 Writing score)
5.5 for conditional admission

 

Now, look for the highest minimum IELTS in your chart: this is the IELTS score you'll need to be eligible for admission to all your schools. In this case, you'd need to have at least a 6.5 band score to get admitted to UW, MSU, and MSN (though with a 6.0, you could get admitted to UW and get conditionally admitted to both MSU and UMN).

Many schools offer conditional, or provisional, admission, which means they'll admit you, even if you have a lower IELTS score, as long as you still meet all the other academic requirements and are able and willing to complete an intensive English-language program (usually at the school).

Most US colleges require a minimum IELTS score of 6.0-7.0 for regular admission, with many of them asking for a specific subscore in the Writing section as well (usually 5.5-6.5).

In general, the more academically challenging a particular school is, the higher the IELTS score it'll require. This is the case with Ivy League schools, for instance, which normally require at least a 7.0 on the IELTS.

So even though there's no overall "passing" score on the IELTS, you must make sure that the score you get is ultimately good enough for your schools. If it's not, you can always retake the IELTS and hopefully earn a higher score!

 

What's Next?

Need to take (or retake) the IELTS? Get help (and pictures!) with our detailed step-by-step guide to IELTS registration.

What exactly is the IELTS? What kind of content does it test you on, and what is the format? Learn everything you need to know about the IELTS here in our introductory guide.

You might've heard of the TOEFL, which is another English proficiency exam similar to the IELTS. Read our rundown of how the TOEFL differs from the IELTS and learn how to convert your IELTS score to a TOEFL score (and vice versa).

 

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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