The IELTS qualification

The Greene’s English language programme is based around the internationally recognised IELTS framework. IELTS stands for “International English Language Testing System” and is the world’s proven English language test and the pioneer of the “four skills” approach. See: www.ielts.org

Today, most internationally recognised English language tests base their assessment on the “four skills” of Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking of which IELTS was a pioneer.

The usual starting point for sixth form study at Greene’s is an IELTS score of 5.5 and for university entrance a score of 7.5 is often required. To work effectively for an international organisation you should also be aiming at a score of above 7.5.

Indicative IELTS levels required for university study

IELTS scoreAcademic university coursesTraining & vocational university courses
Linguistically demanding
e.g. Medicine, Law, Linguistics, Journalism, Library Studies
Linguistically less demanding
e.g. Agriculture, Pure Mathematics, Technology, Computer-based work, Telecommunications
Linguistically demanding
e.g. Air Traffic Control, Engineering, Pure Applied Sciences, Industrial Safety
Linguistically less demanding
e.g. Catering, Fire Services, Animal Husbandry
7.5+AcceptableAcceptableAcceptableAcceptable
7.0Probably acceptableAcceptableAcceptableAcceptable
6.5English study neededProbably acceptableAcceptableAcceptable
6.0English study neededEnglish study neededProbably acceptableAcceptable
5.5English study neededEnglish study neededEnglish study neededProbably acceptable

As the table below shows, IELTS scores are also easily be compared with other recognised testing systems such as TOEFL iBT using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

IELTS scores compared with TOEFL iBT using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

CEFR A2 B1 B2 C1
TOEFL iBT 57-86 87-109 110-120
IELTS 3.0-3.5 4.0-4.5 5.0-6.5 7.0-8.0

IELTS is accepted as evidence of English language proficiency by over 9,000 organisations worldwide. Last year, more than 2.2 million tests were taken globally. IELTS is recognised as a secure, valid and reliable indicator of true-to-life ability to communicate in English for education, immigration and professional accreditation.

IELTS is jointly owned by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment through more than 1,000 test centres and locations in over 140 countries.

The IELTS scoring system:

IELTS candidates are graded on their performance, using scores from 1 to 9 for each part of the test – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The results from the four parts then produce an Overall Band Score.

This unique 9-band system measures scores in a consistent manner – wherever and whenever the test is taken. It is internationally recognised and understood, giving you a reliable international currency. IELTS scores have a recommended validity period of two years.

The IELTS 9-band scale

Each band corresponds to a level of English competence. All parts of the test and the Overall Band Score can be reported in whole and half bands, e.g. 6.5, 7.0, 7.5, 8.0.

Band 9:
Expert user
Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
Band 8:
Very good user
Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
Band 7:
Good user
Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
Band 6:
Competent user
Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
Band 5:
Modest user
Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
Band 4:
Limited user
Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
Band 3:
Extremely limited user
Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
Band 2:
Intermittent user
No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
Band 1:
Non-user
Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.