IELTS Grading Criteria: Focus on what is IMPORTANT!

There are many myths about IELTS on the internet that cause students to feel needlessly stressed. Misinformation leads to confusion and valuable energy can be wasted worrying about things that are not important in the IELTS exam. Today’s blog post looks at what IS important, namely the IELTS grading criteria, and also highlights some of the things that are NOT important in IELTS Speaking.

The IELTS Speaking band score criteria are based on the following aspects of your English:

  1. Grammar
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Fluency + Coherence
  4. Pronunciation.

Each category is worth 25% of your grade. These are the only criteria you are graded on during the IELTS Speaking exam.

Understanding the Band Score Criteria

I have attached a link to the IELTS Speaking band score criteria below. On the file, you should find the band score you need and carefully read the stated criteria. If you don’t understand the criteria, it is impossible to prepare properly for the exam.


IELTS exam preparation can be very stressful. The preparation process is not helped by the fact that there is a lot of misinformation about the exam on the internet. Too many students waste valuable time worrying about things that don’t matter in the exam. Have you read the band score descriptors above? I bet you didn’t read anything about the following:

1. Clothes

IELTS is a speaking exam. It’s not a fashion contest and it’s not a job interview. It doesn’t matter how you dress. All you are graded on are the words that come out of your mouth.

2: Accent

You do not need to speak in a British accent during the exam! Think about this for a second: English is the native language of the USA, Canada, Ireland, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. A person from Australia speaks with a different accent to someone from the USA and even within these countries, there are hundreds of different accents. For example, in Ireland, a Dublin accent is completely different from a Belfast accent. So, which of these accents do you think you need to perfect for the exam? Of course, the answer is none, because accent is not mentioned anywhere in the scoring criteria.

Don’t waste your time worrying about your accent. Focus on pronunciation! Make sure that you can be clearly understood at all times.

3. Task Response

Unlike IELTS writing, there is no mention of task response in the speaking band descriptors. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you go slightly off-topic with your answers. Also, please remember that you do not have to use all the prompts provided in Speaking Part 2. They are there as a guideline to help you.

4. Telling the truth

You don’t have to tell the truth in the exam. Generally, you should tell the truth, only because it’s a lot easier to describe real events than imaginary ones. However, I always tell my students, “If the truth is complicated, tell an easy lie.”

5. Intelligent Arguments

This is a problem that affects a surprisingly high number of students. When asked a difficult question in part 3, they overthink their response and attempt a highly intelligent, insightful answer which they don’t have the language skills to properly communicate. Remember to keep it simple.

You don’t have to produce intelligent responses to impress the examiner. You will be judged only on the quality of your English, not your ideas.

IELTS can be stressful enough without worrying about things that have no relevance to the exam. Be wary about some of the ‘advice’ you read online and just focus on the only 4 criteria that matter: Grammar, Vocabulary, Fluency + Coherence and Pronunciation. :)

IELTS Speaking Band Score Criteria

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