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How to Get Band 7 in IELTS

The IELTS exam is graded from 1-9, which band 9 indicating an expert user. Generally, band 9 can be thought of as native-level. It is the ultimate target for all English learners, but for most students, the most realistic target is band 7, meaning a fluent user.

Band 7 is the category most students want to achieve because it is the most commonly cited IELTS requirement. Around the world, universities, governments, and businesses are looking for people with IELTS band 7. They don’t want band 5 or band 6… and it is rare to see them ask for students with a band 8 or band 9.

So how do you get an IELTS band 7? In this article, I will explain how to get a band 7 in each section of the IELTS exam.

success 300x154 - How to Get Band 7 in IELTS

Keep going and you will reach success

Reading

In the IELTS reading exam, there are 40 questions. In order to get a band 7, you need to answer 30-32 questions correctly. That means making no more than 10 incorrectly!

The best way to ensure this is to work on your reading skills prior to the exam. Practice reading quickly, because time is the biggest difficulty. Also work on familiarizing yourself with different reading question types and learning lots of different synonyms so you can more easily locate information in the text.

Here is how the academic reading test is marked:

Band Score 9 8.5 8 7.5 7 6.5 6 5.5 5
Questions Correctly Answered 40-39 38-37 36-35 34-33 32-30 29-27 26-23 22-19 18-15

Knowing this marking scheme is very useful in guiding your exam preparation. If you got band 5 in your previous exam, you may have scored just 15/40 and therefore would need twice as many correct answers to get a band 7! That is a huge difference.

You should practice reading often under exam conditions and you will find that your reading skills increase, allowing you to move slowly but steadily towards your band 7 goal.

Listening

The IELTS listening is marked pretty similarly to the reading exam, in that there are forty questions to answer. To get a band 7 or higher requires score at least 30/40, meaning you can make no more than ten mistakes.

The marking is done like this:

Band Score 9 8.5 8 7.5 7 6.5 6 5.5 5
Questions Correctly Answered 40-39 38-37 36-35 34-32 31-30 29-26 25-23 22-18 17-16

Again, it is useful to do some practice listening activities such as past exam papers. You can check your score and then convert it into a band using the table above.

It is important to study in this way so you can make a plan. For exam, if you have a band 6 and need to get a band 7, you know that you need to answer an extra 5 to 7 questions correctly. You can then work out an appropriate training regime and do enough listening practice to get your score up to the desired level.

ielts listening 1 e1442058067398 300x168 - How to Get Band 7 in IELTS

Writing

The writing exam is harder for students to understand because it is somewhat subjective. You don’t get a score like 30/40 and convert it into a band. Instead, you have certain criteria that need to be met, and these correspond to the bands.

This can be a little complicated, which is why it requires trained, professional IELTS examiners to give the correct scores. Most students can figure out their own listening and reading scores, but they can almost never guess their own writing level.

The writing exam is marked in four areas:writing essay 300x134 - How to Get Band 7 in IELTS

  • Task Achievement
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy

You will be given a score (1-9) in each of these, and the average will make your total writing band score. Keep in mind, however, that there are different requirements for task 1 and task 2, which we will look at next.

Task 1

To get a band 7 in IELTS writing task 1, the following are required:

Task Achievement Coherence and Cohesion Lexical Resource Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • covers the requirements of the task
  • presents a clear overview of main trends, differences or stages
  • clearly presents and highlights key features / bullet points but could be more fully extended
  • logically organises information and ideas; there is clear progression throughout
  • uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under-/over-use
  • uses a sufficient range of vocabulary to allow some flexibility and precision
  • uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation
  • may produce occasional errors in word choice, spelling and/or word formation
  • uses a variety of complex structures
  • produces frequent error-free sentences
  • has good control of grammar and punctuation but may make a few errors

So what does this mean, in simple English? It means that essentially you have answered the question in a basic way, covering the main details of the line graph or bar chart or process diagram. Your essay is logical and not too repetitive, with some errors but not too many.

Task 2

The marking rubric for IELTS writing task 2, band 7, looks like this:

Task Achievement Coherence and Cohesion Lexical Resource Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • addresses all parts of the task
  • presents a clear position throughout the response
  • presents, extends and supports main ideas, but there may be a tendency to overgeneralise and/or supporting ideas may lack focus
  • logically organises information and ideas; there is clear progression throughout
  • uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under-/over-use
  • presents a clear central topic within each paragraph
  • uses a sufficient range of vocabulary to allow some flexibility and precision
  • uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation
  • may produce occasional errors in word choice, spelling and/or word formation
  • uses a variety of complex structures
  • produces frequent error-free sentences
  • has good control of grammar and punctuation but may make a few errors

As you can see, it is very similar but with the requirements tailored to task 2 instead of task 1. Generally speaking, you also have to be able to write with few errors, use some good language, and organize your essays clearly and logically. The ability to paragraph correctly is essential here.

Some IELTS Writing Tips for Band 7

There is a lot of bullshit out there about getting band 7 in IELTS. On YouTube and in all the IELTS training schools, people tell students “Do this one thing and get a BAND 7!!!” but in my opinion you cannot trust this. As we saw above, getting a band 7 requires a relatively high level of English. You cannot fake it or cheat it or learn “one simple trick”. It is hard work that matters most.

However, knowing what you need to do to get band 7 is very helpful. You can see, for example, that you need a range of grammar – so don’t just use the same structures over and over. You can see that you can include some uncommon vocabulary – so don’t go crazy and use all the longest words you know!

Moreover, consider that each of these areas is worth 25% of your writing grade. That can help you because some of them are obviously more difficult than others. For example, it takes many years to get good at grammar but you can learn to structure an essay in less than one day.

I recommend having an IELTS tutor mark your essay and show you the feedback based on the above grading system. It will really help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you can work on improving the right things.

Speaking

Getting a band 7 in IELTS speaking is another area of worry for many students. Although some naturally feel that speaking is their greatest strength, others tend to worry about it. For one thing, it is really hard to get good feedback on your speaking skills.

As always, it is important to know your target. The IELTS speaking exam is marked in four areas:

  • Fluency and Coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation

We will now look at what you should do to get a band 7 in each of these four areas:

Fluency and Coherence Lexical Resource Grammatical Range and Accuracy Pronunciation
  • speaks at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence
  • may demonstrate language-related hesitation at times, or some repetition and/or self-correction
  • uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility
  • uses vocabulary resource flexibly to discuss a variety of topics
  • uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and shows some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriate choices
  • uses paraphrase effectively
  • uses a range of complex structures with some flexibility
  • frequently produces error-free sentences, though some grammatical mistakes persist
  • shows all the positive features of Band 6 and some, but not all, of the positive features of Band 8

 

So what does this actually mean, in plain and simple English? Essentially, a band 7 candidate can speak without too much hesitation, using some basic language to connect ideas and some uncommon language to develop ideas. Grammar is not perfect, but not bad.

The last column, pronunciation, just states that the candidate is between band 6 and band 8.

Here is band 6:

  • uses a range of pronunciation features with mixed control
  • shows some effective use of features but this is not sustained
  • can generally be understood throughout, though mispronunciation of individual words or sounds reduces clarity at times

And band 8:

  • uses a wide range of pronunciation features
  • sustains flexible use of features, with only occasional lapses
  • is easy to understand throughout; L1 accent has minimal effect on intelligibility

To get a band 7, then, means have all those features included in band 6 and just some from band 8. So perhaps you have a strong accent that somewhat affects the examiner’s understanding… Well, you could still get a band 7.

Getting an Overall Band 7

Ok, so today we have looked at getting a band 7 in each section of the IELTS exam. This is important to know because, if you really want a band 7, then you should aim for 7/7/7/7 – in other words, a band 7 in each section.

Of course, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some people just can’t seem to improve their writing skills enough, and always get a 6 or 6.5. Others panic badly in the speaking exam and also fail to reach the required band 7.

If that is the case, and you just need an overall band 7, you needn’t worry too much. Your overall score is calculated by averaging your four individual scores like this:

band 7 252x300 - How to Get Band 7 in IELTS

I would strongly recommend working on each area of your IELTS skills; however, if you do have one area in which you are particularly strong, remember that it will positively affect your overall score, bringing your grade up hopefully to the desired level.

Good luck!

Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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