Do you want to get a band 8 in IELTS? In this post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know. There will be no “tricks and tips,” no false promises, and no confusing stuff. It’s just honest, realistic advice and information.

How can I score band 8 overall?

What most people overlook is the fact that IELTS is a test of your English. There are no tricks, cheats, or shortcuts to getting a band 8. You simply have to have a certain level of English ability.

Put simply, a band 8 candidate is a “very good user” of English. According to the British Council, these people:

  • have a fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage.
  • may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations.
  • handle complex detailed argumentation well.

In other words, their English is extremely good but not perfect. This should be in your mind when you think about your IELTS score. Don’t think of luck or exam techniques. Instead, know that you will be awarded a grade appropriate for your skill level.

What combination of scores total a band 8?

Your IELTS grades will be added up and averaged to give your overall score, which will be rounded to the nearest half point (e.g. 7.5). This gives you some leeway when you are preparing for the test. Most IELTS candidates, for example, find that writing is that hardest part of the exam and so they might consider aiming for the following:


The average of their scores would be: 9 + 9 + 7 + 7 = 32 /4 = 8.

Note also that your grade will be rounded up rather than down. Band 6.25, for example, becomes band 6.5. Band 7.75 becomes band 8.

Of course, you should not aim for this. Obviously, you should aim to do your best in each category. However, some people find it useful to know that their weakness in one area can be balanced out by strength in another area.

How to score band 8 in IELTS reading

If you want to score band 8 in IELTS reading, then it depends whether you are taking IELTS academic or general. These have slightly different requirements.

IELTS Academic

Band ScoreCorrect Answers (out of 40)

IELTS General

Band ScoreCorrect Answers (out of 40)

As you can see from these IELTS reading score calculators, in order to get a band 8 in IELTS academic, you must get 35 or 36 out of 40 questions correct. For IELTS general, you must get 37 or 38 out of 40 questions correct.

This does not leave much room for error. As such, you need to practise often and work on a variety of skills:

Remember that you cannot have points removed for incorrect answers, so you should always take a guess. Do not waste time and make sure that you write your answers carefully with no spelling mistakes. Even a tiny error could cause you to get a band 7.5 instead of band 8.

I would strongly recommend that you read articles of different types every day, even when you are not practising specifically for IELTS. The more you read, the better you will become.

How to score band 8 in IELTS listening

The IELTS listening exam is the same regardless of whether you take academic or general IELTS, so there is no difference in the score required:

Band ScoreCorrect Answers (out of 40)

For the listening test, then, you must score either 35 or 36 out of 40 in order to achieve a band 8. Again, it is a difficult task because there you cannot make many mistakes.

Try to practise your listening skills every day in different ways. Listen to different types of audio: podcasts, radio shows, TV shows, movies, TED talks, lectures, and anything else in English. Listen to a wide variety of accents and subject matter. Question the things you hear – What does that word mean? What about that change in intonation? Can you guess the meaning of this unfamiliar word?

How to score band 8 in IELTS speaking

When we get to the productive skills (speaking and writing), people generally find that it is more difficult to achieve a high score. There are also a wide variety of myths to explain the lower scores. Because your English being marked subjectively, people tend to infer prejudice, but there should be none. Instead, you will be assigned the score that you deserve.

The IELTS examiners will mark candidates’ scores according to four criteria:

  • Fluency and Coherence (how freely and easily you speak)
  • Lexical Resource (your vocabulary)
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy (your grammar)
  • Pronunciation (how clearly you speak)

Each of these is weighted the same and is worth 25% of your total. You cannot be marked with a half band score for any of the individual parts, but your total will be rounded up accordingly. For example:

Fluency and Coherence8
Lexical Resource7
Grammatical Range and Accuracy7

If you scored band 7.75, it would be rounded up to a band 8. If you got band 8.25, it would become 8.5.

Again, there are no tricks or shortcuts to score band 8. You just need to speak English very well. If you don’t, you cannot fool the examiner into giving you a great score. There are no magic words that you can say to turn a band 6 into a band 7 or 8. Examiners are trained to judge you objectively on the above criteria.

How can I practise effectively for IELTS speaking?

There are many things you can do:

All of these things will help but don’t focus too much on any one part. Think of it as an organic process of continual progress. Quite frankly, if you are scoring a band 6 but you need a band 8, you should not waste your money booking an IELTS test. Work hard over a realistic period of time until you are ready.

How to score band 8 in IELTS writing

Now we come to the hardest part. Most IELTS candidates struggle with writing. I have explained the reasons here in great detail, but I shall summarise:

  • IELTS writing contains many aspects you don’t need to consider for other parts of the test: punctuation, paragraph structure, and essay structure, as well as things that are less important in other parts: spelling, grammar, question analysis, etc.

However, let’s not focus too much on why it is difficult because if you have great English skills you should be able to score band 8. There is no secret. You do not need to employ any magical words or use a set formula for your structure. (However, structure is important and it should be logical.)

For this part of the test, the examiners will judge your work in four areas:

  • Task Response/Achievement (how well or fully you answer the question)
  • Coherence and Cohesion (how well you link your ideas)
  • Lexical Resource (this means vocabulary)
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy (again, this is grammar)

Thus, to score a band 8, you need to make sure that your performance averages out with at least 7.75:

Task Achievement9
Coherence and Cohesion8
Lexical Resource8
Grammatical Range and Accuracy6

This is a total of band 8 because the scores are 9 + 8 + 8 + 6 = 31/ 4 = 7.75. That is rounded up to a band 8 overall.

Strategies for scoring band 8

I have written many times about succeeding in IELTS writing, but one thing to consider is the balance of your scores. Above, I showed a way of getting 7.75 because typically excelling in Grammatical Range and Accuracy is extremely hard. Even native speakers make so many errors in grammar that we would struggle to score more than a 7 here. As such, one strategy for success is attempting to ace the easier parts (Task Achievement and Coherence and Cohesion), then just try your best for the harder ones (Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy).

I suggest this approach because it is possible to master Task Achievement and Coherence and Cohesion in a short period of time. I can typically teach my students this in just a few days, whereas Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy can take months or years. In fact, as I have alluded to, success in grammar can take many years.

Try this book if you want a better IELTS writing score.

I will also direct you to these resources, which are very important:

The best way to improve your IELTS writing score

If you are struggling to get a band 8, then you need a teacher who can show you all of your errors. Unfortunately, 99% of the ones you find online are unqualified. They cannot use English well themselves and so they cannot help you.

I have worked as a teacher, writer, and editor since 2007. My grammar skills and knowledge of IELTS are excellent, so I have combined them into a writing correction service. Sadly, there are now many imitators but none of them offers a competent service. If you want the best, click the above link to see my qualifications and some samples. If you still have doubts, send me an e-mail and we can talk about it some more.