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The impact of half band scores on the IELTS Speaking section

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As you know, the Speaking section in IELTS is now rated differently since half band-scores were introduced. This post should answer the question so many students are asking – what is the difference between Band 5.5 and 6, what do I need to improve to get that extra half band? In my understanding (and according to what www.ielts.org says), this is the difference between the band scores for the Speaking test:

Speaking Band 5.0

The candidate tries to keep the speech flowing but their hesitation gets in the way. The responses are rather short, the candidate tries to use linking words but they seem forced. Only simple sentences are fluent, in the more complex ones the coherence is much worse. There are repetitions of the same words and the same sentence structures. The candidate’s pronunciation is not very good, which includes incorrect stress in words.

Speaking Band 5.5

The candidate gives short answers, is not willing to talk at length. Responses answer exactly what he’s being asked. He hesitates a little and sometimes uses linking words incorrectly. His vocabulary is simple but sufficient for him to talk on the subject and make himself clear. The grammar of simple sentences is mostly accurate, but there are several errors in more complex sentences, many of which are left incomplete. There are many mispronounced words.

Speaking Band 6

The candidate is willing to talk at length, not always directly answering the question. The speech is mostly fluent with some hesitation and repetition. Usage of linking words (such as ‘however’, ‘on the one hand’, ‘then again’, etc) is there, but not always they are used appropriately or accurately. The vocabulary is large enough for the candidate to speak on the given topic and he is easy to understand, even if there are some grammatical errors. The candidate uses both simple and complex sentence structures; but it shows that the grammar in the complex ones is harder for him to control. The pronunciation is mostly correct with occasional errors.

Speaking Band 6.5

The candidate can talk at length without much hesitation or repetition. His sentences are easy to follow – the information has a sequence and he uses linking words to move smoothly from one idea to another. His vocabulary includes not only simple but also sophisticated words on the subject, even if sometimes the choice of a word is inappropriate, the meaning is perfectly clear. Strong accent gets in the way of correct pronunciation.

Speaking Band 7

The candidate speaks smoothly without much effort. The linking words are used naturally and in the right places. He doesn’t cover the whole subject in his answers. His vocabulary is appropriate but not sophisticated and doesn’t show variations, the language is fluent but relatively simple. He uses some idioms and sometimes does that inappropriately. The control of grammar is good, the mistakes are rare. His pronunciation is good and the accent doesn’t get in the way.

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