How is IELTS speaking marked?

Insights on how IELTS Speaking is marked

IELTS Speaking is a very tricky skill as there is no specific rule or criteria based on which examiners can assess the candidate’s skills. However, let me tell you one thing frankly. Every IELTS examiner goes through rigorous training and they are taught to assess different skills of speaking individually. There is general guideline on which describes how IELTS speaking is scored.

IELTS Speaking test structure

In general, speaking is score on four main criteria.

1. Fluency and Coherence

2. Lexical Resource

3. Grammatical Range and accuracy

4. Pronunciation

Each part carries 25% of the total band score. So, it is absolutely necessary that we learn every part of this skill. On top of that, each part is closely related to another marking criterion, so there is no scope for neglecting any of these four criteria.

OK, let’s get some idea about all of them.

1. Fluency and Coherence:

Fluency is the speed and tone of the spoken language. Fluency does not mean that you should never take any pause. The pauses are necessary part of the spoken language and more than anything else, they help understanding more. Coherence is how certain topics are related to each other and how the whole topic is bound together.

2. Lexical Resources:

Lexical resource is the range of vocabulary you use in the speaking. This does not mean that you should include the scientific language which very few people might have studied. This simply means using the correct vocabulary with full flexibility and it means using vocabulary with very few repetition. In this part, the vocabulary can also be idiomatic and in fact idiomatic vocabulary is a sign of higher band level students. Idiomatic language does not only mean idioms. Phrasal verbs are also considered as idiomatic and even simple terms like “over the last twenty years” is also somewhat idiomatic. So, use vocabulary that is idiomatic but do not use improper words in a wrong context.

Grammatical Range and accuracy:

This shows your command over English grammar structures and how easily you can move from one tense to another while speaking in a natural environment. IELTS exam questions are framed in that way that you may need to change your tenses in consecutive questions and this criterion determines your ability to understand the question as well as replying in a proper tense. Using improper tense can easily result in a wrong information or misunderstanding. That is why this grammar and accuracy part is very crucial in the whole exam.


Spoken language is also marked on the pronunciation of the candidate. Native speakers use specific pronunciation and stress patterns which helps them in understanding. Obviously pronunciation and accent are totally different. Accent is specific to a group or region and in the exam all accents are perfectly valid whether you speak with American accent or British, both are marked equally. However, there is specific stress pattern in every word which differs from other words and even there is stress pattern in every sentence. This is what makes pronunciation a little bit difficult. Non-native speakers find it very difficult to adjust and speak in a natural way but with practice it will become easy.

There is a public version of the IELTS speaking band descriptor which explains how different band levels vary and what skills you need to achieve your desired band score. You can download this public version here.


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