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If you fall into the category of many candidates, those with a band score of 6 and pushing for a band 7, then you may find the path to a 7 is peppered with obstacles. The most important thing to remember is that it's possible to go from a 6 to a 7 with the appropriate time and effort.  

A band score of 6 indicates a certain level of proficiency in English – you may have written the test several times and found that you have reached 6.5, but that doesn’t fulfil the requirements of your employer or entrance into a university program. This blog is meant to help you unlock some of the mystery surrounding a band 7 score on the IELTS. Additionally, you may have some new strategies to help you achieve a 7 on your IELTS Writing and Speaking tests.

If you have read this blog in the past, you'll know how important it is to familiarize yourself with the band scores. Speaking and Writing descriptors are available online and all IELTS preparation should include close consultation with the band score descriptors. IELTS Writing and Speaking examiners are trained to follow the descriptors and spend a great deal of time and effort applying the band score descriptors to the language produced by the candidates.

During the process of preparing for the IELTS, try to look at the exam day as an opportunity to give the examiner a sample of the full range of language available to you.

The math

The first thing to think about is the math behind achieving a band score of 7. Either you score a ‘flat 7’, so you have 7 in all categories of the band descriptors, or you can get an average by receiving 6 in one category and an 8 in another. Usually, candidates will fall within one or two band scores – but anything is possible.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses requires self-awareness and it can help you to have an experienced IELTS tutor give you a detailed assessment of exactly where you should focus your efforts.

Precise expression

When examining the differences between a 6 and a 7, you may notice that the language in the descriptors is very similar – therefore the small differences in word choice become significant. For example, what is the difference between, ‘a mix of simple and complex sentences’ (band 6) and ‘a variety of complex structures’ (band 7)?

The real difference between a 6 and a 7 on the IELTS boils down to your ability to express yourself with a higher level of precision. If there's anything unfamiliar in the following paragraph, this is a great place to start as it provides a summary of the descriptors for a band 7.

In the Writing test of the IELTS test, precision means that you have answered all parts of the writing prompt and expanded your thoughts enough so that the examiner can see you have a clear point of view from beginning to end. Your ideas must be in a logical order and connected using transition words and phrases. Your vocabulary choices must show that you can use less common language and collocations in a variety of sentence structures.

Your turn

To internalize the information in the band descriptors, try writing a summary of band 6 and band 7, and then look at the band 8 descriptors. Do this for the Writing and the Speaking tests of the IELTS. Write this summary in your own words so that you must go through the process of examining and re-examining the band descriptors with the goal of focusing on the subtle differences between them. The more you familiarize yourself with the language IELTS uses to describe the difference between a 6, 7 and 8 band score, the more meaning the language will have.

Keep your eyes and ears open for collocations and less common language, write it down and make it your mission to use this language in an email or conversation. There's still room for error on the IELTS, so you don't have to be perfect. Remember, give the IELTS examiner a sample of language that will allow them to award you with your goal band score…or higher!

Good luck.

By Lauren McKenzie