Download PDF File - Setting Standards for IELTS Scores.pdf

There is no fixed ‘pass mark’ for IELTS. The appropriate IELTS score required for a given
purpose is ultimately something which institutions such as university departments, colleges,
professional bodies or immigration authorities must decide. You may do this in the light of
your knowledge of the demands placed on language ability in your working context, and your
experience of students entering a course of study/training, of employees entering a working
environment or of migrants entering a new country.

Standards setting is the process of deciding which IELTS score a candidate would need to
present before they could be allowed to enter a particular course, register as a professional
or participate in a specific working environment, etc.

Arriving at an appropriate standard involves answering two key questions about the use you
make of IELTS scores.

1. What is the minimal level of English that would enable an individual to cope with the
language demands involved in your working context? In other words, what kinds of
reading, writing, listening and speaking are involved in this context and how well does
someone need to be able to do these things in order to ‘get by’?

2. How does this minimally acceptable level of English translate into scores on the IELTS test?
Answering these questions will require judgement on your part and you will probably want to
take account of a number of factors in arriving at a decision:

a. Who are the most appropriate people to take decisions on standards in this context
(e.g. English language educators/academic staff/students/managers, etc.)?

b. Should you set a single standard? Or should there be different requirements (e.g. for
undergraduate and postgraduate students or for professionals in different roles)?

c. Do you already require a minimum score for IELTS and are you and your colleagues
satisfied that this is the most appropriate minimum score?

Procedures for setting standards

There is extensive literature on standards setting and the relative merits of various methods
available. Those interested in conducting their own standards setting exercises should first
consult Cizek (2001) for a useful introduction to the field. The IELTS partners have been
involved in a number of large-scale standards setting exercises with professional bodies and
universities. Interested readers might like to consult these for further guidance. Reports on
these studies will appear in Research Notes, available from Cambridge ESOL:

In outline, setting or confirming appropriate local standards for IELTS scores would typically
involve the following steps:

1. Poll colleagues who work with international students, trainees or others on current IELTS
score requirements.

a. Adapt the User Questionnaire included on this DVD to match your working context.

b. Distribute the questionnaire to those involved in working with international students or
with other individuals who have presented IELTS scores to your institution.

c. Look at the questionnaire responses to see whether the minimum score
requirements currently in operation are generally believed to be appropriate or
whether they may need to be changed.

2. Convene a standards setting committee made up of representatives of any groups who
would be affected by any changes in the minimum scores you set. This panel should
represent those with an interest in the use made of IELTS scores (these might include
employers, teachers from receiving departments, language experts, administrators and
former IELTS candidates).

The panel could follow the steps below to arrive at a minimum required IELTS score:

a. Discuss the minimum level of English Writing and Speaking ability required for the
purpose of participating in academic study, training or skilled work as appropriate to
the context.

b. Look at the band descriptors provided on this DVD for the Writing and Speaking tests
in order to compare these with their views on the minimum level of English required.

c. View the sample Writing test scripts and video clips of Speaking tests provided on
this DVD to make judgements about which level of performance on the test
corresponds to the minimally acceptable ability they believe is required. This will form
their recommendation for the minimum IELTS Writing and Speaking requirement.

d. Discuss the minimum level of English Reading and Listening ability required for the
purpose of participating in academic study, training or skilled work as appropriate to
the context.

e. Consider the sample Reading and Listening material included on this DVD. This
should be supplemented by the Specimen Materials supplied by the IELTS partners
and available through the IELTS website: The committee should judge
how many questions a minimally proficient candidate would be able to answer
correctly (referring to the Answer Keys, and the information on how many correct
answers on a test will relate to particular band scores (provided on this DVD in the
documents ‘How to Interpret Scores on the Sample Listening Sections’, ‘How to
Interpret Scores on the Sample General Training Reading Sections’ and ‘How to
Interpret Scores on the Sample Academic Reading Sections’). Converting the
number of correct answers into IELTS bands will lead to the recommendation for
Reading and Listening requirements.

3. Once the panel has arrived at recommendations regarding appropriate score
requirements, these should be evaluated in the light of further experience.

Recommended Reading

Cizek, GJ (2001) Setting Performance Standards: Concepts, Methods and. Perspectives,
New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers

IELTS Quick Links

An Introduction to IELTS

Setting Standards

Marking and Interpreting Scores


Academic Reading

General Training Reading

Academic Writing

General Training Writing


Legal Statement

This website is a public resource of general information which is intended, but not promised or guaranteed, to be complete, accurate, and up-to-date. This website is not intended to provide legal advice, and therefore, does not invite or create an attorney-client relationship. Visitors to this website should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information available via this website, and should always seek the advice of competent counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Nothing in this website is to be considered as either creating an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Mendoza Australian Immigration Solutions or as rendering legal advice for any specific matter. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel. Mendoza Australian Immigration Solutions expressly disclaims any and all liability with regard to actions taken or not taken based upon the content of this website.

This website is not sponsored or associated with any particular linked entity unless so stated. The existence of any particular link is intended solely to provide viewers with information which may be of interest to them. Mendoza Australian Immigration Solutions takes no responsibility for the content or accuracy of information contained on a linked site.

Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.

Contact Us

Level 13, Queen St.,Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

 Australian Visa Consultants Operating Hours Monday to Friday: 8am - 5pm 

Phone +613-8648-6525

Cellphone 927-530-7852

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


With offices based in Philippines.

Mindanao branch: 2nd Floor, St. Gregory's Building, 6th cor. 17th Sts. Nazareth, Cagayan De Oro City, 9000 Philippines

 Australian Visa Consultants Operating Hours Monday to Friday: 8am - 5pm 

Phone +63 88 323 4252

Cellphone+63 927 530 7852 

Email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


 Luzon branch: Level 10-1 Fort Legend Tower, 31 Sts. & 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, 1634 Philippines

 Australian Visa Consultants Operating Hours Monday to Friday: 8:30am - 7pm  
       Saturday 10am - 3pm

Phone +63 02 224 4334

Cellphone+63 927 530 7852 

Email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.