I am often asked about scoring and whether the examiner will give half bands for each criteria in the writing and speaking test. I assume people ask this because they are hoping that 4 scores of 6.5 could then be ’rounded up’ to make an overall writing or speaking score of band 7. I am afraid this does not happen. This sort of rounding up only occurs with your overall test score, based on the total of your scores for Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. The same does not happen with the 4 criteria used for speaking and writing because, as I explained in a previous post (see the link below), in order to score band 7, you must show this level consistently, in each criteria.
In The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, the writing and speaking scores were all awarded by a current examiner located in Cambridge. However, as this is a book aimed at teaching, not testing, there are times in the book (e.g. on page 155) when the examiner has indicated a score of ‘between a 5 and a 6’ for different criteria in speaking or writing. The aim of this is to teach you about the level. For Saida, the candidate you can see in the video, there are elements of bands 5 and 6 within two of her speaking criteria, so it is more helpful to say this than to only refer to one band.
When teaching, I find it helpful to use .5 scores for individual criteria because it shows students where they still need to improve and where they are already making progress. From the speaking test scores on page 155, we can see that, if Saida needs to score band 6 in speaking, she needs to work most on Fluency and coherence (where she is band 5), and has a little work to do on vocabulary and grammar (where she is between band 5 and band 6), but her pronunciation is fine. So giving this sort of feedback is very useful for students. In the real test, the examiner will make a firm decision for each criteria, which may result in a .5 score overall.
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You’ll find the previous post here: