There can be a vast difference in the IELTS score required, differing from institution to institution as well as among programs within each institution. It is best to check the individual program application requirements to determine the level required. However, to give you a better idea of what the different caliber of universities generally require, here is a breakdown summary that you can use as a general guide.
The top 2 universities (as named by Times Higher Education University rankings 2018) and the IELTS score required for international students:
- Oxford University: 7
- Cambridge University: 7
It would be wise to note that these are indeed the minimum requirements for program entry, so in order to have an application with a competitive edge, you would be looking at a score of 7.5 or above.
The more mid-range universities (as named by Times Higher Education University rankings 2018) and their IELTS score requirements:
- University of Warwick (91st world ranking) – has an IELTS minimum band requirement of 6, however they split all their courses into bands A-C.
- Band A courses require a score of 6.5 including minimum 6.0 in each component band score.
- Band B courses require a score of 6.0 including minimum 5.5 in each component.
- Band C courses require a score of 7.0 including minimum 6.5 in each component
- University of Leeds (139th world ranking) – has an IELTS minimum score of 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in each component skill across all undergraduate programs.
There are universities in the UK that will accept lower scores than a 5.5. However, across the majority of quality programs a “Competent Level” of English proficiency is required for you to be able to gain the most from a course led in English. Always bear in mind that if 5.5 is a minimum requirement, in order for an application to be competitive you will likely need to score higher than a 6. Find out more information on IELTS preparation and free practice resources available.
How to get Top IELTS Scores
Firstly, for both the Reading and Writing modules, make sure you give an answer for every question. Even if you are well prepared for IELTS, you could find yourself missing some of the answers on the Listening module or running out of time in the Reading module –timing is very tight for the Reading module. If you have a few questions that you haven’t been able to answer fully, it is better just to guess and gain a chance of picking up the marks, rather than leaving questions unanswered.
In the Writing module, make sure you read the question carefully, double check that you understand what you have been asked to do and make sure you answer the question as accurately and fully as possible. For example: If in Task 2 you are asked ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree’ you should discuss how much you, not other people, agree or disagree with the statement. Not answering the specific question given is one of the main reasons candidates are marked down.
If you have a good level of English, you do not want to see your Writing band score (and thus your overall band score) go down because you failed to answer the question. On the plus side, if you do a good job of simply answering the questions that are asked, this will have the effect of boosting your score (for Task Achievement in Task 1 and Task Response in Task 2), even if you are weaker in the other criteria, since you will score highly (closer to 9) in that first criterion. In addition, you have to make sure that you write enough words. For Task 1, you must write at least 150 words and for Task 2, at least 250 words. If you write less than these amounts, you will be deducted marks.
Of all the modules, test-takers will often find the Speaking module to be the most challenging, because Speaking is the module that is most affected by your personality. You may be a quiet and shy person who doesn’t say very much even in your mother tongue, so you may find the Speaking interview particularly challenging. Unfortunately, the examiner can’t take this into consideration, so you need to speak as much as you can. It helps to remember that the examiner, unlike a teacher, is looking for the positives in your English, so the more you can say, the more chance you have to get a higher score. Some candidates feel that there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ answer and that they will be judged on this. This is not the case; the examiner is only interested in how you express your ideas in English – it doesn’t matter what those ideas are.