What if the IELTS score is low? ( With Solutions)

One of the main concerns that students have when taking an English proficiency exam like the IELTS is the worry of failing or getting a lower score than they need. It is critical to address flaws in the learning process and devise effective tactics for overcoming the challenges of studying for the IELTS exam.

What if the IELTS score is low

The most essential aspect to remember when you get a poor score is that it is absolutely possible to improve your results in all modules by employing effective tactics and allocating adequate practice time. Discard any thoughts of defeat and gather your learning weapons to develop distinct techniques that will ensure success.

The tactics for increasing your score will differ according to the module you are struggling with as well as the band score you desire. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective rebound tactics for securing your desired score.

What should I do if my reading score is low?

When you discover that your reading score is low, the first thing you should do is figure out why. There are four key reasons why a candidate receives a poor reading score:

  1. Inability to comprehend the meaning of the reading passages.
  2. Difficulty in managing time to find the right answers and complete the test in one hour.
  3. Difficulty in choosing the right answer while being stuck with two or more answers. 
  4. Lack of proper strategies to find right answers quickly.

Once you’ve determined the cause(s) of your low score, it’s time to devise strategies.

If you are 0.5 band below your needed score, adopt the following tips:

  1. Determine the type of question for which you have the greatest susceptibility to underperform and devise a specific technique for it.
  2. Practice answering questions that you consistently get wrong.
  3. Do timed practice, but divide it into 20-minute segments and work on only one passage at a time to reduce worry and tension over finishing in the allotted one hour.
  4. Do not reread a sentence if you aren’t able to gather the answer by the first two reads as this can lead to confusion, dilemma in choosing the answer and eventually squandering time.
  5. Always read the question first, then highlight the important keywords and skim read while searching for your specific keywords.
  6. If you tend to spend more than one minute on a question, then skip it and come back later since being overfocused on the same question can exhaust you and you may never find the answer even when it is right in front of you. 
  7. Listen to BBC and CNN for honing your vocabulary skills which will be helpful for you in scoring better in the other modules too. 
  8. Read and follow the instructions carefully, as even minor errors can result in a lower grade.

Try the following solutions if you are one or more bands below your required score:

  1. Get familiar with the exam type reading passages by reading similar texts.
  2. Read any type of article but on a regular basis.
  3. Keep a “vocabulary journal” in which you write down at least five new words and their definitions that you learn each day.
  4. Try doing only one reading passage at a time, check the answers, rectify the errors and then only move to next.
  5. Halt timed practicing for a while since it might induce worry about finishing on time, making it difficult to focus on getting the right answers using the appropriate strategies.
  6. Monitor your score on a regular basis, and when you notice a significant improvement, begin undertaking timed practice.
  7. Even for timed practice, start with a 20-minute timer and do one passage at a time.
  8. Maintain a strict study schedule that allocates appropriate time to all types of reading questions.

What if I have a poor listening score?

Many candidates regard the listening module as a difficult call because anxiety and tension associated with attempting the module may play a significant influence in receiving low marks. Similar to reading, there are certain fundamental reasons why your listening score is low, which are as follows:

  1. Stress and fear cause a lack of concentration and focus.
  2. Inability to multitask since listening requires you to read the question and write the response simultaneously.
  3. Difficulty understanding the audio owing to lack of exposure to the accent and pronunciation discussed.

Let’s delve into some essential ways for improving your listening scores:

If you have a band score less than 5.5:

  1. Listen to BBC Learning English on a daily basis to improve your essential listening skills, and the website offers free simple, short, and effective sessions.
  2. Listen to small snippets of interviews or shows like Ted talks to acquaint with other accents.
  3. Only attempt one section at a time, and double-check your answers for errors.
  4. Listen again until you understand how the correct answer arose, then read the audio script if you are unsure about the content in the audio.
  5. Always keep track of your scores in a notepad and track your progress; once you see a visible improvement in your score, try doing two sections at a time, then the entire listening in one sitting.
  6. Determine the type of question with which you struggle the most and practise it more.
  7. Practise transferring the answers from the question booklet into the answer script by keeping a 10 minute timer. 

If your desired band score is 0.5 or lower than your present score:

  1. Practise consistently without any breaks.
  2. Determine which kind of questions cause you to lose points and devise appropriate methods for them.
  3. Train yourself to read the question quickly and underline the keywords.
  4. Maintain a ‘synonyms notebook,’ in which you record the common words and their synonyms that you come across during the listening test.
  5. Use official Cambridge books for practice because they include audio scripts for listening at the end of the book, and reading them while listening to the audio will help you improve your skills.
  6. Write precisely what you hear in the audio, without changing the form of the word, and especially without mixing up singular and plural.
  7. Regardless of how confident you are, read the instructions carefully each time because even little mistakes might cost you losing scores.

What if my writing score is low?

The writing module is infamous for scaring learners since it is one module where an excess of applicants suffer due to a low score. There are numerous elements to examine while determining why your score is lower. In the writing section, let us look at these aspects separately for Task 1 and Task 2.

Reasons for less scoring in Task 1 ( IELTS Academic – Report Writing)

  1. Inadequate comprehension of the question
  2. Presenting personal assumptions and opinions in the report.
  3. Lack of proper structure to the report which should include a paraphrase, an overall and two body paragraphs.
  4. Overstuffing the answer with all of the numericals from the question without adequate explanation.
  5. Presenting the facts in the question line by line without comparing and contrasting the information.
  6. Deficiency of ‘academic vocabulary’ and excessive repetition of words without the use of synonyms.
  7. There are numerous spelling mistakes.

Possible ways for boosting your writing score in Report Writing to a 7 band:

  1. Form a proper structure while practising itself and stick onto it. 
  2. Learn academic jargon connected with graph, map, and process diagram exam questions.
  3. Check your work with an experienced tutor or a friend (who has strong language abilities and may have taken the exam) to see where you are falling short.
  4. Maintain the flow of your learning process by doing constant practise with minimal gaps.
  5. Always write between 155 and 175 words because writing less will lower your score while writing more will not affect your score as long as you are producing content relevant to the topic.
  6. Gaining a comprehensive knowledge of the marking criteria will provide you with a clear picture of what an examiner expects of you and will also make it easier for you to identify the real flaws in your work.
  7. The report should include all of the key features of the graph as well as the most important numericals.
  8. Once you’ve mastered the various types of questions and associated vocabulary, try timed practice.
  9. When mentioning proportions, convert numericals to words whenever practical.
  10. Instead of employing difficult unfamiliar terminology, focus on acquiring synonyms for common words so you don’t have to repeat them in your answer.

Reasons for less scoring in Task 1 ( IELTS General – Letter Writing)

  1. Incorrect letter tone might result in low scores since a formal letter should be written in a formal tone and an informal letter in a casual tone.
  2. Not adhering to the proper letter format, which includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and an appropriate closing.
  3. Presenting ideas that are inconsistent and lack clarity.
  4. Failure to address all of the bullet points in the question in separate paragraphs.
  5. Missing the word count and making numerous spelling errors.

Possible strategies for upgrading your Letter Writing score to 7 band or higher:

  1. Make a list of every sort of letter asked in IELTS, from the general category of formal, semi-formal, and informal to the subcategory of invitation, apology, complaint letter, and so on.
  2. Once you’ve determined the sort of letter, practise writing it to master the structure, content, and tone that should be used for each one.
  3. To make your letter more realistic and organic, use phrases, emotion words, and paragraph connectors.
  4. Learn terminology linked to the topic that you should discuss in the question. For example, if the subject is about food and recipes, gather vocabulary related to it which can be utilised in the letters.
  5. If possible, Try to skip presenting common ideas as including unique ideas for content could lead to a better score.
  6. Learn to employ different opening and closing statements for various types of letters.
  7. Do not use variables or alphanumerics in place of people’s names, places, businesses, and so on. Always use names that are believable.
  8. The purpose of the letter should be stated clearly in the first paragraph.
  9. Having your answer evaluated by a tutor or a friend with a good grasp of grammar and lexical resources is important for improving your results because identifying and correcting your mistakes is essential.
  10. Write between 155 and 200 words, as less word count will lower your score.
  11. If you want to get a 6.5 or higher, try to incorporate at least three complex sentences in your letter.

Reasons for less score in Task 2 – Essay Writing 

The task 2 essay writing section is more difficult for students than the Task one writing segment, and since it has a higher score weightage, it is critical to perform well in this section. The following are some of the major reasons why candidates struggle with essay scores:

  1. Inability to comprehend all parts of the question and produce an answer that addresses all aspects of it, which, if not done correctly, will result in a low score in the ‘task achievement’ criteria of the writing assessment.
  2. Difficulty in properly constructing an essay that includes an introduction and conclusion as well as all of the other necessary paragraphs to address the topic question.
  3. Using redundant or ambiguous ideas that are unrelated to the question.
  4. Using memorised language or pre-structured words that are unsuitable for the context.
  5. Use of colloquial or regional terminology, idioms, and informal language.
  6. Failure to meet the minimum word count of 250.

Possible solutions for hiking your writing task 2 score to 7 band score and above:

  1. Read the question twice and make sure you understand what you’re intended to write, whether it’s an opinion, a discussion, or the benefits and drawbacks of a particular issue.
  2. Schedule your time so that you have at least 3 minutes to plan your essay and 2 minutes to proofread it at the end.
  3. Sort the essay questions into categories such as opinion essay, problem solution essay, discussion essay, and so on to help you develop a basic strategy for presenting these writings.
  4. During first practice, focus on writing points and ideas relevant to the topic question rather than time; once you’re confident in quickly formulating points for the essay, you’ll be able to finish on time.
  5. Structure the essay with at least four paragraphs so that you may present your views logically without losing coherence and cohesion.
  6. While attempting each form of essay, learn topic-related vocabulary, as there are many common topics repeated for the exam, such as education, crime, technology, and health.
  7. Learn from your errors by self-evaluation, and seek the assistance of a tutor or a buddy studying for the exam, since their advice will help you progress more quickly.
  8. Always dedicate one paragraph to the presentation of a single idea rather than writing ambiguous and opposing points in the same paragraph.
  9. In your essay, follow these ten formal writing guidelines as well:

Avoid Using:

  1. Contractions ( don’t)
  2. Slang words ( kids)
  3. Cliches and idioms ( every coin has two sides)
  4. Quotes ( money is the root of all evil)
  5. Questions ( so what to do?)
  6. Emotional language ( children are a blessing from God)
  7. Generalisations ( everyone loves music)
  8. Fake academic research 
  9. Phrasal verbs

Let me additionally provide you with a checklist that will help you verify whether you have included all the necessary factors in your writing work:

  • Did you double-check your grammar and spelling?
  • Did you complete the task completely?
  • Did you break the content down into paragraphs?
  • Did you include a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph?
  • Did you summarise your main points in the conclusion?
  • Did you mention the task again in the introduction?
  • Did you make use of linking words and discourse markers?
  • Did you look for any repetitions?
  • Have you used any complex sentences?

What if my speaking score is low?

Most language learners would agree that the most challenging skill to master in IELTS is speaking. You must produce error-free sentences, think about suitable vocabulary and correct pronunciation, avoid direct translation from your native language, convey the right message, apply the right tone, and organise your ideas. Speaking is a module that needs a face-to-face interaction with an examiner too, thus there is a chance of heightened stress and tension. Considerably overwhelming!

Let us look into the major reasons for lowered scores in speaking:

  1. Deviating from the question and thus not meeting the task completion.
  2. Stammering and stuttering with frequent extended pauses while answering.
  3. Frequent grammatical errors and repetition of the same vocabulary. 
  4. Overuse of idioms, fillers and connectives. 
  5. Speaking without using emotion, intonation, stress, or pausing.

Possible solutions for increasing your score to band 7 and above:

  1. Try practising with a tutor or a speaking partner on a daily basis to minimise your inhibition to speaking and boost your confidence.
  2. Extend your answers and talk more; for part one, aim to say at least two to three sentences and four to five sentences for part three.
  3. If you are unsure, don’t use memorised words or statements.
  4. Learn to make the most of the one minute allotted for cue card preparation by practising to take notes while keeping a one-minute timer going during the practise itself.
  5. Refer to the most recently asked and most frequently repeated cue card questions and try to come up with appropriate two-minute replies.
  6. Make a note of cue card questions that you find difficult. 
  7. Set a two-minute timer and record your response, which is the greatest technique to self-evaluate.
  8. Understand the scoring criteria so you can identify which yardsticks you lack proficiency in.
  9. Make sure you answer all of the sub questions that come with the main cue card.
  10. Learn how to pronounce the most often used words correctly.
  11. If you need a band score of 7.5 or more, your accent will be crucial.
  12. Maintain constant eye contact with the examiner and speak in a confident and pleasant manner.


Don’t be anxious if you received low scores on a practice test or on your first attempt at the exam. Language learning is not a quick process; it demands constant practice and time commitment. Your scores will undoubtedly improve if you recognise your weakness and use tactics to overcome it. The secret is to be confident and don’t give up!.

Shruthi Raveendran

I am Shruthi Raveendran, a TEFL-certified IELTS/PTE and ESL tutor who has 8+ years of experience working in the education industry. I am a passionate writer, logophile and film enthusiast

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