Modified March 31, 2018


How Much Work to Get to 7?

I think a lot of people would like an answer to the question, "How much work will I need to do in order to get a 7 for Speaking?"

Someone who gets a 7 for Speaking is also assumed to get around 7 for the whole test, comprised of the Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening tests.

Let's say you are a university graduate from your home country and you want to get 7 for Speaking. Obviously, the answer to the question above depends on what level i.e., what Band score in Speaking you are now.

Below is my rough estimate on the work (time) requirements. I think these guidelines apply to most people, but not necessarily everyone. The Band scores refer to Speaking.

  Your Current Level   Time to get to 7
               5.0       2 years
               5.5       1.5 yrs
               6.0       1 year
               6.5       6 mo

This is assuming that the person spends, on average, 10 hrs per week studying English, with a minimum of 3 hours per week spent on speaking practice.

Also note that these figures apply to "the average IELTS test taker." Some people might be able to halve those times, if they were in an English-speaking environment, employed the best study methods, used the best study materials, and spent more time than 10 hrs per week studying English, with a minimum of 3 hours per week spent on speaking practice. For example, studying and practicing English for 20 hours per week, with a minimum of 7 hours per week spent practicing speaking would probably halve the time to get to Band 7.


It is not that easy to get a 7 for speaking! Most Chinese English teachers are about Band 7. The work required to get 4 sevens in the IELTS test, if you are a 5.0 now, is two years if you are a typical student.

That is probably equivalent to the work required to get a minor qualification such as a 2-year Associate Degree or even the work required for a full Bachelor's degree in some places. Or it would be equivalent to the time and effort required to start learning to play the guitar, having never learned any other musical instrument before, and then reaching the standard where you can play several tunes effortlessly.

What's the key to success?

I can only offer the following suggestion

A good way to attack this problem might be to turn "work" into "a hobby". No-one minds spending many hours on their hobby!

How to turn learning (to speak) English into a hobby? Of course, the answer is to become interested in the subject.

Anyone who tries to get a 7 simply because he or she "needs it" for immigration or some similar purpose is really asking for failure. Reasons such as that should be Number 2 in priority, not Number 1.

Does becoming interested mean to become interested in the NBA basketball in the USA, Hollywood movies, and reading materials from the English-speaking countries? For the first two, I would say not necessarily so, but you should be interested in reading materials from English speaking countries. I recommend the internet for that, rather than media such as newspapers and magazines. But those are simply examples of being interested in the background to English learning, not really being interested in the subject of learning English itself.

I suspect that the key to success is to develop a strong interest in language, in general, starting with your own language.