This is a relatively new thing actually.
It really came about because the Speaking and the Writing tasks were extremely difficult to assess, so the IELTS examination board decided to make a new ruling. However with the Listening and Reading exams the marks are very clear, they are either right or wrong.
For Speaking and Writing, examiners were allowed to add a half if they felt the student was nearly there but not quite. Mainly it came down to the student showing that they had made an attempt at something but it was not fully successful but only partially.
If you think about it, there really is quite a lot of difference between a 5.0 and a 5.5. There are certainly many Universities in Malaysia who are willing to accept a 5.5 instead of a 6.0 as to them they feel the 5.5 student can pick up the language with lots of usage in class, whereas a 5.0 would still have quite a way to go to find their course comprehensible enough to pass.
I believe now they are even offering 0.25 scores too….to me all the better. I like to see students are given fair scores. It makes it easier for Universities too.
Tags: IELTS, band scores, half band scores, writing task, speaking task, accepting a 5.5, quarter band scores, esl, efl, celta.
http://www.aapress.com.au/ielts/english/ieltscalculator.html Band score calculator
http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams/ielts/results/ Results and band scores for IELTS