5 Secrets to Great IELTS Grammar

Students often ask me if grammar is important in IELTS. The answer is of course, YES.  The IELTS exam tests your English language ability and grammar is fundamental to any language learning.  The examiners will test your grammar as well as vocabulary, spelling, and any other aspect of language.

It is important in all parts of the IELTS exam to demonstrate good grammar use in English. You may be very aware about using good grammar in the speaking and writing exam – and the examiners are actively aware of grammar mistakes in both of these parts and will take this into account – grammar also features in the listening and reading parts of the test too. If your answers for both of these parts of the tests are not recorded grammatically correct, then you will lose a point from your score.

There is no getting away from the fact that grammatical errors demonstrate poor English, so each grammar error will lose you marks.

To avoid losing these marks here are 5 things you can do to both improve your grammar and avoid making grammar errors in IELTS.

  1. Make sure your grammar is the best it can be.
  • Do you understand and can you use the following areas of grammar:
    • Tenses
    • Articles
    • Prepositions
    • Singular/Plural
    • Verb/Subject agreement

Some of the most common IELTS errors are made in these areas so if you don’t understand or know how to use these features then you really need to learn them.

Do you have a grammar book?

Or access to a good online grammar site – if not then get hold of a grammar book or bookmark a good grammar site. Every time you get feedback from your teacher which points to grammar errors you need to look these up. Understand, firstly, your mistake and secondly, how not to make it again and then try some practice exercises to make sure you can avoid it in the future.

Here are some good ones (English Grammar in Use – is a good standard grammar book with exercises) and online you can also visit IELTS trainer or English Grammar.org  sites (if you already have one you like that’s fine just make sure that you use it).

We have a lot of IELTS preparation info on our website.. – more about that at the end.

  1. Grammar in IELTS Listening

Listen carefully for articles and plurals, getting these wrong can lose you marks. Write down exactly what you hear. Check the questions carefully; you can do this best when you transfer your answers. Certain question types must be grammatically correct – sentence completion and gap-filling for example – look and see if you need a singular or plural noun. Do you need an article or is there one already in the question?  (If you duplicate it, it will be wrong.) When you choose two or three words make sure that they are not already in the question.

  1. Grammar in IELTS Reading

You have more time here to make sure everything is correct. Be very careful about gap-filling questions, sentence completion, some matching (sentence matching) and summaries. ALL of these exercises have to be grammatically correct.

If they are not, you lose a mark.

Students often complain about this, but the truth is that language grammar is part of language and just as our parents would correct us when we were children if we made mistakes or had ‘sloppy’ grammar, so it is also now. Wrong grammar is a wrong answer. I can’t really say this enough.

If you feel you have problems in your grammar then NOW is the time to get this sorted out.

  1. Grammar in IELTS Writing

IELTS Writing is the one area where grammar is critically important. Every error brings your band down (remember I used to be an examiner and I know this). Bad grammar is also irritating for the reader so if you are taking IELTS to study or work overseas it’s better to make sure you don’t make annoying mistakes or it will also affect your study and maybe even your work.

All grammar errors in IELTS writing are counted negatively and you need to make ‘as few errors as possible’ to get a high band.

Sadly many, many marks are lost in IELTS writing from mistakes in grammar that you all know about – articles, subject/verb agreement, singular/plurals, prepositions, wrong pronouns. I’m sure you have heard this over and over.

The best way of eliminating these errors is to have a really good plan so that you can concentrate just on language as you write.  You should also have a mental checklist of the errors in grammar that you know you usually make and try to prevent these as you write.

If there are grammar errors that you are not certain about then study the grammar point in your grammar book and then practice so you can remove this mistake from your writing.

  1. Grammar in IELTS Speaking

Making grammar errors in IELTS speaking is less of a problem although the examiner will be very aware of any you do make. The reason for this is that the speaking part mainly tests communication and it is possible to do this very well even with the odd grammar mistake here and there.

In truth any grammar mistakes will count, but these can be offset by good communication and vocabulary to an extent.

Don’t be too focused on grammar while you speak or this will make you less communicative so it’s best to focus on the questions and your answers and let the language come naturally. If you make a mistake then quickly correct it, if you realize a bit later then ignore it.

Of course the more you practice the better everything will be including your grammar and then you won’t make many at all.