Grammar For IELTS

Jul 13, 2023 | IELTS Test

How grammar for IELTS is marked & how to score a Band 8.0 and above!

Grammar is one of the trickiest aspects of learning a new language because it varies from language to language. Since English grammar rules are some of the most complex, grammar is the area that is holding back many IELTS test takers from earning the higher band scores.

The part of the IELTS marking criteria which measures your grammar is called. Grammatical Range and Accuracy. Test candidates who aim for a band 8.0 must demonstrate a command of a broad variety of sentence constructions, the vast majority of which are used correctly. Therefore, it’s crucial that those looking to take the IELTS test understand the importance of grammatical range, how it is scored according to the band descriptors and what rules they can follow to ensure they are able to access those higher band scores!

This page is here to help candidates with all of the above. First, we’ll examine why IELTS grammar marking criteria is so important, then we’ll take a deeper look at the band descriptors before listing some of the most common grammatical mistakes candidates make that stop them from accessing the higher IELTS bands.

Why Is Grammar So Important For IELTS?

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Although there are no dedicated grammar questions in IELTS, examiners do take grammar into account in both the Writing and Speaking. For both Writing and Speaking, grammar forms 25% of your score and significantly impacts other aspects of the marking criteria. Grammar can also help you choose the correct answer in the Listening and Reading sections.  

Both Writing tasks require varied sentence forms and correct grammar. Trying to avoid mistakes by only using simple sentences will result in a low score since variety is just as important as accuracy. 

Similarly, the Speaking test looks at how well an applicant can express themselves with correct grammar. Good grammar allows for the clear and concise expression of ideas, which is crucial to a high grade and contributes to Fluency and Coherence, which in turn influences intonation (part of your Pronunciation score). 

How Grammar For IELTS Is Assessed In Both Writing & Speaking

The most important areas an examiner assesses, and the two I first look at, are the range and accuracy of both grammar and vocabulary. 

Grammatical Range and Accuracy is evaluated based on the test taker’s ability to use a variety of grammatical structures accurately. Errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation will affect the score and are often where most candidates fall short of their desired band score.

Lexical Resource is evaluated based on the use of vocabulary, including appropriate topic-based terms. A wide range of vocabulary is considered an asset. Being familiar with the vocabulary you use is important since it will affect the grammar structure you use.

Band Grammar accuracy and range Lexical resource
 9 The candidate uses a wide range of sentence structures with full accuracy, with minor errors. The candidate features sophisticated lexical resource control, with only a few minor slips.
8 The majority of sentences are error-free, the candidate uses a wide range of sentence structures. Also, the test taker makes occasional errors. Rare errors in word formation or spellings.
7 The candidate uses a variety of sentence structures with frequent error-free sentences. Has decent grammar control. However, makes a few errors. Occasional errors in spellings and word choices.
6 The candidate holds the capacity to use a mix of simple and complex sentences. Makes some grammatical errors that do not usually hamper communication. Some errors in spellings or word formation.
5 The candidate uses a limited range of sentence structures. Complex sentences are attempted by the individual but with less accuracy. Noticeable spelling errors that may cause difficulty for the reader.
4 Rare use of subordinate clauses with limited use of sentence structure. A few simple structures are accurate.  Limited word formation control. Spelling errors may confuse the reader.
3 Attempts to create sentences but severe grammatical errors disrupt the meaning of the sentence. Severe errors that distort the message.
2 Can only use sentences that have been memorised. Lacks control of word formation or spelling.
1 Unable to use sentence forms at all. Able to use only a few isolated words.

Common Grammatical Mistakes In The IELTS Exam

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Non-native speakers typically make the same repeated grammar mistakes that prevent them from getting better band scores. A good IELTS coach can help students avoid failing the next time they take IELTS by pointing out the most common errors they make. In fact, our school has taken this a step further by supplying our students with a personalised Linguistic Hit List™ to help them progress in the fastest possible time.

Below we’ve summarised some of the most common mistakes that candidates make and what the corrections for each should be.

Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

This error occurs when the subject and verb are not in agreement with one another in respect of number. This means that when the subject is plural the verb should follow. 

For example:

Incorrect: “The students is going to the town centre”

Correct : “The students are going to the town centre”

Because the subject “students” is plural then the verb that follows “are” also needs to be plural. However, if the subject was the singular “student” then the correct sentence would be “The student is going to the town centre.”.

Punctuation Errors

In English, the use of different punctuation marks like commas, full stops, apostrophes and question marks help to clarify the sentence and help the reader understand the point you are trying to make better. Often IELTS candidates will make grammatical errors with punctuation that include missing commas, incorrect use of apostrophes, and run-on sentences.

Example of missing commas:

Incorrect: “I love cooking my family and my pets”

Correct: “I love cooking, my family and my pets”

The incorrect sentence says the speaker loves cooking their family and pets, which is not the intended meaning! The correct sentence uses commas to separate the different items in the list, clarifying that the speaker loves cooking as an activity, and also loves their family and pets. Commas are essential in creating a clear and coherent list.

Examples of incorrect uses of apostrophes:

Incorrect: “The dog wagged it’s tail.”

Correct: “The dog wagged its tail.”

Apostrophes are used to show possession or to create contractions. In the incorrect example, “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”.” However, the intended meaning of the sentence is to show possession, as the tail belongs to the dog. The correct possessive pronoun for this context is “its,” without an apostrophe.

Examples of run-on sentences: 

Incorrect: “She loves to dance she takes classes every week.”

Correct: “She loves to dance, and she takes classes every week.”

A run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined together without appropriate punctuation or a coordinating conjunction. In the incorrect example, the two independent clauses “She loves to dance” and “she takes classes every week” are merged without punctuation or a conjunction, creating a run-on sentence. The correct example fixes this by using a comma and the coordinating conjunction “and” to properly join the two independent clauses. 

Tense Errors

These errors can occur when the incorrect tense is used, when tenses are mixed inappropriately within a sentence, or when the tense does not match the context or timeline of events being described. Tense errors can make sentences unclear or confusing, and they may hinder communication.

Below are two examples of common tense errors and explanations of why they are wrong. 

Incorrect: “She will going to the movies tonight.”

Correct: “She is going to the movies tonight.”

“Will going” is incorrect because “will” and “going” are both future tense markers. To correct the error, “will going” should be changed to “is going”, which is the present continuous tense.

Incorrect: “He has moved to New York two years ago.”

Correct: “He moved to New York two years ago.”

“Has moved” is the present perfect tense and cannot be used when the exact time is specified. To correct the error, “has moved” should be changed to the simple past tense.

Incorrect Use Of Comparatives & Superlatives

Comparatives and superlatives are forms of adjectives and adverbs used to compare differences among objects, people, or actions. They are essential elements of English grammar and play a crucial role in expressing comparisons and degrees of intensity.

Comparatives are used to compare two things or people, indicating that one has a greater degree of a particular quality than the other. Whereas superlatives are used to compare three or more things or people, indicating that one has the greatest degree of a particular quality among the group.

Below are examples of errors in using both comparatives and superlatives along with their corrected version.

Comparative Error: “This book is interesting than the other one.”

Corrected: “This book is more interesting than the other one.”

The sentence uses the adjective “interesting” without the necessary modifier to form a proper comparative. The comparative form of the multi-syllable adjective “interesting” should be “more interesting,” not just “interesting.” The word “more” is needed to indicate the comparison between the two books.

Superlative Error: “He is the most tallest person in our group.”

Corrected: “He is the tallest person in our group.”

The sentence uses the redundant combination of “most” and the “-est” suffix in “tallest.” The superlative form of the one-syllable adjective “tall” should be “tallest,” not “most tallest.” Using both “most” and “-est” together is incorrect and creates a redundancy.

In both cases, the errors occur because the sentences do not follow the standard rules for forming comparatives and superlatives. These are common errors that many IELTS candidates make in both their speaking and Writing which prevents them from scoring higher than they potentially do.

How To Improve Your Grammar For IELTS?

If you’re finding that it is grammatical errors that are locking you out of the higher band scores, then there are many ways you can fix this! It all depends on how you learn best, but from writing corrections, to 1-to-1 IELTS lessons – here at English With An Expert we have a huge range of resources and support available!

Purchase Our IELTS Essay Writing Corrections

One of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to begin spotting and correcting your grammatical errors when it comes to writing is by having one of our expert tutors provide full annotated corrections of one of your essays. This personalised feedback not only points out mistakes but also provides detailed explanations and suggestions for improvement, enabling test-takers to better understand their errors and how to address them.

One of the key features of the service is the use of genuine IELTS Writing questions for practice. Working with authentic material helps test-takers develop the skills needed for the actual test and will mean it is far more likely that the kinds of sentence structures and subjects used in the essay response could be relevant in your actual exam!

Book One-To-One IELTS Coaching Lessons With A Professional Tutor

By far the most effective way to ensure you’re not left resitting the IELTS exam time after time is by having one-to-one online coaching lessons with one of our experienced tutors. These lessons ensure that each individual’s specific needs are addressed. State-of-the-art apps allow students to access recordings of lessons for revision purposes, enabling them to revisit any grammatical concepts that they might be struggling with.

The tutors at English with an Expert also provide a Linguistic Hit List™ at the end of every lesson, which helps students identify their most common grammatical mistakes and areas for improvement. This focused approach allows students to concentrate on the aspects that would have the most significant impact on their IELTS scores.