Grammar for IELTS Exam : Complete Guide

Are you feeling nervous and anxious about your upcoming IELTS exam? Do you think you have enough grammar skills for your IELTS test to get the band score you aim for? Please don’t be worried; this article will help you improve and enhance your grammar skills to prepare you for IELTS and ace it effortlessly. 

Although there is no Grammar section in IELTS, having an excellent command of the language and enough grammar skills play a significant role in getting a high band score. Good grammar for IELTS will help you perform well in the four sections: Speaking, Reading, Listening, and Writing. More importantly, it will improve your speaking and writing. It is in these two sections where your grammar for IELTS skills will come in handy. 


10 General English Grammar rules

Most people think of grammar as simply a list of rules that you must follow when formulating sentences. However, grammar goes beyond that. Grammar is the system of language. It helps us understand more about a language and express our ideas more effectively. 

Rules in grammar change over time. Hence, language can change over time too. There is more about grammar that enables us to understand each other than just being a set of rules to be followed. 

Grammar makes up 25 percent of your IELTS Speaking and Writing scores. While it is not directly assessed in the Reading and Listening sections, having good grammar for IELTS knowledge and skills will also help you obtain the band score you are aiming for in these two sections. 

It is recommended that you study and pay attention to every single rule. By doing so, you will have the confidence and skills you need to achieve your desired IELTS band score and make that dream of studying, working, or living abroad a reality.

Below is the list of basic grammar rules that will help you prepare before taking the IELTS exam.  Note that these are universal grammar rules in the English language. Understanding and mastering these will aid you not just in your IELTS but in your entire journey of becoming proficient in English.

1. Subject-Verb Agreement

The basic rule states that a singular subject takes a singular verb and a plural subject takes a plural verb. 

Examples: 

  1. “He (singular) rides (singular) the bike to go to work.” 
  2. “Max (singular) goes (singular) to the gym every weekend.” 
  3. “The dog (singular) waits (singular) for its owner at the patio.” 
  4. “The students (plural) do (plural) their best to study for the exams.” 
  5. “Luke and Pete (plural) train (plural) for the competition every day.” 
  6. “The twins (plural) own (plural) the red car.”

2. Adjectives and Degree of Comparison Rules 

Adjectives are words that describe the qualities or states of nouns. 

They may be in the form of quality, number, shape, size, value, and color. 

They may be in positive, comparative, and superlative forms. 

The positive form of an adjective is used to describe nouns without comparing them to anything. 

Examples:

  • “My grandmother is a caring person.” 
  • “Mila was born to a privileged family.”
  • “You look amazing in that dress!”

The comparative form of adjectives is used to describe nouns by comparing them to other nouns. 

Examples:

  1. “My younger brother’s apartment is bigger than mine.”
  2. “Susan cooks better than Alice does.”
  3. “A Tesla is more expensive than a BMW.”

The superlative form of an adjective is used to describe nouns by comparing them to two or more other nouns. 

Examples:

  1. “The beaches in Bali are the best I have ever seen.”
  2. “Their engagement turned out to be the most extravagant event of the year.”
  3. “The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world.”

3. Nouns

Nouns represent a person, place, or thing (objects, animals, and ideas). 

Nouns are categorized into two: common and proper nouns.

Common nouns are generic names for a person, place, or thing. They don’t start with a capital letter unless they are the beginning word of a sentence. 

Proper nouns are specific names for a person, place, or thing. Unlike common nouns, proper nouns should start with a capital letter.

Examples:

Common NounsProper Nouns
countryCanada
Germany
Qatar
carFerrari
Honda
Rolls Royce
smartphoneSony
Samsung
Nokia
handbagChanel
Prada
Goyard
cityTokyo
Paris
New York

4. Pronouns

Pronouns are words that replace a noun. 

Pronouns are categorized into four: subject, object, possessive and reflexive pronouns. 

Subject pronouns take the place of the noun as the subject of a sentence. 

Examples:

  1. Ms Lee spends her free time baking and knitting.”
    • She spends her free time baking and knitting.”
  1. Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago.”
    • They went extinct 65 million years ago.”
  1. Lucy gave him that antique table.”
    • She gave him that antique table.”

Object pronouns take the place of the receiver of the action in a sentence. 

Examples:

  1. “The teacher gave Mark a warning.” 
    • “The teacher gave him a warning.” 
  1. “My mom used to read stories for us before bedtime.”
    • “My mom used to read them for us before bedtime.” 
  1. “Joe was talking to Jane on the phone.” 
    • “Joe was talking to her on the phone.”

Possessive pronouns demonstrate ownership. 

Examples:

  1. “You have probably used my markers instead of your markers.”
    • “You have probably used my markers instead of yours.”
  1. “His opinion eventually prevailed over their opinions.”
    • “His opinion eventually prevailed over theirs.”
  1. “Your account of what happened does not correspond with Ms Tan’s account.
    • “Your account of what happened does not correspond with hers.”

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and the object of the sentence are the same. 

Examples:

  1. I (subject) washed the car myself (object) since nobody wanted to do it.” 
  2. Bill (subject) cut himself (object) while preparing breakfast this morning.”
  3. Birds (subject) build their nests themselves (object).”

5. Verb Tenses

Tenses are a verb-based method used to indicate the time when an action is done.

Tenses are categorized into three: present, past, and future tenses. 

The present tense expresses action in the present time, habitual actions, and general truths. 

Examples:

  1. “The sun sets in the west.”
  2. “I love to play badminton every weekend.”
  3. “Her brother studies in Spain.”

The past tense denotes action that either began or finished in the past. 

Verbs in past tense usually end with ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ for regular verbs. However, for irregular verbs, their spelling changes completely. 

Examples:

  1. “I liked the food your mom prepared last night.” (like, prepare – regular verbs) 
  2. “We watched the play yesterday.” (watch – regular verb)
  3. “She bought that purse when she went to Milan two years ago.” (buy – irregular verb)

The future tense talks about something that has not happened yet or will be true in the future. 

Examples:

  1. “I will go to the ball with you.”
  2. “She is going to spend the holidays with her relatives in Mexico.”
  3. “They are going to surprise their mom for her birthday.”

6. Modals

Modals are auxiliary verbs that indicate likelihood, ability, permission, request, capacity, order, or suggestions. 

They are also called helping verbs because of how they function. 

Examples:

  1. “You should wear your seatbelt when driving.” 
  2. “I can help you improve your Portuguese.”
  3. “You may ask the stewardess for an extra pair of socks.”

7. Articles

Articles are used before nouns or pronouns and are considered adjectives. 

They state whether a noun or pronoun is specific or unspecific. 

There are three articles in grammar: ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. 

The article ‘a’ refers to nouns that start with a consonant sound and are not specific.

Examples: 

  1. a student in the library”
  2. a painting of a flower”
  3. a university alumnus”

The article’ an” refers to nouns that start with a vowel sound and are not specific.

Examples:

  1. an event in history”
  2. an animal in the zoo”
  3. an hour ago”

The article’‘th” however, refers to specific nouns.

Examples:

  1. The lady in black is the wife of the deceased.”
  2. The scar on my face was caused by a bicycle accident three years ago.”
  3. The movie that we watched is based from a true story.” 

8. Prepositions

Prepositions are words or groups of words used before a noun or pronoun to indicate direction, location, place, time, and spatial relationships. 

Examples:

  1. “The supermarket is located across the apartment where she lives.” 
  2. “The alarm will ring in case of theft.”
  3. “A decade has passed since they met.”

9. Simile

A simile is a figure of speech that uses words like “a” or ”like” to compare something to another. 

Examples:

  1. “My brother is as funny as a barrel of monkeys.”
  2. “The sun felt like liquid gold on my skin.”
  3. “They are brothers but they are as different as night and day.”

10. Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is presenting ideas and information using your own words. 

It uses synonyms, collocations, and reformulation without changing the context of a sentence or a paragraph. 

Examples: 

  1. “He enraged me with her unfitting remarks, rumor-spreading, and disrespectfulness at the formal dinner table.”
    • “He made me angry because of her rude behavior at dinner.” 
    • “I was angered when he began spreading claims, making inappropriate references, and disrespecting other guests at our dinner.”
  1. “I understand where you’re coming from, and I truly respect your opinion. However, I hope you would express yourself more clearly, like Mara does.”
    • “While I know where you’re coming from and I respect your views, I wish you would be more like Mara and express yourself more clearly.
    • “I empathize with you and respect your beliefs, but I would appreciate it if you could be more like Mara, who expresses herself more clearly.”

Does Grammar Matter in IELTS Speaking?

The purpose of the IELTS Speaking section= is to put your speaking abilities to the test. In this section, your grammar will seriously be examined, and you have to prove to the interviewer that you have enough grammar for IELTS skills to ace this part. You will be evaluated on factors like confidence, fluency, and pronunciation, all of which rely heavily on grammar.

While you might be tempted to brag and use big, sophisticated, and complicated words and sentences, it is probably better that you limit yourself to primarily short but accurate sentences. Leave those longer and more complex sentences only when needed. Bear in mind that effective language is all about communicating clearly. Your goal is for the interviewer to comprehend whatever it is that you want to convey.

In this section, you will be asked questions ranging from personal to universal and are specified to get you talking about a specific issue. This is where you need to apply the grammar rules that you have learned.

Examples:

  • Question: “Do you like travelling?”
  • Response:Yes, definitely! I like exploring the world, from museums to sandy beaches. I actually traveled alone to Rome last year. It is by far, the best city I’ve ever been.”
  • Question: “What is your favorite type of holiday?”
  • Response: “I am a history geek so I love going to museums and monuments. In fact, my sister and I always make it a point to visit a museum in every place we visit. We love learning about the culture and traditions of a place.”

Pro Tip: Be mindful of the subject-verb agreement rule. Use pronouns to avoid repetition of words.  Use the article”a/a” when referring to nouns that are not specific. Use the article”th” when referring to specific nouns.  

  • Question: “Can you describe yourself as a good student?”
  • Response: “Well, overall, I think I am a good student. I may not always get the perfect marks in my exams and I am not as bright as Einstein, but I am hardworking  and diligent.”  

Pro tip: Be mindful of how to use modals correctly.Use simile and other figures of speech to make your responses sound more interesting. 


Does Grammar Matter in IELTS Speaking?

There are two tasks in the IELTS Writing section. In the first task, you will be presented a graph, a diagram, or a map that you need to describe, give information on and draw conclusions. In the second task, a topic will be given to you, and you need to write an essay about it. Your essay should be able to meet and exceed the standards set by the evaluators. 

Grammar is undoubtedly the most significant aspect of the IELTS Writing section. Evaluators will grade your writing ability based on your understanding of grammar.

In this section, grammar is crucial. Tenses, verbs, prepositions, modals, and articles must all be carefully considered. So, no matter how advanced your vocabulary is, if your grammar is poor, you will not create meaningful and entertaining material.

Example:

  • Topic/Question: “Children that are brought up in poor families are better prepared to deal with adult life problems.” 
  • Response 1 (excerpt)“Children who are born to poor parents are exposed to the problems of adult life early on, learning to survive on a family income and sacrificing luxuries for essential items. These children begin to see the harsh realities of life. They make their parents’ own struggles as an example for them.”
  • Band Score: 8

Pro tips:

  • Be consistent in the use of verb tenses. Examples — “learning to survive”, “sacrificing luxuries”.
  • Be mindful of the subject-verb agreement rule. Examples — “These children begin…”, “They make…” .
  • Use pronouns to avoid repetition of words. Examples — “These children…”, “They…”

Example:

  • Topic/Question: “Children that are brought up in poor families are better prepared to deal with adult life problems.” 
  • Response 2 (excerpt)“In my case, I start working since I was twenty years old. I had social experience and I needed to work for myself. I was born poor. My parents do not have the money to support myself and my brother. I heard about other children working in other countries so I decide to work too to meet mine daily needs.”
  • Band score: 4

Pro Tips:

  • Be consistent in the use of verb tenses.  Examples — “My parents did* (NOT ‘do) not have…”.
  • Use pronouns correctly. Examples — “to meet my* daily needs” (NOT ‘mine’).
  • Use past tense to indicate actions that already happened. Exampes — “I started*…” (NOT ‘start’), “I decided*…” (NOT ‘decide’).

Does Grammar Matter in IELTS Listening?

Grammar does not play a significant role in the Listening section. Nevertheless, you must have enough grammar skills to be able to select the correct answers. Your answer choices are heavily influenced by your grammar, which can affect your band score. 

Although there are only one-word or three-word answers in the listening module, there may be instances where articles, modals, or prepositions are used; thus, you must be cautious when choosing your answers. This is where grammar plays a significant role.

Listening also necessitates concentration, memory, and a decent command of the English language. If you are well-versed and prepared in all of these areas, you can deduce half of the meaning in one sitting. 

The audio does not play again in the Listening section, and there is no rewind option, so you must be alert from the start.

Examples:

  • Question: “When do they usually meet?”
  • How to answer: You may be required an answer of not more than two words.  
  • Responses:
    • “Fridays”  — Wrong usage.
    • “In Fridays”  — Wrong Usage.
    • “On Fridays” — Right Usage. 

Pro Tip: Pay attention to the correct use of prepositions.

Example:

  • Question: “Elon first thought of making __________ when at college, when he realized the challenging issues the planet is currently facing.”
  • Correct Response: an electric car”

Pro Tip: Pay attention to the correct use of articles.  


How to Improve Your Grammar for IELTS?

Grammar is not directly evaluated in IELTS, and there is no particular section for it. Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that having good grammar for IELTS skills is vital when answering questions and achieving a high band score. Grammar plays a significant role in all four sections of IELTS: Speaking, Reading, Listening, and Writing. 

It is also noted that grammar is more than how well you employ tenses, sentence structures, modals, articles, and adverbs. It is also about the range of grammatical points you are supposed to use and their variety and intricacy.

Some IELTS test-takers mistake using grammar that they are unfamiliar with and do not understand how to use correctly. This will significantly affect your band score. We advise keeping it simple, clear, and concise until such a point when you are confident enough to make use of more advanced grammar. If you wish to avoid making grammar mistakes and stick to simple structures and tenses, you might not be able to get a band score higher than 6.0 in either Speaking or Writing. 

With this, we would like to give you a list of tips and tricks on improving your grammar for IELTS. 

  • Tenses: In the Speaking and Writing sections, use the correct verb tenses. Be consistent in using them as well. If you start your writing in the present tense, use present tense all throughout.  
  • Subject-verb Agreement: Follow the subject-verb agreement rule. Rule of thumb: Singular subjects take singular verbs; plural subjects take plural verbs.
  • Passive Voice: When speaking, use the passive voice. This will make you appear more formal. However, make sure to choose your words accordingly, depending on how the conversation is going. 
  • Modals: Use modals only when necessary. Modals implies uncertainty while speaking. 
  • Articles: Equip yourself with enough understanding on how to use articles and adjectives. This will help you in formulating well-structured sentences. 
  • Prepositions: Have a good and deep understanding when it comes to the use of prepositions. Most mistakes are caused by wrong usage of prepositions. 
  • Clauses: Use relative clauses to put more emphasis on whatever it is that you want to express. 
  • Spelling: Make sure to spell words correctly. Evaluators are extremely mindful of how you spell words. 
  • Practice: Do drills and practices on the different rules in grammar. This will make you confident by the time you finally need to take IELTS. 

How is Grammar for IELTS Writing Marked?

Grammar makes up 25 percent of your score in IELTS Writing. The other three areas in your writing that will be marked are task achievement/response, coherence and cohesion, and lexical resource. 

Hence, it is evident that you improve your IELTS grammar, as this is often the area where examinees struggle the most and where their score suffers the most. It is beneficial that you understand how grammar is graded to concentrate on improving it.

The two parts on lexis and grammar are shown in the table below. These have been derived from the public band descriptions and demonstrate what the examiner is searching for.

For the marking criteria, please see the table below for their full descriptions:

Writing CriteriaDescription
Task achievement 
 (only available for Task 1)

  • Presenting accurate information
  • Providing an overview
  • Highlighting key features/stages
  • Supporting details with data
Task response  
(only available for Task 2)
  • Addressing the task (Answering the question)
  • Giving relevant main points with supported and developed explanations.
  • Stating a clear opinion (when asked)
  • Providing a conclusion
Coherence and Cohesion
  • Organizing ideas and information into paragraphs
  • Having one central idea in each paragraph (for Task 2 only)
  • Using a range of linking phrases
Lexical Resource
  • Using a range of words and paraphrasing
  • Using collocations
  • Spellings
  • Avoiding errors
Grammar
Range & Accuracy
  • Using a range of sentence structures
  • Using a range of grammar tenses
  • Punctuation
  • Avoiding errors

What are the Best Books for IELTS Grammar?

Taking IELTS could be nerve-wracking. The preparation itself could be daunting at times, but we got you covered. Below is a list of the best books that could help you with grammar for IELTS. The better the preparation, the better the odds of scoring well. 

These books include a few sample papers to get a sense of how the exam will go. They will assist you in understanding the exam better, achieving a high score, and standing out from the other candidates.


What are Good Grammar Websites for Practices?

Knowing where to begin with is difficult when so many websites (thousands of them) promise to help you with your grammar. If you are not into the idea of buying books and prefer to practice your grammar for IELTS online, the web is the way to go. 

We have made things simple for you. We scoured the net and looked for the best websites that could help you improve your grammar and obtain your desired band score. These websites offer in-depth explanations of the different rules in grammar. They also include drills and practices on how these rules should be applied. 

Here are some of our favorites:


FAQs on IELTS Grammar

Are There Particular Grammar Topics I Have to Concentrate on for the IELTS?

There are no particular topics in grammar that you have to concentrate more on. Every topic is just as important as the others. You will never know the grammar rules you will be applying until you take the exam itself. However, verb tenses, modals, prepositions, articles, and sentence structures are the most common areas where most candidates commit mistakes. These are also the areas where evaluators are very keen and particular. Therefore, you are encouraged to focus and study more on these topics.  

What Grammar is Needed for IELTS? 

In IELTS, there are two modules: Academic and General Training.
The Speaking and Listening tests are the same in both modules.
In the Speaking and Writing sections, candidates taking the IELTS Academic module should use standard English.
Standard English uses correct grammatical rules. It is considered to be formal and polite.
On the other hand, those taking the General Training module may use non-standard English, which is informal and where slang is acceptable.

How Can I Learn IELTS Grammar?

There are a lot of ways on how you can learn and improve your grammar for IELTS. Choosing which one to employ depending on what you deem the most convenient will be up to you. You can either enroll in a review center that offers training for IELTS, buy a book published explicitly for those who are taking IELTS, or visit websites that will help you improve your grammar. Just make sure to remember all the grammar rules you have learned, and you’ll be good to go. 

How Can I Enrich My Vocabulary for IELTS? 

Vocabulary plays a significant role in all four sections of IELTS. A quarter of your score in the Speaking and Writing sections is based on vocabulary. Moreover, having a wide range of vocabulary will give you a better chance of understanding the texts and audio in the Reading and Listening sections. There are various ways in how you can enrich your vocabulary. You can read books, novels, and articles. Watching videos and listening to audiobooks is also an excellent way to learn new words. Just make sure to look up the meaning of the words you don’t know and use these words whenever applicable. This way, you will have the confidence you need before you finally take IELTS. Just make sure to choose your words accordingly. Do not use highly sophisticated words you don’t know the meaning of and aren’t familiar with, as this will significantly affect your IELTS test score. 

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