Grammar for IELTS: Top Rules & Best Books

People often neglect the importance of good grammar for IELTS. While grammar is not tested directly in the examination, it impacts your final score. And since IELTS scores get you admission into top universities in English-speaking countries, grammatical prowess is indispensable.

Grammar for IELTS- Why is it important?

There is no direct focus on grammar in the IELTS, but you will need good grammar for IELTS writing, speaking, listening, and reading sections. Grammatical structures and components will help you clearly express your ideas in the listening and reading sections.

Of course, for speaking and writing sections, you will need to demonstrate grammatical competence strongly. You should be able to appropriately use passives, tenses, gerunds, infinitives, articles, and determiners. Knowledge of adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, pronouns, and punctuation is also essential.

IELTS Grammar- Writing Band Descriptors

For every component of the writing section of the IELTS examination, you will get a band score. The average of these scores will lead to your final score in the writing section. For example, if someone gets band-6 scores in three subsections with a band-5 score in one subsection, the total will be 5.5.

Here is a brief look at the band descriptors:

Band TypeLexis or Usage of WordsAccuracy and Range in Grammar
9More sophisticated with better control over word usage. Only a few minor mistakes.Makes use of a diverse range of grammatical structures accurately and flexibly with only minor errors.
8Only some rare spelling or word-formation mistakes.Makes use of several types of structures with most sentences being free from errors. There are only a few rare mistakes.
7Occasional mistakes in spelling, choice of words, and formation of words.Makes use of complex grammatical structures and sentences. The sentences are frequently free from errors. Grammar control is good and so is punctuation. However, some errors do occur periodically.
6Errors in the formation of words and spelling although they do not hinder overall communication.Makes use of a mixture of complex and simple forms of sentences. There are some errors made in punctuation and overall grammar. However, the candidate can express meanings clearly.
5Makes errors in word formation and spelling. It may lead to a few problems for readers.Limited range of sentence and grammatical structure. Complex sentence accuracy is lower. Punctuation and grammar errors are more frequent.
4Control is limited over forming words and spelling. Readers will face more difficulties.Limited structure usage with subordinate clauses being used rarely. Some structures may be accurate although punctuation is prone to errors.
3The core meaning may be changed due to frequent errors.Tries forms of sentences but there are frequent punctuation and grammar errors that may change the meaning of sentences.
2No control over spelling and formation of words.Unable to use proper forms of sentences. Usage only in cases where some phrases have been memorized or learned.
1Can use only some words in isolationUnable to use any form of sentences.

If you carefully observe these descriptors, you will understand the importance of the following: 

  • Accuracy in word forms. 
  • Writing complex sentences. 
  • A diverse range of grammar structures. 
  • Accurate grammar and punctuation. 

Top Grammar Rules for a Higher Band Score 

Here are some rules that will help you improve your grammatical skills and score more in IELTS:

1.    Be mindful of tenses: The simple tense denotes actions that are repetitive, habitual, or constant. For example, the sentence- I often read English newspapers. The continuous tense is for actions taking place at that moment, i.e. I am reading an English newspaper. In the IELTS Speaking Part 1, you will have to answer questions related to yourself. Make sure that you are using proper tenses.

 The present simple is required if you are talking about general activities. If there are temporary actions in the present moment, you will need the present continuous form. It will also help in Writing Part 1, where you have to describe things shown in graphs or charts. The past simple is also important in these scenarios. An example will be– Profits of the company increased by 20% between March and May. 

2.    Tenses and their importance- When you are using the past tense, you will talk about the actions that happened in the past but have no link to what you are doing in the present. Suppose there is a sentence- I ate my lunch with my mother yesterday and then we went out shopping. The simple past applies to the sentence since there is no direct connection to the present. 

Suppose something took place earlier with links to the present. It may also continue into the present. The present perfect is ideal in this scenario. For example, I have not eaten lunch yet, I’m feeling hungry. This rule will help you in the IELTS Speaking Test when you have to describe several past events. 

3. Passive voice and its relevance- Passive voice helps in giving a more formal touch. You can always choose to be along with the past participle, i.e. spoken (speak) or written (write). For instance, a sentence may say- Three more courses were selected last year. Another may be More investigations have to be done before choosing the company. Both writing tasks in the IELTS test will require the usage of passive voice, especially in the reports. 

4. Absorb modal verbs- These verbs express crucial elements in sentences. Some of them include may, might, or even could. They may indicate uncertain but possible future actions. Some examples of sentences include- We could be early if we travel non-stop, or I may wish to spend my time reading. Another example could be- I might want to shift to another country if the conditions are favorable. Use must when you are sure that something is right. Must have is also used to denote the same thing in the past. 

Cannot or Can’t indicates something being impossible. Modal verbs will help you in the listening and reading sections of the IELTS examination. You can also use these verbs for generalizing or probability. 

5. Using ‘the’ definite article- The definite article is essential for describing aspects/people that the speaker already knows. For instance, you can say Can you put the washing machine on? You can also say We are not going by helicopter. The helicopter cannot accommodate all of us. You can also add in words like kingdom or republic, ordinal number, superlatives, and countries with plurals. 

For instance, you can say This is the best movie I’ve ever seen. You can also say This is the third time I’ve seen her today. Another example is- The Czech Republic is known for its exports. It will help you in the Writing section of the IELTS. 

6. Adjective comparison- Make use of adjectives frequently for describing anything or anyone. You can demonstrate your vocabulary range in the writing and speaking sections. You can compare through superlatives or comparatives, depending upon the sentence. Most adjectives with a syllable usually have est or er for the comparative and superlative. An example would be- It is a safer bet for everyone, or It is the safest option for all residents. There are adjectives with two syllables that can use est and er for forming superlatives and comparatives. 

You can do this in the following ways- This is simpler than the earlier task, or I have always taken the heavier load. You can also say- This is the shortest task I have written, or His was the most complete picture of the lot. Adjectives with three syllables or higher will have the most and more for making up the superlative and comparative. For example- I have never read a more wonderful story, or This is the most interesting book I have ever read. Make sure you note irregular adjectives. For instance- good-better-best or even little=-less-least. They do not follow the rules. Those adjectives ending in e will have it eliminated with the addition of est or er. For example- gentle-gentler-gentlest. Some adjectives end with a consonant and single vowel before them. Doubling the consonant is necessary with the addition of est or er. For instance- big-bigger-biggest

7. Avoid silly spelling errors- There are several mistakes that aspirants end up making repeatedly. Ensure that you take care of the following things- 

  • You can usually add ly for several adjectives to make them adverbs. Yet, if the adjective is already ending with ly, the adverb version should have double l. For example, wonderful will transform into wonderfully
  • If a verb is ending with e, then it will go away before adding ed or ing. For example- live-living-lived
  • If there is a consonant + consonant letter pattern + vowel for the ending of a verb, then doubling the final consonant is necessary with the addition of ed or ing. For example- plan-planning-planned
  • Verbs ending with ie become ying if you are adding ing. For instance- Die-dying

Best Grammar Books for IELTS

There are many options if you are looking for the best grammar book for IELTS. Some of them include the following:

·      Oxford Practice Grammar Advanced, G. Yule

·      Basic English Grammar, Betty Schrampfer Azar

·      English Grammar in Use, R. Murphy

·      Grammar for IELTS, D. Hopkins, P. Cullens

·      Collins Grammar for IELTS (Advanced)

·      Oxford Practice Grammar Intermediate, J. Eastwood

·      Get IELTS Band 9 Grammar Secrets

·      Achieve IELTS Grammar and Vocabulary

·      Cobuild English Grammar (Advanced)

·      Cambridge Grammar for IELTS Student’s Book with Answers and Audio CD by Diana Hopkins

·      Focus on IELTS by Sue O’Connell

·      The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student’s Book with Answers with DVD ROM- Vanessa Jakeman, Amanda French, and Pauline Cullen 

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