Essential Grammar Tips And Skills For The IELTS Exam

Far too many students lose out on obtaining their required IELTS band scores due to silly grammatical errors. This is most often because students are unaware of the English grammar subtopics that they need to be proficient in to score well. Unfortunately, because it’s such a wide-ranging subject, improvement in this area is very difficult and slow.

Here’s a secret, that I have learned through my many years of experience as an IELTS teacher in Singapore, in order to get a good band score you don’t need to be a master of grammar. There are a few specific topics that you need to focus and improve on that are essential for IELTS, such as:

  • Complex Sentences
  • Correct use of tenses
  • Prepositions
  • Articles
  • Punctuation

In this article, we discuss the above-mentioned topics as well as address how they are useful for the IELTS exams.

Band Score Criteria: Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Grammatical Range and Accuracy is one of four band descriptors on which your IELTS writing scores will be based. It refers to your ability to use a range of grammatical structures and to use them accurately.

It might surprise you to note that a sound working knowledge of grammar can help you in other areas as well. For example, if you use the incorrect tense, preposition or even an article, it might cause some hindrance in the examiner’s understanding of what you are trying to communicate during the speaking test. This might result in you sounding incoherent, which can affect your speaking score.

Grammar is also a necessary requirement for the reading and listening test, especially when it comes to completion or fill in the blank’s questions. You need to have a good understanding of how articles and prepositions are used in order to be able to predict the type of blank (noun) needed. Certain prepositions signal that a date or specific place follows. Articles like a, an or the signal whether or not a singular or plural noun should be placed in the blank. A simple error like using a plural noun instead of a singular noun can result in an incorrect answer, so it is important to practice these grammar topics

Essential Grammar Skills IELTS :

Complex Sentences

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains more than one clause. It includes more than one piece of information. For example, Mary is on her way to book her IELTS exam, and she wants to take the computer-based test, but she is not sure if it is available in her country.

This sentence contains three clauses, each giving a different piece of information and these need to be separated correctly using the correct conjunctions and punctuation.

Mary is on her way to book her IELTS exam, and she wants to take the computer-based test, but she is not sure if it is available in her country.

It is important to use complex sentences correctly to score above band 6 in terms of grammatical accuracy.


Articles are another common source of mistakes that IELTS test-takers make. Most people know that we use a and an only with a single countable noun, but you can also use these when you talk about a noun for the first time. For example, I saw a movie yesterday.

Additionally, we use articles when we talk about non-specific things like a building, a sea, a president, a country, an office etc.

We use the with both single and plural nouns. It is also used when we use a noun that we have mentioned before. For example, I saw a movie yesterday. The movie was fantastic.

The article the is also used to denote something specific like a university name. For example The University of South Australia


Certain prepositions signal that a date or specific place follows

Modal verbs

Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that modify (add more meaning to ) the main verb in a sentence.

Modal verbs are used to express possibility, probability, ability, suggestions, obligation, deductionhabits and hypothetical, imaginary and conditional situations. They are also used to express politeness.

Here are some common modal verbs along with their functions:


Modal Verb Function


Possibility and ability (important when discussing hypothetical situations.

For example

This could damage the economy

She can cook well


MAY, MIGHT:  Uncertainty and polite requests

For example:

This may create a problem


WOULD Expresses the conditional future, the past, past habits and behaviours, future in the past, hypothetical situations, opinions, willingness, polite requests, preferences, possibility, to indicate disapproval and advice.

For example:

If people were to save more, they would not go into debt.


SHOULD: Expresses recommendations,

suggestions and advice

For example:

We should not expect success




Obligation and necessity

For example:

The council states that people must follow the rules



Subject-verb agreement:

To put it simply if a subject noun is in the singular form, then the verb used in the sentence must also be in the singular form. If the subject noun is in the plural form then the verb form should also be in plural form.

Eg. He is very quiet.

They are very noisy

Remember accuracy is also important, so never overcomplicate things unnecessarily, just to impress the examiner. You might make many mistakes and end up doing just the opposite! You could try going the self-study route, but it would be far easier to understand your grammar weak areas and improve upon them by taking the assistance of a trusted IELTS professional, who has a better understanding of the grammar rules and structures needed to impress the examiner.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.