A Guide to Grammar for the IELTS Writing Tasks 

 May 21, 2024

By  Jonathan

The IELTS Writing section tests your ability to produce well-structured, grammatically accurate responses within the given time limits. It’s a common misconception that a strong vocabulary and complex sentence structures are the key to impressing examiners. While these are important, if your core grammar is shaky, your writing will likely come across as unclear, unconvincing, and prone to errors that will drag down your score. This guide will empower you with the grammar knowledge you need to impress the examiners and demonstrate your mastery of written English.

Why Grammar is Critical in IELTS Writing

  • Clarity: Correct grammar ensures your ideas are expressed logically and accurately. Misused prepositions, incorrect verb tenses, or errors in sentence structure can create confusion or unintentionally change the meaning you intend to convey.
  • Coherence: Grammatical tools like conjunctions and pronouns help you link ideas together in a smooth, logical manner. Poorly connected sentences make your writing feel choppy and difficult to follow, affecting your overall score.
  • Formality: Especially for IELTS Academic Writing, understanding how to use more formal grammar structures correctly demonstrates your ability to write in an academic style appropriate to the task.
  • Lexical Range: A wide range of grammar structures lets you showcase a variety of vocabulary accurately. If you rely only on simple sentences, your written work will seem simplistic.

Key Grammar Areas for IELTS Writing Tasks

  • Sentence Types: Be comfortable using a mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences. This demonstrates your ability to express different levels of detail and avoids monotony in your writing.
  • Verb Tenses: Ensure the tenses you use align correctly with the context of your writing. Practice using the past, present, and future forms appropriately, as well as the present perfect for recent or ongoing actions.
  • Passive Voice: While overusing passive voice can make your writing clunky, it is essential to understand how and when to employ it, especially in formal writing contexts.
  • Pronouns: Choose pronouns carefully to avoid ambiguity. Ensure the reference of pronouns like “it”, “this”, or “they” is crystal clear to the reader.
  • Articles and Prepositions: Although small, errors regarding articles (“a”, “an”, “the”) and prepositions can make your writing sound unnatural and highlight a lack of language proficiency to the examiners.

Common Grammar Pitfalls in IELTS Writing

  • Punctuation: Misusing commas, full stops (periods), or semi-colons can lead to run-on sentences, fragments, or unclear connections between ideas.
  • Subject-Verb Agreement: Ensuring your subject and verb agree in number (singular vs. plural) is crucial. This is a common mistake in timed writing conditions.
  • Word Order: English mainly follows a Subject-Verb-Object word order, but there are variations. Incorrect word order can obscure meaning even if your vocabulary is technically accurate.

Tips for Improving Your Writing Grammar

  • Targeted Practice: Don’t just tackle random grammar exercises. Find practice prompts specifically focused on areas you find challenging, whether that’s tenses, conditionals, or relative clauses.
  • Reading Widely: Exposing yourself to well-written materials – articles, essays, or academic papers – helps internalise correct grammatical structures.
  • Editing and Proofreading: Allocate time within your IELTS practice to carefully go over your written work for grammatical mistakes. Read your sentences aloud to identify awkward phrasing.
  • Feedback: If possible, get feedback on your writing from a teacher or language tutor who can pinpoint recurring grammar issues.

Grammar as a Tool for Success

Remember, good grammar isn’t just about ticking boxes on the IELTS marking criteria. It’s your key to communicating your ideas with precision and sophistication. Here’s how stronger grammar helps you during the test:

  • Time Management: If your core grammar is solid, you won’t waste time agonizing over how to construct basic sentences, focusing instead on task analysis and organizing your ideas.
  • Confidence: Knowing your writing is grammatically accurate provides a confidence boost, allowing you to express yourself more freely.

Final Note

While this guide serves as a starting point, mastering grammar is an ongoing process. Incorporate grammar practice as a consistent element of your IELTS preparation. Your efforts will be evident in your writing, not only leading to a higher score but also boosting your long-term English language skills.

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.