Understanding Grammar for Fluent and Accurate IELTS Speaking Performance 

 May 22, 2024

By  Jonathan

While you might worry about memorising vocabulary or mastering pronunciation for the IELTS Speaking test, grammar is an equally important factor in how your performance is evaluated. Speaking with fluency and accuracy means using a variety of correct grammatical structures to convey your ideas clearly and convincingly. This guide will help you understand the role grammar plays in your speaking skills and provide tips to strengthen these skills during your IELTS preparation.

Why Grammar Matters in IELTS Speaking

  • Clarity: Correct grammar allows you to express yourself with precision. Errors like incorrect subject-verb agreement, pronoun misuse, or mixed-up verb tenses can distort your intended meaning, making it difficult for the examiner to understand what you’re trying to say.
  • Complexity: Fluency and accuracy in the IELTS Speaking exam don’t just mean speaking quickly. They also involve showing your ability to use a variety of grammatical structures. Relying only on simple sentences will leave your responses sounding basic, impacting your score.
  • Naturalness: Native English speakers automatically use correct grammar most of the time. While the occasional minor slip is forgivable, frequent grammar mistakes will make your speech sound choppy, unnatural, and detract from your overall fluency.
  • Confidence: Feeling confident about your grasp of core grammatical structures allows you to focus on content during the speaking test, instead of hesitating and worrying about how to string your sentences together.

Key Grammar Areas for IELTS Speaking

  • Verb Tenses: Be comfortable using different verb tenses to talk about the past, present, and future. Especially practice the present perfect (have/has + past participle), as it’s commonly used to discuss recent experiences.
  • Conditionals: Learn how to use conditional forms to express possibilities, hypothetical situations, and express opinions politely (e.g., “If I had more time, I would…”).
  • Relative Clauses: Master defining and non-defining relative clauses (using who, which, that, where) to add detail or essential information to your descriptions.
  • Noun Phrases: Go beyond single nouns; use adjectives and prepositional phrases to add detail and clarity to your descriptions (e.g., “the book on the shelf”, “the city with historical monuments”).

Common Grammar Errors to Avoid

  • Missing/Incorrect Articles: Overlooking “the” or misusing “a/an” can signal non-native speaker status to an examiner.
  • Lack of connectors: Overreliance on “and” or “then” makes your speech sound simplistic. Learn common conjunctions (because, although, however) to link ideas smoothly.
  • Word Order Mistakes: While English has some flexibility, deviations from standard Subject-Verb-Object word order can create confusion.

Tips for Improving Your Grammar for Speaking

  • Focused Practice: In addition to general IELTS practice, find speaking exercises targeting specific grammar points – perhaps an activity focused entirely on using past tense forms, for example.
  • Imitate and Record: Listen to podcasts or recordings of native English speakers and try to mimic their sentence structures. Record yourself to identify areas where your grammar falters.
  • “Inner Narration:” While doing everyday tasks, try narrating your actions to yourself using correct grammar. This builds the habit of speaking in full, grammatical sentences.
  • Don’t Panic if You Slip Up: Everyone makes minor mistakes sometimes, even native speakers! If you do make a slip, quickly correct yourself if possible, and move on – don’t let it derail your confidence.

Grammar in Action: Sample IELTS Speaking Scenarios

  • Describing a Past Experience: Using the correct past forms, plus words like “before”, “after”, or “while” to show the sequence of events, will score you higher than a series of unconnected simple sentences.
  • Expressing Opinions: Saying “I think…” or “I believe…” is a start, but adding clauses with “because” to give reasons makes your arguments more persuasive.
  • Hypothetical Discussions: Conditionals like “If I could…, I would….” allow you to go beyond simple statements and impress the examiners with your language control.

Final Note

Remember, mastering grammar doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the effort. As you learn to speak with more grammatical complexity and precision, you’ll sound more natural and communicate your ideas with more impact. This will not only boost your IELTS Speaking score but also provide the foundation for strong English communication skills that will benefit you far beyond the testing environment.

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.