how to improve grammar ielts test

Grammar is a huge area with many books dedicated to it. If you are taking an IELTS exam in the near future you may not have a lot of time to work on grammar. The best ways to improve your grammar score are to reduce the number of errors you make and also to write a variety of sentence types. Looking below at the grading criteria for a level 7 for grammar makes this clear.

Criteria for grammar

  • uses a variety of complex structures
  • produces frequent error-free sentences
  • has good control of grammar but may make a few errors

From the criteria above we can notice that there is nothing about using complicated tenses such as perfect tenses. Spending time on learning different tenses and how to use them does not usually pay off well in terms of the time investment. As well is this, they are difficult to master and apply in your writing. For this reason, I think that it’s better to focus on reducing errors and learning to write different sentence structures, especially complex sentences. This section focuses on some ways to write complex sentence structures and then on explaining a few of the types of grammatical errors that commonly occur in essays.

Develop ways of writing complex sentences
Complex sentences are sentences that include an independent and dependent clause. Two excellent ways to form these are to use conditionals [phrases] and relative clauses [who, which, that, where]. 

Conditional sentences
A conditional sentence is a complex sentence structure used to talk about something that occurs only if something else happens. The condition may be something real or imagined, and the result could be a definite result, or just a possible result. Conditionals are a useful way of forming complex sentences, which can boost your grammar score. Another reason why I teach candidates to use them is because they can be easily noticed by an examiner, due to the word if. If sends a signal to the examiner that a conditional is being used.

There are two clauses to a conditional sentence:
One part is the if clause. This is the event that needs to occur. It is a dependent clause because it is not a complete sentence and is dependent on the other part of the sentence.
The second part is the result or main clause, or what happens when the event in the if clause occurs. The result clause is an independent clause because it can stand on its own as a sentence.
The dependent and independent clauses can be written in any order, as shown below:
If I have holidays, I go to Australia. [A comma as needed when the dependent clause comes first]
I go to Australia if I have holidays. [No comma]

Summary of conditions

Condition Usage Example
0 Facts and opinions If I have holidays,    I go to Australia

     present tense      present tense

1 Likely outcomes If I have enough days off,    I will go to Australia.

Present tense             future tense                                   

2 Unlikely outcomes or imagined situations If I won the lottery,              I would go to Australia.

    Past                               would

3 Past situations that didn’t occur

If I had had enough days off, I would have gone to Australia.

    Past Perfect               would have

Relative clauses
Another good way to increase your grammar score by using complex sentences is to add relative clauses to your sentences. Relative clauses use relative pronouns (that, which, who,) and are dependent clauses, which means that they cannot stand on their own as complete sentence.

Summary of relative pronouns

Relative

pronoun

Use Example
who people I like students who study hard.
which things I live in a flat, which is in a high-rise building.
where places I like shopping at places where there is lots of parking.
whose possession Do you know the boy whose mother is a nurse?
that for a specific person or thing

I don’t like the table that stands in the kitchen.

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