Improve your Grammar for IELTS

 

The Importance of Grammar

Grammar is very important in IELTS. Your grammar determines 25% of your grade. Therefore, you must explain your meaning precisely and accurately.

Take a look at the following breakdown. On the left are IELTS bands, and on the right are remarks about grammar.

7 Only 3 mistakes
6 Natural mix of sentence types

No errors in simple sentences

5 Complex sentences

Really basic correct punctuation

Simple structures usually correct

4 Errors abound

Mostly simple sentences

Incorrect punctuation

Fragments/non-sentences

 

For a band 4 you can make lots of mistakes, but at band 7 you can only make 3 grammar errors. The higher your band, the more accurate your language should be.

So let’s review some very common grammar mistakes that IELTS students make all the time. If you can successfully avoid these errors, you’ll be on your way to a better IELTS band!

Sentence Fragment

This is the most common grammar error IELTS students make. A sentence fragment cannot be a sentence by itself. It does not even have one independent clause.

Remember: a simple sentence is an independent clause, which requires 3 things:

  1. A subject
  2. A verb
  3. A complete thought

Sometimes it seems to be a sentence, but if we examine it closely it lacks the necessary parts and thus cannot stand alone.

Examples

  • The doctor worked round the clock. Operating on the boy.
  • As Vietnam has entered the WTO. The local entrepreneurs are faced with both challenges and opportunities.

How can we correct these sentences?

Corrections

  • The doctor worked around the clock, operating on the boy.
  • As Vietnam has entered the WTO, the local entrepreneurs are faced with both challenges and opportunities.

Run-on Sentences and Comma Splices

A run-on sentence consists of two or more main clauses that are joined together without proper punctuation. We often speak in run-on sentences but our pauses indicate meaning; however, when we write we need to use punctuation to break up our sentences and impart proper meaning.

Comma splices occur when two independent clauses are joined by a comma. Remember: a comma is not strong enough to join these clauses itself! You need a conjunctive coordinator to complement it, or else use a semi-colon and a conjunctive adverb.

Most importantly, to do well in the IELTS writing you don’t need to be a punctuation expert. Just knowing commas and periods is usually sufficient for a good grade.

Examples:

  • Van Gogh is a world-famous artist his paintings can be found in many museums and art galleries.
  • Allen Ginsberg is a renowned American poet, his most famous poem is Howl.

How can we fix these?

Corrections:

  • Van Gogh is a world-famous artist whose paintings can be found in many museums and art galleries.
  • Van Gogh is a world-famous artist. His paintings can be found in many museums and art galleries.
  • Van Gogh is a world-famous artist; his paintings can be found in many museums and art galleries.
  • Allen Ginsberg is a renowned American poet, whose most famous poem is Howl.
  • Allen Ginsberg is a renowned American poet. His most famous poem is Howl.
  • Allen Ginsberg is a renowned American poet; his most famous poem is Howl.

As you can see above, there is more than one way to fix these errors. Make sure, however, that you use the correct fix according to the sentence’s precise meaning.

Dangling Participles

A dangling participle occurs where a participle doesn’t quite match with the preceding clause. If you begin a sentence with, for example, a subordinate clause, then it doesn’t match with the independent clause that follows, you have a dangling participle. A common mistake is in introducing a person with a participle phrase, “Born in 1985…” and then tying this to, for example, the person’s work rather than the person. You might say, “Born in 1985, his most famous book was released in 2012.” What’s wrong with this? “Born in 1985…” should match with a person, yet here it is modifying a book.

Examples:

  • Driving along the road, the mountains appeared ahead.
  • Wishing I could eat, the bread looked tantalizing.

How can these be fixed?

Corrections:

  • Driving along the road, I saw the mountains appearing ahead of me.
  • Wishing I could eat, I looked at the tantalizing bread.

Subject-Verb Disagreement

You cannot put a verb in its plural form for a singular subject and vice versa. This is another very common error.

  • The endless credits at the beginning and end of the film confuses the audience.
  • The president, accompanied by his wife and children, are going on holiday.
  • Salt is one of the traditional methods that is used to preserve meat.

How should we change these to make them correct?

Corrections:

  • The endless credits at the beginning and end of the film confuse the audience.
  • The president, accompanied by his wife and children, is going on holiday.
  • Salt is one of the traditional methods that are used to preserve meat.

Other errors

Make sure that you avoid faulty parallelism, be clear with your use of pronouns, and maintain unity and coherence throughout each sentence.

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Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel.

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