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5 Key Grammar Rules for IELTS

In this lesson we'll look at 5 key grammar rules for IELTS that will help to ensure you don't make easily avoidable errors in your writing and speaking.

During your exam, you’ll get scored on various aspects; one criteria is grammatical range and accuracy. This will count towards 25% of your final band score.

Making a few mistakes is fine! But repeatedly making the same grammatical errors will lower your score, which is why it’s super important to study all the rules and practice implementing them.

5 Must Know Grammar Rules For IELTS

Let’s delve into the 5 key grammar rules you need to master for the IELTS speaking and writing section.

Subject-verb agreement

If your subject is singular, your verb should be too:

  • My brother likes spicy food (not 'like')

This might seem like a basic rule, but it’s a mistake candidates make pretty often, especially when they’re making use of subjects that might seem plural but are actually in singular form. 

For instance, don’t say:

  • My group of friends are very important to me.

It should be:

  • My group of friends is very important to me.

The verb is agreeing with 'group', a singular subject, not 'friends'; therefore, the singular verb should be used. 

Modal verbs

You’ll often be expected to express your opinion, demonstrate a level of certainty, or make future predictions. In all these cases, you’ll need to know which modal verbs to use. 

We’ll explore a few core modal verbs that you can  familiarise yourself with before taking the exam.

'Should' for Opinion

To express your opinion during the speaking section or writing task 2, you can incorporate should.

We use it most commonly to express what we feel is the ideal or best thing to do in a situation. For example:

  • In my opinion, people should be doing more to help protect the environment. 

'Must' for Obligation

To express obligation, use must.

  • I must finish my studies before I start applying for jobs. 

'May/Might' for Possibility

To express possibility, incorporate may/might.

For example:

  • I might move abroad next year. 

Relative pronouns

For a high band score, you need to use a combination of simple and complex sentence structures. One of the best ways to include complex sentences is by making use of relative pronouns (which we use to create relative clauses) to provide further information. 

Relative pronouns are

  • which
  • who
  • whose
  • that
  • whom
  • what

Instead of saying:

  • I live next to a farm. They have a big variety of animals. I often help feed them.


  • I live next to a farm, which has a big variety of animals that I often help feed. 


This rule is pretty simple, but it’s so easy to slip up, especially when it comes to the speaking section.

Articles come before nouns. There are two types of articles in English, the definite (the) and indefinite (an/a)

When referring to a specific place/thing, you’ll use the:

  • I take the bus to work. 

Remember to use it if you are referring to something already mentioned before:

  • Climate change is a real problem. The problem won't go away any time soon without action.

A/an is used to show quantity (one) or when the speaker and listener are unfamiliar with the object being discussed. 

  • I went up to a stranger to ask for directions. 

Gerunds and Infinitives

There are specific verbs that need to be followed by gerunds (appreciate, avoid, etc.) and others that are followed by to + infinitive (agreed, expected, etc.)

It’s important to study the rules and practice using them correctly. In some cases, both the gerund and infinitive can be used. However, the meanings will be slightly different. 

How many mistakes can you make?

For example: 

  • I remember helping my dad in the garden. (Refers to a memory)
  • I need to remember to help my dad in the garden. (This is a reminder of a task.)

Tips To Improve Grammar While Speaking

As you know, you are allowed a few “slips'' without having them impact your final score too much. But you might be wondering how many is too many. That depends on what band score you’re aiming for. 

Here are summaries of the grammatical range and accuracy requirements for each in both the speaking and writing sections:

  • Band 6: There are some grammatical and punctuation errors, but they don’t affect understanding. Simple and complex sentences are used, but flexibility is limited. 

  • Band 7: Variety of complex sentence structures but very few grammatical errors.

  • Band 8: wide range of sentence structures are used accurately and flexibly. Occasional errors are present, but sentences are mostly error-free. 

  • Band 9: Minor errors are rare, and a wide range of structures are used correctly and flexibly throughout.

Using proper grammar while speaking is just as important as it is in the writing section. Here are some of our top tips for practicing and improving your grammar in the IELTS speaking section!

  1. Practice! This might seem a little obvious. However, you can take it a step further by recording yourself answering speaking questions and listening out for any grammatical mistakes you might be making. By correcting your own mistakes, you’re more likely to learn from them.

  2. Study the grammar rules and make sure you understand them.

  3. Seek help from friends or teachers by doing a mock speaking test with them, they might be able to point out a few extra mistakes that you might have missed.

  4. Watch movies in English. The more you surround yourself with the language and hear other people speak, it will improve your speaking as well. 

More IELTS Grammar Lessons & Practice:

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