Candidates practicing for IELTS often ask which tenses for IELTS are important and which tenses they need to know.
We'll have a look at this in this lesson.
The fact is that there are not specific ones that are important for speaking - the more you know, the better you will be able to convey your message in the speaking test.
You will be asked about the past, present, and future in the test, so all will be needed.
The important thing about tenses for IELTS in the speaking test is that you know how to listen carefully to the question, and then choose the correct one to answer.
For instance, if the examiner asks;
Your answer should of course also be in the past:
Or if the examiner asks:
Then you will need to use a mix of past and present tenses.
So make sure at the very least you have a good knowledge of the present, past and future simple tenses to get you through the test, but if you are more skilled and want a higher score, then of course you want to start ensuring you can use some of the more advanced level tenses such as the present perfect continuous and future perfect continuous tenses.
For the writing, it is possible to be a bit more specific about which tenses for IELTS are needed.
For the Task 1 Academic, you are most likely to have to write about a graph in the past. So you should make sure you know how to use the basic past simple. Graphs are sometimes about predictions, so you need to make sure you know the future simple as well, although common words to use for this are 'expected' to, 'predicted' to' etc than the more definite words of 'will' or 'going to'.
As in this example, you can see it goes up to 2022.
You could have sentences like this:
This does not mean that you won't have the opportunity to fit in other tenses, which of course if you have higher skill levels you should do to ensure you show the examiner the flexibility that you have to try and get the highest possible grammar score.
Occasionally you have to write about an IELTS process diagram, in which case you need to make sure you can use the passive voice in the present simple (if it's a man-made process).
Below is an example:
Maps or plans also sometimes arise, where you have to compare how they differ at two points in time. The times can vary, so it could for example compare present with future, or past with present. So again you need to know the basic tenses for IELTS to answer these.
For the Task 2 Essay (Academic and General Training) it's actually very common to use the present simple tense for IELTS. This is because you will be writing about general facts and truths and giving your opinions, which are commonly done using the present tense.
Of course though again you may need to make use of other tenses, as you may want to refer to past and future situations, events, or views as well.
You can take a look at these sample essays to examine how different tenses for IELTS are made use of.
For the IELTS Letter (Task 1 General Training) you could have to use a variety of tenses. It's quite common to discuss a situation/problem you had in the past, but to then discuss possible solutions:
So in this example you would certainly be making use of the past simple to discuss what went wrong and what you did to overcome the problems:
But then the future unreal conditional tense to talk about the actions you 'would like' the manager to take (we use 'would' for imaginary situations):
Here is a different example:
This is slightly different as you would be using future tenses, such as the future simple/continuous, to say where you are going and the present simple to describe your house:
But then the present and future using modal verbs (e.g. you must; you will have to) to say what your friend has to do at your house.
Again though, it's unusual to just stick to one specific tense for IELTS letters for each point, so to be flexible and write a good letter you will likely be moving around different tenses in order to convey a coherent message in your letter.
The reading and listening modules are different to the writing and speaking as you are taking information directly from the audio or reading texts to place into your answer key. So in that respect, understanding tenses for IELTS as above is not the same.
However, the more you understand tenses, the better you will be able to make sense of what you are listening to or reading, as our comprehension of a language is of course directly related to this. So it's still important to know about tenses and what they mean as much as possible.
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