In this tutorial, we discuss grammatical accuracy in the IELTS Exam and why it is important with ex-examiner, Robert.
We look at:
- Why grammatical accuracy is so important in IELTS
- How grammatical accuracy is scored in IELTS
- How your first language can affect your grammatical errors
- Tips to improve your grammar for IELTS
IELTS is interesting because it’s not a “pass-fail” type of test. There is no absolute pass or fail grade but above all the idea of achievement, of reaching a standard and being accepted by others for study or work visa purposes.
There is a world of difference between a Band 6 and a Band 7 or, better still, a Band 7.5 or 8.0. Those with lower scores will struggle at first and perhaps later on and the reason for that is because they have yet to achieve what many call “sufficient mastery” of the language.
Why grammatical accuracy is so important
There is evidence from several studies suggesting that there is no guarantee that your English will improve that much while you are studying at university. In terms of specialised vocabulary perhaps yes, but if it’s grammatical correctness, probably, no. There are individual differences of course, but if you want to succeed at university, it is highly recommended you try to work on errors you are making in grammar BEFORE you start your course. Ideally, before you take IELTS.
In short, what we ideally need is the right balance between being fluent and being accurate.
How grammatical accuracy is scored in IELTS
In fact, we’re talking about 50% of the written text: GRA, grammatical range and accuracy together with cohesion and coherence. Those are the parts judged on accuracy, not only of grammatical structures and sentence complexity but also choices made between cohesive devices. Remember that the number of errors, defined as “some” in GRA and cohesive devices and referencing used “mechanically” or with “faults” at Band 6.0 change to “few” errors and “occasional over or under use” of cohesion at Band 7.
That’s a difference we can work on. Especially if you are starting out on the road towards IELTS and you are getting feedback from your written work pointing out your errors in GRA and cohesion, it’s the best time right now to take that feedback very seriously.
How your first language can affect your grammatical errors
Certain grammatical errors are related to your first language. Contrasting the rules of your native language with English will not give us the whole picture of anyone’s standards but may help us to know aspects to look out for.
As an experienced teacher, I would probably be able to identify the first language of a Task 2 writing sample thanks to the errors. These differences are well-known to all of you as learners even though it requires a lot of effort to tackle these errors successfully. Let’s take a couple of examples.
There are two cinema in shopping centre.
Is useful a dictionary when you learn a language.
I sometimes go to others shops.
Very small samples I know and there are so many other features we could mention though my idea is just to get you thinking about this and becoming aware of the kinds of errors you are making.
So, ideas? That first one with the singular form instead of plural “cinemas” and the missing article “the” before “shopping centre”?
Yes, likely to be a Chinese speaker as the absence of plural forms and articles in Chinese lead to these errors in English.
The second one with the lack of subject at the beginning with the verb placed before the noun. Ideas? Well, it could be a Spanish speaker since Spanish is much more flexible than English when it comes to word order.
And the last one? The plural “others” as an adjective breaks the English rule here and it could well come from an Arabic speaker where that would be possible.
Three examples, simple examples but I don’t need to tell you that these errors we all make can be identified by expert feedback and our own self-awareness.
Tips to improve your grammar for IELTS
If the first step is self-awareness, the second must be remedial. In other words, ways to reduce, hopefully, eradicate the errors. Here are some tips to improve your grammar for IELTS
- Spend some time going over what errors you are making. How “serious” are they? How do they affect comprehension and understanding?
- Identify and classify them. Do you need to work on verb tenses, prepositions, modal verbs, and subject-verb agreement? Are your errors something you´ve been carrying around with you for a long time? Are they identifiably related to your first language?
- What are you going to do about them? Study grammar, seek help from an expert, practice through grammar exercises? All of these?
The surer you are of the accuracy of what you write and speak, the easier it will be for you to successfully concentrate on the content of your studies without worrying so much about whether your English is good enough or not and the best way to make yourself sure is to know as precisely as possible the aspects you need to work on.
You can download or listen to the full tutorial here: