How Important is Grammatical Knowledge for the IELTS Test?
The one-liner answer is, ‘Grammatical Knowledge’ is of top priority for the ‘IELTS’ Test. As we all know that grammar is the foundation of any language, it holds good for the IELTS Test as well. In both the two formats of the IELTS Tests i.e. in the IELTS Academic Test and the IELTS General Training Test, there are 4 parts. The parts are 1) IELTS Listening Test, 2) IELTS Reading Test, 3) IELTS Speaking Test and 4) IELTS Writing Test. For all the parts of the Tests ‘Grammar’ is an essential constituent. Though it is not directly a test of grammar, still any ‘Grammatical Mistakes’ results in lowering the score. First, let’s discuss how grammar is applicable in the tests.
In the IELTS Listening Test, the examiner asks the candidate to listen to a recorded voice of conversations of native English speakers. The listening test consists of 4 sections and the total time for the test is 30 minutes. The questions are asked based on listening to the audio. For the test, a candidate needs to write answers on the answer sheet. Though the test is not focused on grammar, each grammatical error in the written answer sheet is counted. The higher the number of mistakes the lower the score.
The IELTS Reading Test consists of 3 to 4 passages with increasing difficulty, the time allotted is 60 minutes. Questions are asked based on reading the passages. The candidate gets an answer sheet on which he needs to write the answers. The reading test is directly not about evaluating the skills of the candidate in grammar. But without solid fundamental knowledge of the English Grammar, a candidate can’t grasp the exact contextual meaning of the reading passages. Thus, poor or average knowledge of the English Grammar would lead to a lower score.
The IELTS Speaking Test consists of 3 parts and the total time allotted for the test is 11 to 15 minutes. In part 1, the examiner introduces himself and then asks the candidate to introduce himself in a few sentences. Then the examiner asks general questions on a range of familiar topics, like questions home, family, etc. Then he asks several questions that fall in part 1 and part 2. A candidate needs to answer in stipulated time as per instruction. Every answer to a candidate recorded for scrutiny. Based on the accuracy and usage of a wide range of sentence structures, a candidate gets his marks. Here, grammar is a matter of high priority, as 25% of the total marks depend on grammatical accuracy. So it’s’ wise to spend plenty of quality time for grammar while preparing for the test.
The IELTS Writing Test is carried for 60 minutes and a candidate needs to complete 2 writing tasks, Task1 and Task2. Each of the Tasks contains different text types like expressing opinions, reporting, discussing, arguing, justifying a point with reasons, etc. In the writing test, the depth of the candidate is thoroughly measured. The candidate must use a wide range of vocabulary, complex sentence structures, flawless grammatical usage of words in sentences. The meaning of each sentence, be it complex or not, has to be transparent. Here also 25% of the total marks depend on grammar. So there is no escape route, without grammar, one can’t succeed.
The accuracy of grammar for all sections of the IELTS Test is highly opted for as candidates’ accuracy and range of grammatical usage would decide his ‘Band Score’. For achieving a high ‘Band Score’ i.e. 7+ to 9, candidates’ knowledge and application of grammar must be impeccable and rich. As English grammar is the foundation of the English language, to be flexible in usage and creating new complex sentences, profound grammatical knowledge is essential. Also for using interesting phrases, during speaking and writing, grammar is an essential constituent.
A candidate should check for grammatical mistakes:
- While giving short answers in reading or in listening – One must check that the grammatical use is appropriate.
- While writing summaries– knowing grammar helps one to identify suitable words.
- While listening a candidate might need to adapt the words he listens, to the grammar of the sentence he would write.
- While speaking, the grammar might decide the grade of a candidate.
- While writing – the higher the grammatical mistake the lower the band score.
- While being judged for the Band Score as a whole: Essential criteria for getting Band 7 is ‘Frequent error-free sentences’ and for getting Band 8 it is ‘The majority of the sentences are error-free’.
- While reading, ‘Grammatical Knowledge’ helps one in identifying the right answer.
Usually, it is observed candidates who get ‘Band 7’ or ‘Band 8’ are comfortable enough with the English Grammar. Those who are not comfortable with it, get lower band scores. Being grammatically accurate is even more important than having a great vocabulary.
The gradation of the IELTS Test depends on several factors. For the writing test, what is keenly observed is the ability of the candidate in writing:
- 1) A wide range of Grammar with accuracy.
- 2) Logically, orderly and consistently relating the words in sentences.
- 3) Response or Task achievement.
- 4) Neatly woven sentences.
- 5) Lexical resources.
For the Speaking test, what is keenly observed is the ability of the candidate in speaking:
- 1) Fluently and coherently.
- 2) Using a wide range of vocabulary.
- 3) Using a wide range of Grammar with immaculate perfection.
Hence IELTS conducts all the tests with a practical approach, the ultimate skill of a candidate is assessed through real-life conversations. Forgiving access to Education/Immigration/Employment/Professional training or Registration, different educational bodies, different companies set different benchmarks in the form IELTS Band Scores. And IELTS Band Scores highly depend on a candidate’s knowledge of Grammar. As mentioned early in the discussion that 25% of the total marks depends on the accuracy of grammar, its’ wise to say that ‘Profound Grammatical Knowledge’ is an essential constituent for getting a high band score ‘Band Score’. Some specific grammatical criteria are directly related to IELTS Band Score.
For achieving a Band Score of 7 the ‘Grammatical Range & Accuracy’ is measured by judging
1) Usage of a variety of complex sentence structures.
2) The ability to write frequent error-free sentences.
3) The execution of good control of grammar and punctuation, with a few errors.
For achieving a Band Score of 8 the ‘Grammatical Range & Accuracy’ is measured by judging
1) Usage of a variety of wide range complex sentence structures.
2) The ability to write mostly error-free sentences.
3) The execution of good control of writing accurately with almost no errors.
For achieving a Band Score of 9 the ‘Grammatical Range & Accuracy’ is measured by judging
1) Usage of a variety of wide range complex sentence structures with full flexibility and accuracy.
2) The ability to write sentences with no errors at all except very few occasional slips.
Two most important tips for using complex grammar:
1) In the writing ‘if clauses’ are very useful for explaining and sighting examples.
2) Relative clauses (who/which/when etc.) would also impressive from the examiner and they are good examples of more complex grammatical usage as well.
So, we can conclude that a candidate must use a variety of grammatical range, not being accurate in grammar would bring a higher band. Not all mistakes are counted with the same importance. As a basic rule, a candidate has to be more accurate with a simpler grammar than with complex. Committing an error while writing a simple sentence with a simple grammatical range is a major offense. Moreover, the range of grammar is as important as accuracy. It is important to understand that grammar is not just about tenses, but also about how one organizes the sentences in the writing. Thus the knowledge of English Grammar in the IELTS tests is highly essential.