The Complete Guide to IELTS Writing Grading: Grammatical Range and Accuracy

This article is part of our series about how the IELTS graded. If you haven’t yet, check out our sections on task response, coherence and cohesion and lexical resource.

What is grammatical range and accuracy?

Grammatical range and accuracy is, just like it sounds, all about using a wide range of grammatical structures accurately. However, there’s more to it than just trying to use as much grammar as possible. In this guide we will look at what the requirements are and what you can do to meet them.

Band four

  • Uses only a very limited range of structures with only rare use of subordinate clauses.
  • Some structures are accurate but errors predominate, and punctuation is often faulty.

Band five

  • Uses only a limited range of structures.
  • Attempts complex sentences but these tend to be less accurate than simple sentences.
  • May make frequent grammatical errors and punctuation may be faulty; errors can cause some difficulty for the reader

Band six

  • Uses a mix of simple and complex sentence forms.
  • Makes some errors in grammar and punctuation but they rarely reduce communication

Band seven

  • Uses a variety of complex structures
  • Produces frequent error-free sentences
  • Has good control of grammar and punctuation but may make a few errors

Accuracy versus range

One thing students don’t realise about grammatical accuracy and range is that having a wide range is more important than having perfect accuracy. You could write perfectly without making any mistakes at all and still only get a band four if those perfect sentences were all simple. On the other hand, an essay with a wide range of grammar and some mistakes can do quite well. Even a band six will let you have ‘some errors’. One piece of advice I often give to students is to ‘be brave’ with their grammar. It’s better to try something more complex and risk not getting it perfect.

Complex versus complicated

The word ‘complex’ gets used a lot when talking about grammar in the IELTS grading. It’s important, however, to know the difference between complex and complicated. Complex means something has a lot of parts while complicated means something is difficult to understand. We might say that for grammar, complex grammar is hard to put together but complicated grammar is hard to read and understand. In the IELTS test we do want our sentences to be complex but we really don’t want them to be complicated.You should try and include more than one idea in your sentences to add complexity, but you don’t need to do more than that and make your writing complicated.

What types of grammar should I use?

The most important thing to remember when you’re thinking of what types of grammar to include is to think about including more than one idea in a sentence. There are three types of complex grammar we always recommend for students who are new to the IELTS. These are easy to include in an essay on any topic. These are:

  • If sentences: If cities want to improve their residents’ quality of life, they need to reduce traffic congestion.
  • Although sentences: Although taking the subway is sometimes uncomfortable, it is a very efficient way to commute.
  • Appositives: Introducing a congestion charge, which is a fee to drive in certain areas of a city, can also discourage drivers.

Improving your accuracy

Of course, just because range is more important than accuracy, that doesn’t mean you should ignore range. To become a more accurate writer, you need to practice and you need to get feedback. Practice is important because just reading about grammar isn’t enough. You need to practice using that grammar to remember it. However,if you just practice, you might make mistakes that you don’t notice and fail to correct them. For that reason, it’s important to get frequent feedback on your writing.

In conclusion:

For most students, increasing their grammar response isn’t about learning a lot of new grammar. It’s more important to focus on learning a few flexible pieces of grammar and use them well. The best approach is to focus on flexible grammar like the types in this article. Keep practicing these and get some feedback on your writing to check that you’re using them correctly.

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