Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Are you wondering what verb tenses and grammar forms matter on IELTS?

On our podcast, IELTS Energy, and in our course, 3 Keys IELTS Success System, we tell people to not worry so much about their grammar on IELTS.

There are many reasons for this.

First of all, if you are trying to improve your speaking and writing score, your time is better spent on improving your fluency, coherence, vocabulary and pronunciation.

These categories provide more reachable ways to make your band score jump higher.

In the category of grammar, however, it is not easy to internalize and produce new and more complex structures with few mistakes.

Many people who study English for years, and are considered fluent, still make grammar mistakes.

Native speakers still make grammar mistakes!

Having said that, there is one part of grammar that you must think about when speaking and writing.

This is verb tense.

Errors in tense and time are very noticeable to the examiner, and, if you make too many of these mistakes, it could severely impact your score.

Remember, you do not have to have perfect grammar to get a 7.

To score a 6 for grammar, you are actually allowed quite a few grammar errors, as long as you are using a variety of sentence structures.

However, if the examiner notices too many errors, your score may drop down to a 5.

With that in mind, I’m going to provide examples below of where the most common verb tenses are used on the test.

The fewer mistakes, the better!

Present Simple

This tense describes general truths, habits, and descriptions of things or events that are currently happening.

Speaking Part 1

Tell me about your apartment.

Student: “My apartment is near the university. It is quite small, but comfortable. I live there with two of my friends, and we like to throw parties there sometimes.

Speaking Part 2

Describe a person who you think is intelligent.

Student: My friend Marta is super smart. She goes to school at Harvard University, and she wants to be a doctor. It’s interesting, because I think most people as smart as Marta do not have good social skills. Marta, however, loves going out dancing and she has a lot of friends…

Writing Task 2 / Speaking Part 3

Some people think that reading comic books, or graphic novels, is only for children, and mature adults should not be wasting time on these things. What is your opinion?

Student: These days, comic books are definitely not just for kids. There actually exists a specific literary vehicle called the graphic novel that many novices mix up with comic books, but they are far from the same. Graphic novels feature many adult themes and violent scenes, and are written and drawn by some very well respected artists in their own right.

Past Simple

This tense describes actions or things that are finished in the past.

Speaking Part 1

What did you do yesterday?

Student: Yesterday, I had school, actually. So, I woke up around 8 in the morning, grabbed some coffee on my way to campus, and went to 3 classes in a row. It was pretty tiring, to be honest.

Speaking Part 2

Describe a place you went to that was really quiet.

Student: Last year, I visited Taipei with a friend. My friend, Chloe, had some meetings to go to, so I tagged along for a little vacation. One day, when Chloe was at work, I decided to go to the mountains and hike. It was incredible! The trail started right in the city, practically, and I could bike there easily from my hotel…

Writing Task 1

The graph shows the amount of students in three different majors from 2000 to 2010.

Student: In 2000, the number of students in the tech courses stood at 3,000. Then, in the next 5 years, this number rocketed to over 1 million.

Present Perfect

This tense is usually used to introduce information about a past experience. It is almost always followed by the past simple to give details about the experience.

Speaking Part 1

Do you travel often?

Student: I have traveled to over 30 countries, by myself. I went to Europe for the first time in 1998, then I traveled around India in 2001.
Remember, do not worry too much about having perfect grammar.

That is nearly impossible.

However, you should also not make basic errors, such as those with verb tense.

Do you have any questions about grammar on IELTS?

Leave us your question or practice your own sentences in the comments below.

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