What are the top rules you need to know for IELTS Grammar?

Imagine that you write a perfectly accurate writing task 1 and task 2. I mean, PERFECT. There’s not a single inaccurate word; your verb tenses are spot on, your use of articles is precise and your plural nouns all have an ‘S’ on the end. You might be tricked into thinking that your job is done… surely you would receive a 9 for the IELTS grammar criterion, right? Not necessarily. Your job is only half done.

The highest score you can receive for grammar in IELTS writing if you write only simple and compound sentences is 4. That’s right. 4. Written clear as day in the IELTS Public Band Descriptors  (the criteria the examiners use to mark your essay) is a single line that says: “Rare use of subordinate clauses”.

Don’t know what a subordinate clause is? Don’t sweat… I’m sure you know what ‘rare’ means – you didn’t use many of them.

You see, how the IELTS examiners mark your writing is they go from the bottom up. They assume that you are an IELTS zero and you have to prove yourself and go from 0 to 1, and 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 etc. And as soon as you stumble, that’s where your mark ends. And if you do not write many ‘subordinate clauses’ into your writing then you will get stuck at 4 for grammar, even if your writing is perfectly accurate.

I’m sure this is what happened to me. You see, I like to write short simple sentences. I’m all about clarity, not pomposity. But the IELTS need to know that you have the capacity to use various sentence types. So what you have to do in your test – and what I experimented with in my fourth attempt – was to use a variety of grammar in both my writing task 1 and my writing task 2. I purposely, but appropriately, included:


  • Simple sentences
  • Compound sentences
  • Complex sentences (including subordinate clauses)
  • A question sentence
  • Passive Sentences
  • A conditional sentence


The big one here, though, is number 3: complex sentences with subordination. Without these, you CANNOT score any higher than a 4 for grammar which will affect your overall writing score substantially. Let’s do some math to see how important these sentence types are for your overall score.

Let’s say for the other IELTS writing criteria you get:

Task 8

Structure 8

Vocabulary 8

Grammar 4

Then your writing score will drop to just 7.

If you scored:

Task 7

Structure 7

Vocabulary 7

Grammar 4

Then your writing score would be a measly 6.

So, clearly, these complex sentences are important. But what are they exactly?

Improve your Grammar and get amazing results in IELTS!

Rather than write a boring blog post about complex sentences, you can watch me teach a live class here on the importance of them, which, hopefully, will be a bit more interesting for you. But what I will do is include a table of the types of words that lead you to write complex sentences with subordination:






even if

even though


in order that


provided that

rather than


so that























I hate YouTube videos and blog posts where people claim: “Use these words to get an IELTS 9.” They’re usually rubbish. But the words listed above are truly important. The problem is, can you use them accurately? Because, while you need to include a ‘range’ or a variety of sentence types / grammar in your writing, you also need to be almost entirely accurate.

My suggestion is this: Sign up to www.e2Language.com to take our online course. The courses include 1:1 45 minute expert tutorials with ex-IELTS examiners who will be able to guide you through the challenges of IELTS writing and lead you to the bright side of the road.

Written by: Jay

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