IELTS Writing Task 2: Grammar Secrets

May 15, 2020 | IELTS WRITING TASK 2

Below is the checklist of grammar concepts that you should cover in your Task 2 response to achieve a decent score (band 7 and above). By using these key points, you will make a significant difference to the examiner’s impression of your English grammar, your writing, and thus your final result.

In fact, the practicality of these methods transcends the realm of IELTS Writing. You should also keep these in mind when you are writing your academic essays or formal reports at college, university or at work in any English-speaking situation.

  1. Complex sentences
    A complex sentence simply means a sentence with two or more ideas contained in it. One of the most common weaknesses which IELTS examiners say they find in essays is that the sentences are either too short or too basic.  Some useful ways to build complex sentences are:

    • When the government pays for tuition fees, the constraint of finance is removed, encouraging a greater number of students to attend academic courses.
    • While X may be positive in some respects, we should also consider its negative aspects, namely
    • We face a number of challenges in this field, ranging from A to B and even, in the long term, C.
    • We should not only do X, but consider doing Y as well.
    • Although it may be useful to do X, this would result in Y, causing . . .
    • I partly disagree with the idea that advertising has negatively influenced our life, because I recognize several benefits it brings to society.
    • By spending money to protect minority languages, governments can also preserve traditions, customs and behaviors.
    • Instead of driving cars, people should use public transport.
    • Compared to those who hold high school qualifications, university graduates often have more employment opportunities.
    • The use of private cars is increasing in Ho Chi Minh City, and this puts a strain on its infrastructure.

    In any IELTS essay, ensure that the majority of your sentences are complex ones. Using leading to/ causing/ resulting in/ giving rise to/ engendering is often the easiest way to do this.


    • Without coordinated measures from national and global organizations, the environment will continue to deteriorate, leading to a more unstable world for us all.
    • Many people in the countryside migrate into big cities, resulting in an increase in the demands for accommodation, food and services in urban areas.
    • Advertisements give people more choices on what they want to buy, giving rise to the consumer society.
    • Artificial intelligence is expected to outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task, engendering the advent of new technologies such as driverless cars, voice recognition, music composition, to name a few.
  2. Passives
    In Academic English, the use of passive structures is critically important. The examiner will look for passives in your essay, and you will not be able to achieve over Band 7 unless you show that you can use them properly.As a general rule, try to use a passive structure at least once in each paragraph of your main body, for every type of essay. It is not a mistake to say ‘companies build roads’ or ‘people build roads’ but if you want to emphasize the object (what is built) rather than the subject (who is building it), consider using passives. You can use the passive in any tense.

    • Roads were built in the nineteenth century.
    • Roads have been built since the 1800’s.
    • Roads are being built these days.
    • Roads will be built to meet demand.

    And so on.

  3. If-conditionals
    By using if-sentences, you demonstrate that you can discuss a hypothetical situation. This particularly works when you are presenting solutions or recommendations and evaluating the possible effects resulting from implementing those. I strongly suggest you use this concept once (with appropriacy, of course) in your essay.In case this grammar point is unfamiliar to you, please read below for examples of the various types of conditional structures.0 conditional:

    • If you want to see us, office hours are between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

    1st conditional:

    • If this happens, increasing temperatures will raise sea levels.

    2nd conditional:

    • If the public were made aware of the problems of smartphone addiction, a lot more people would seek help.
    • If we took this step, it would greatly enhance access to courses for people on lower incomes.
    • If such courses were more available, it would reduce the issue of living expenses to some extent.

    3rd conditional:

    • If the Internet had not been invented, the world would not have had instant communication as is so common nowadays.
    • If they had ended their meeting without further action, America would have been very different.

    Mixed conditional:

    • Their rights would be very different today if the Women’s Rights Movement had not been formed.

    Alternatives for “If”:

    • Unless you have a doctor’s note to say you have passed the medical, they will not allow you to go on the holiday. (= if you do not have a doctor’s note)
    • I wouldn’t be willing to help you out again unless you paid me.
    • Without coordinated action from national and global organizations, the environment will continue to deteriorate, leading to a more unstable world for us all. (= in the absence of)
    • They would have all perished, but for the quick thinking of the driver. (= if it had not been for)
    • The system will not have to be drained provided that antifreeze has been added. (= providing that = so long as = as long as)
    • Expenses will be reimbursed on the condition that all receipts are submitted.
  4. Time & probability qualifiers
    It is advisable to use qualifiers in your ideas, to show that you have thought about the probability and/or timescales in which things happen.

    • X may possibly/ potentially happen …
    • X will inevitably/ undoubtedly happen …
    • X will ultimately happen …
    • X will gradually /steadily happen …
    • X will happen step by step
    • X will suddenly/ spontaneously happen …

    In your essays, try to include some of these qualifiers; this is a straightforward way to improve the examiner’s perception of your writing.

  5. Conjunctions (Cohesive devices/ Linking words)
    Conjunctions are linking words or phrases that connect ideas and sentences.
    Examples include but are not limited to ‘however’, ‘by contrast’, ‘furthermore’, ‘finally’.For an extended list of transition words and conjunctions, please refer to the attached file here.
    Linking words
  6. Referencing devices
    It is often said that a common weakness in Task 2 essays is that sentences begin without any connection to the previous sentence, making the essay difficult to follow. In Academic English, it is important to link your sentences together.

    • … decline as they grow older. This affects their mobility …
    • … by relying on savings. This results in …
    • … more time to fill. This leads us on to …
    • … isolation. This happens when …
    • … grandchildren in many cases. Despite this, …
    • … the whole question of finance. By this we mean that
    • … the prime period of life. This is not to say that

    In these examples, the writer uses ‘this’ (or phrases with ‘this’) to refer back to the previous sentence, helping the reader follow the progress of the argument. The sentences beginning with ‘this’ usually give a definition, an explanation or a development of the previous idea.

    In your essays, especially in the main body, try to use ‘this’ phrases in this way. This applies to all types of Opinion and Ideas essays, because in all of them you need to give definitions, explanations or developments of your ideas.


IELTS Band 9 Grammar Secrets (published by Cambridge IELTS Consultants)


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