I have reviewed thousands of IELTS academic writing essays and I have noticed IELTS grammar mistakes that are made again and again. Frequent mistakes are common when learning a new language, but if more than 50% of your sentences have a single error in them, you will get a Band 6 or less on the exam. So, having perfect sentences most of the time is rather important!
Below are some of the most common IELTS mistakes that I regularly see, which means it is likely that you are making them too! However, they are easily avoidable once you are aware of them. Knowing the most common IELTS mistakes and fixing them now through practice will greatly raise your score.
Table of Contents
- Using Contractions
- Inserting Numbers Instead of Words
- Combining Two Complete Sentences with a Comma
- Adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ To Uncountable Nouns
- Using ‘The’ Correctly
Common IELTS Grammar Mistakes
Contractions are used frequently in spoken English to shorten words. However, they should not be used in the IELTS Writing exams. You will lose silly points for making these common IELTS grammar mistakes.
So instead use:
- Cannot instead of Can’t
- Do not instead of Don’t
- I will instead of I’ll
- It is instead of It’s
Inserting Numbers Instead of Words
Similar to above, one of the IELTS grammar mistakes I regularly see is students typing a number instead of writing out the word for that number. This shortcut has its place in some forms of writing, but should not be used in the IELTS Writing exam.
- Wrong example: “Recent research shows that only 2 out of 10 individuals around the world today do not have mobile phones.”
- Correct example: “Recent research shows that only two out of ten individuals around the world today do not have mobile phones.”
Combining Two Complete Sentences with a Comma
I see this one time and time again. Unfortunately, you cannot combine two complete sentences with just a comma. You either have to use a semicolon (;) or a conjunction (and/or/but).
- Wrong example: “This is because more ways of communication are now available, people are now being connected through mobile phones and a range of network devices.”
- Correct example: “This is because more ways of communication are available and people are being connected through mobile phones and a range of network devices.”
Adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ To Uncountable Nouns
There are some nouns in the English language that are uncountable, and therefore you can NEVER make them plural by adding ‘s’ or ‘es.’ They will always appear in the singular form. There are quite a few uncountable nouns, but the three IELTS grammar mistakes I see repeatedly occur with:
If a noun is uncountable, you cannot use:
A plural verb
- Wrong example: “Recent researches have shown…”
- It should instead be: “Recent research has shown…”
- Wrong example: “Three advices I would give…”
- It should instead be: “Three pieces of advice I would give…”
A few, a couple, many, a number of
- Wrong example: “A number of information shows…”
- It should instead be: “A lot of information shows…”
Using ‘The’ Correctly
Article misuse is one of the most common IELTS mistakes by ESL students. For many learners, it just isn’t part of their native language, so learning it in English makes it doubly hard. Here are a few guidelines to help you use ‘the’ in the correct way.
We use ‘the’ before:
- Places where the name refers to a group of islands or states: the USA, the UK, the Middle East, the UAE
- Cardinal numbers: the first of day of the month, the second survey shows
- Superlatives: the shortest, the longest, the lowest, the highest
- Nouns when you are talking about a specific person, place or thing: the government of India, the river in Calcutta, India, the man across the street has a beard
- Nouns where there is only one in the entire world: the internet, the environment, the ozone layer, the atmosphere
We don’t use ‘the’ before:
- A single place or country: Germany, India, Korea
- Nouns when you are talking generally about more than one. Often here the word converts to a plural: governments around the world; rivers in India; many men have beards
Common IELTS Mistakes: Task Response
Using Personal Examples
When writing your academic essay, you will want to back up your idea with an example, but too often, I see students giving a personal example. As this is an academic essay, you need the language and examples to be formal and sound as if they have been researched. Using personal examples will get you lower points, so avoid them.
- Weak example: “My parents frequently work late in order to make ends meet, and this has a big impact on the amount of time I get to communicate with them.”
- Stronger example: “Many parents today are working longer hours in order to sufficiently provide for their children, which is having an enormous impact on the amount available time for face to face communication.”
Common IELTS Mistakes: Coherence and Cohesion
Being Too Verbose
When you are too verbose, you are using more words than needed. Try to cut out phrases and words that are not relevant to the task response. This will not only help reduce your word count if you tend to write too much, but will also help your writing to be more coherent and concise.
- Weak example: “Even if employees engage in their jobs for a long time, they often fail to climb the business ladder, which is regularly the most common goal, therefore, they must face the harsh reality of staying in the same position for years.”
- Stronger example: “Even if employees stay in one job for a long time, they will often fail to climb the business ladder.”
Not Using Linking Phrases
To make your sentences coherent and cohesive, you must use linking words and phrases. Don’t just list sentences, connect them together!
- Weak example: “Mexicans will prefer Madrid as their most visited city. Americans will most likely go to Paris. Canadians love traveling to Istanbul the most.”
- Stronger example (linking phrases are bolded): “To begin with, Mexicans will prefer Madrid as their most visited city. In contrast, Americans will most likely go to Paris. Lastly, Canadians love traveling to Istanbul the most.”
In vs. On
When to use the preposition IN or ON can be very challenging for ESL students. Here are a few basic guidelines:
IN is used to:
- indicate that something is contained or inside: “She is in the house.”
- denote a moment enclosed in time: “I completed my Masters degree in 2014.”
- refer to the names of cities, towns, and countries: “There are many vegetarians in India.”
ON is used to:
- indicate that something is positioned on a surface or just above or outside an area: “The coffee cup is sitting on the desk.”
- refer to days and dates that are not enclosed with a specific time: “I visited your restaurant on 29 June.”
- refer to street name locations: “The restaurant is located on Lakeview Drive.”
Common IELTS Mistakes: Lexical Resource
Not Using High Level Vocabulary
Twenty-five percent of your score is based on your lexical resource, so it is important to learn and use a wide range of high level vocabulary in your essay. I regularly see students use the word ‘done’ when citing their academic example. This should be replaced with a higher level word like ‘conducted’ or other alternative phrases like: ‘carried out,’ ‘administered by,’ or ‘organized by.’
- Weak example: “Recent research done by Harvard University shows that 65% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week.”
- Stronger example: “Recent research conducted by Harvard University shows that 65% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week.”