Let’s look at one of the key criteria in the IELTS Speaking test and IELTS Writing test, which is worth 25% of your total score.  There are two aspects to this particular criteria as it covers both ‘range’ and ‘accuracy’.  But what is the difference between the two?

The idea of grammar accuracy is very familiar to many learners of language. In IELTS, the bands are separated according to firstly how many grammar errors are made. At the top bands from 7 to 9, a speaker or writer should only make a few, occasional or rare errors.  In the middle bands like from 4 to 6, grammar mistakes are more frequent, but the difference with band 6 is that the mistakes do not impact on the writer’s or speaker’s message from coming through.

Accuracy

One aspect of grammar accuracy is punctuation. This can include the correct use of commas (,), full stops (.) or apostrophes (‘).  Let’s have a closer look at some sample sentences:

Looking at the former argument first of all one advantage of free public transport is it can reduce the amount of traffic on the roads meaning that the air quality especially in cities can be improved

While this sentence flows and you are able to follow the message, a response like this would be penalised under the Grammatical Range and Accuracy category.  Here is the same sentence, but with punctuation added (4 commas and a full stop):

Looking at the former argument first of all, one advantage of free public transport is it can reduce the amount of traffic on the roads, meaning that the air quality, especially in cities, can be improved.

One common error is to use a comma instead of a full stop.  Let’s look at this sample paragraph.

One of the key advantages of free public transport is the way in which it can improve air quality in cities, this is because it would encourage people to use their own personal vehicle less, given that the cost of transport in their weekly budget would be severely reduced, when the general health of the population improves due to cleaner air, other savings can be made as people would not have to spend money on medical bills to combat respiratory issues.

In this case, the writer has used commas continually without separating the paragraph into sentences.  Here is an amended version with correct punctuation.

One of the key advantages of free public transport is the way in which it can improve air quality in cities. This is because it would encourage people to use their own personal vehicle less, given that the cost of transport in their weekly budget would be severely reduced. When the general health of the population improves due to cleaner air, other savings can be made as people would not have to spend money on medical bills to combat respiratory issues.

Grammatical range

Let's talk about grammatical range. It is important to vary your sentence types in your answers, in both Task 1 and Task 2. Here is a sample response from Task 1 (Academic).

As for the city of Melbourne, there was a steady rise in vehicle usage from 54% in 1999 to a peak of 76% in 2011. Looking at Adelaide, there was a gradual increase in the use of cars from 44% in 1999 to a high point of 64% in 2014.

Even though this writer has varied the vocabulary, the style of the sentences lack flexibility as they have the same pattern.

The other factor to consider in your grammar range is to have complexity in your sentences.  Avoid the trap of writing in short sentences as a way of avoiding grammar mistakes.  Remember that even if your answer has no grammar errors at all, but you have written everything in short sentences, you cannot receive a high band score for Grammatical Range and Accuracy.  Here is a sample paragraph to consider:

Firstly, the main benefit of playing traditional games is that it helps with socialisation.  Players need to use langauge to discuss the progress of the game. They can also use the time while they are idle to converse about other matters. The comfortable environment created by the game encourages people to mention issues that are troubling them. For example, many Mediterranean cultures play card games when visiting people’s homes.  Even those who do not play sit around and watch.

This writer cannot receive a high band score, even though there are no errors at all in this paragraph. This is because there are no complex sentences. Let’s try to make the paragraph more complex:

Firstly, the main benefit of playing traditional games is that it helps with socialisation as players need to use langauge to discuss the progress of the game.  They can also use the time while they are idle to converse about other matters, because the comfortable environment created by the game encourages people to mention issues that are troubling them. For example, many Mediterranean cultures play card games when visiting people’s homes, while even those who do not play sit around and watch.