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Students who want to achieve band 7+ for their IELTS Writing Task 2 need to use a wide range of grammar structures. In this article I show you how to use a range of modals naturally to express opinions, as well as make suggestions and predictions, which will help improve your grammar band score.

For more examples of good grammar in use, check out our Task 2 sample answers here: IELTS Sample Answers.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel for some IELTS Speaking Sample Answers: HowtodoIELTS YouTube.

Grammar Doesn’t have to be Complex 

Although there is no ‘grammar test’ as part of the IELTS exam, it makes up 25% of your IELTS writing and speaking scores.

In order to get a high band score for your writing you need to be able to naturally use a wide range of grammar structures. For Task 2 writing, this means correctly using complex structures, but it also means using more basic structures naturally, including modal verbs.

Sample Essay

Below is a sample essay for the following question.

Some people think that all university students should study whatever they like. Others believe that they should only be allowed to study subjects that will be useful in the future, such as those related to science and technology. 

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Look at the phrases that are in bold. For each one, do you think they are expressing (saying) something more certain or less certain?

One question that has caused a great deal of controversy over the years is which subjects students study at University. I believe that students should have the choice to study whatever they like. However we have to overcome the problem of enough graduates in important subjects. In this essay the arguments surrounding this issue will be discussed.  

Many people argue that students should choose their own subjects at university. The principle reason for this is because students will probably be more motivated so they will be more likely to work harder and for longer and therefore achieve more, be more successful and probably more satisfied. A good example is a student who has a passion for art or science. They will be more likely to do extra work to improve their knowledge or develop their skills to a higher level. Another reason is that if students follow their passion it can often lead to more creativity. An example here is Steve Jobs, who followed his passions to become one of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs of modern times.

Other people suggest that students should not be allowed to choose. They argue that if society allowed students to do this, then we might be left with a lack of graduates in some ‘core’ subjects essential for the future. An example here is important subjects such as science or technology, which might not be popular without encouragement. This could result in a less skilled labour force with a negative impact on the economy. However I would suggest that this is not a serious problem as we could deal with this issue by making core subjects more attractive. This could be done through financial policies, for example reduced fees, offering bursaries or guaranteeing jobs for studying the target subjects.

In conclusion, there are clear advantages of allowing students to choose their own subjects both for individuals as well as wider benefits. Nevertheless we must ensure there are enough students who select important subjects. This could be achieved using financial incentives or job guarantees. Regardless, we must always make sure our Universities are flexible enough to meet the challenges that society will face in the future.       

Use the Correct Grammar for the Right Situation

Let’s look at the sample answer again. I’ve coloured phrases that are more certain in red and phrases that are less certain in green. It’s now clear to see that in my first body paragraph I am more certain about my opinions, whereas in the second body paragraph I am less certain.

First Body Paragraph: 

Many people argue that students should choose their own subjects at university. The principle reason for this is because students will probably be more motivated so they will be more likely to work harder and for longer and therefore achieve more, be more successful and probably more satisfied. A good example is a student who has a passion for art or science. They will be more likely to do extra work to improve their knowledge or develop their skills to a higher level. Another reason is that if students follow their passion it can often lead to more creativity. An example here is Steve Jobs, who followed his passions to become one of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs of modern times.

Second Body Paragraph: 

Other people suggest that students should not be allowed to choose. They argue that if society allowed students to do this, then we might be left with a lack of graduates in some ‘core’ subjects essential for the future. An example here is important subjects such as science or technology, which might not be popular without encouragement. This could result in a less skilled labour force with a negative impact on the economy. However I would suggest that this is not a serious problem as we could deal with this issue by making core subjects more attractive. This could be done through financial policies, for example reduced fees, offering bursaries or guaranteeing jobs for studying the target subjects.

Analysis: First Body Paragraph (more certain)

In this paragraph I am confidently explaining my opinion about why students should choose their own subjects, by suggesting they’ll probably be more motivated, work harder and be more successful.

So I use language that matches my confidence. However this is academic writing so I’m still not 100% confident. Look at the table that compares good and bad ways to express certainty.

I didn’t say “Students will be more motived so they will work harder” or “If students follow their passion they will be more creative.” 

This is too strong so instead I used “will probably be more motivated” or “can often lead to more creativity

Good phrases for strong opinions

(Strong – 80%)

Poor phrases for strong opinions

(Too Strong – 100%)

Students will probably be more motivated……

…will be more likely to work harder.

If students follow their passion it can often       lead to more creativity.

Students will be more motivated…

…so they will work harder.

If students follow their passion they will be more creative.

Analysis: Second Body Paragraph (less certain)

In this paragraph I first make predictions about possible negative effects of allowing students to choose (a lack of graduates for important subjects and it’s possible impact on the economy). Then I suggest a possible solution (making important subjects more attractive through financial incentives).

By using less certain language, I show that these are just possible ideas. I didn’t say “We will be left with a lack of graduates.” or “This will result in a less skilled workforce.” or even “This can be done through financial policies.” 

Those structures are too strong for academic writing so instead I used  We might be left with a lack of graduates.“, This could result in a less skilled workforce.andThis could be done through financial policies.” 

Good phrases for predictions and suggestions  

(Possible – 50%)

Poor phrases for predictions and suggestions

(Too Strong – 100%)

We might be left with a lack of graduates.

 This could result in a less skilled workforce.

This could be done through financial policies.

We will be left with a lack of graduates.

This will result in a less skilled workforce.

This can be done through financial policies.

Plan your Language

As well as brainstorming and organising ideasit’s important to think about how certain you want to be about these ideas.  Yes, I said want because remember your essay doesn’t have to follow your real opinions, and you should try to use a range of grammar.

When you are planning your body paragraphs, keep in mind what language you will use to express your opinions and suggestion/predictions. For example if you have a discuss both sides question, which requires you to choose a side, then use more certain language for your chosen side but use less certain language for the other side.

Likewise in a problem and solution essayyou could choose to use stronger language to talk about the seriousness of the problem, but weaker language to discuss solutions.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Brainstorm some main ideas – then write some strong/weak opinions and strong/weak suggestions or predictions using suitable language.

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