Tenses for IELTS: Achieve High Score in Grammar

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  • Updated On:Aug 07,2023 11:27 AM IST

IELTS is a widely recognised English proficiency test accepted worldwide. A strong command of grammar, particularly tenses, is necessary to achieve high band scores in all sections of IELTS- writing, reading, listening and speaking. Read the blog to understand tenses and master tenses for IELTS.

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International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a popular English proficiency test accepted globally by colleges, universities, and other higher authorities. IELTS tests the English skills of the applicant who aims to study abroad. Grammar and tenses for IELTS play a pivotal role in assessing the candidates' language ability during the test. Grammar forms a fundamental framework of a language. Tenses play a significant part, especially in the speaking section of the IELTS test. Learning tenses is one of the essential skills for studying English as it informs how an action relates to time, and incorrect use can create confusion. 

Understanding Tenses

A tense is a verb form that allows a person to express time. The tense of the verb informs when an event existed or was completed. It designates a time factor to the sentence. There are three main types of tenses - Past, present, and future. 

1. Past Tense: Past tense is used to describe an activity or an event that occurred in the past or to express its past state, requiring the inclusion of a time factor indicating when the particular action occurred. 

The structural formula to frame a past tense sentence: Subject + verb (2nd form) + object. For example- She bought a new mobile yesterday.

2. Present tense: The simple present or present tense is the basic tense in English. It is used to talk about something that is currently happening or currently exists. 

The structural formula to frame a past tense sentence: Subject+ verb (s/es) + object. For example - She lives in India

3. Future tense:  The future tense describes an action or event that is expected to happen in the near future. 

The structural formula: Subject+ shall/will+ verb (s/es) + object. For example - He will shift here soon.

Also read: Advanced grammar for IELTS: A guide to noun and pronoun phrases

Apart from the tenses mentioned above, there are different tenses subtypes mentioned below alongside the structural formulas. 

TensePresentPast Future
ContinuosSubject + helping verb (is / am/ are) + main verb (ing) + object.Subject + helping verb (was/were) + verb (ing) + object.Subject + shall/will be + verb (ing) + object.
PerfectSubject + helping verb (have/has) + verb (ed) + object.Subject + had + verb (ed) + object.Subject + shall/will + have + verb (3rd form) + object.
Perfect ContinuosSubject + helping verb (have/has) + been + verb (ing) + object (optional) + since/for + time duration + object.Subject + had been + verb (ing) + object (optional) + time of action.Subject + shall/will + have been + verb (ing) + object (optional) + time instant.

Common English Tenses for IELTS

1. Present Simple
2. Past Continuous
3. Present Perfect
4. Present Perfect Continuous
5. Passive Voice
6. First Conditional
7. Second Conditional
8. Third Conditional

Here are some examples:

Present Simple: The flight departs at 8 AM
Past Continuous: I was working when the bell rang
Present Perfect: She has visited New York twice
Present Perfect Continuous: He has been studying all-day
Passive Voice: The assignment will be completed by the day after tomorrow
First Conditional: He will pass the exam if he studies hard
Second Conditional: If I had enough money, I would travel the world
Third Conditional: If she had studied, she would have passed the test

Also read: Grammar for the IELTS exam

What are the recommended tenses for IELTS? 

1. Speaking

There are no specific tenses that the important for speaking. However, the more the candidate knows, the better they can convey the message in the speaking test. The critical thing about tenses for IELTS in the speaking section is that the candidate knows how to listen to the test-takers questions and then chooses the correct answer. 

For example

If the exam asks a question in the past tense: Did you like to read when you were a child? Then the answer should also be in the past: Yes, I did. I used to read books and learned a lot as well. To perform well in IELTS, it is necessary to have a solid understanding of the tenses. To score high, having proficiency in more advanced tenses like present perfect continuous and future perfect continuous becomes crucial. 

2. Writing:

In Academic Task 1 of the IELTS, a candidate is asked to describe a graph from the past. Hence, understanding tenses, especially past simple tense, becomes crucial. The graphs also involve predicting certain events/ activities, for which understanding the future simple tense is essential.

For Task 2, it is very common to use the present simple tense for IELTS as the candidate is instructed to write general facts and truths and give their opinions-commonly used in the present tense. For the IELTS Letter, the applicant can use a variety of tenses. It is unusual to use one specific tense during the letter-writing process for each point, so to be flexible, keep moving around different tenses to convey a coherent message in the letter. 

3. Reading and Listening

IELTS's reading and listening sections involve gathering information from the provided audio and written texts. Direct application of tenses may differ in these two sections compared to the writing and speaking sections. However, having a good command of grammar and its tenses is still essential to prove language understanding. 


Sticking to the fundamental rule is pivotal for all candidates appearing for the IELTS test. Understanding the difference between simple and continuous tenses is crucial, especially for the speaking and writing section. However, candidates must pay attention to tenses in the other two sections, i.e., listening and reading. It is to be kept in mind that the candidate must follow grammatical rules when describing graphs and diagrams. Maintaining the subject-verb agreement enhances the overall quality of the response. Familiarity with tenses for IELTS enables the candidates to maximize the band score and showcase their language proficiency.

Also read: IELTS Syllabus


There are three main tenses- past, present and future
The most crucial grammar areas are verb tenses, voice and speaking, etc.
The easiest way to improve grammar is to study, understand and practice. One must be familiar with all the vital grammatical points. 
Verb 1, Verb 2 and Verb 3 are the base, past simple and past principle forms of the verb. 
Tenses are applied in three aspects: time, register and reality. Past tense is utilised for actions or activities that are distant and present tense is used for actions or activities that are near. 

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