PTE Academic – Essential Grammar Skills

Despite the fact that there is no separate section for grammar in the PTE exam you must have excellent command over it in order to achieve a high score in the PTE exam. This is especially true for the questions which assess your writing and speaking skills.

However, many candidates are not sure of the best way to improve their grammar skills. To add to this, improvement in this area is also very difficult and slow, mainly because it’s such a wide-ranging subject.

Far too many students lose out on obtaining their required PTE band scores due to silly grammatical errors. This is most often because students are unaware of the English grammar subtopics that they need to be proficient in to score well. Unfortunately, because it’s such a wide-ranging subject, improvement in this area is very difficult and slow.

This is why it is important to understand exactly which grammar topics you should focus on in order to ace the PTE exam. In this article, we will take a look at look at some of the most important PTE grammar skills that you need.

Here’s a secret, that I have learned through my many years of experience as a PTE teacher in Singapore, in order to get a good band score you don’t need to be a master of grammar. There are a few specific topics that you need to focus and improve on that are essential for PTE, such as:

  • Complex Sentences
  • Correct use of tenses
  • Prepositions
  • Articles
  • Punctuation

Why You Need To Have Grammar Skills To Score Well In The PTE Academic Exam

Grammar skills refers to your ability to use a range of grammatical structures and to use them accurately.

If you use the incorrect tense, preposition, or even an article, it might cause some hindrance in the PTE AI’s understanding of what you are trying to communicate during the speaking test. This might result in you sounding incoherent, which can affect your speaking score.

It might surprise you to note that a sound working knowledge of grammar can help you in areas other than the writing and speaking modules. Grammar is also a requirement for the reading and listening Modules, especially when it comes to fill in the blank’s questions. You need to have a good understanding of how articles and prepositions are used in order to be able to predict the type of blank (noun) needed.

Certain prepositions signal that a date or specific place follows. Articles like a, an or the signal whether or not a singular or plural noun should be placed in the blank. A simple error like using a plural noun instead of a singular noun can result in an incorrect answer, so it is important to practice these grammar topics

Essential PTE Grammar Skills PTE

1. Complex Sentences

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains more than one clause. It includes more than one piece of information. For example, Mary is on her way to book her PTE exam, and she wants to take the computer-based test, but she is not sure if it is available in her country.

This sentence contains three clauses, each giving a different piece of information, and these need to be separated correctly using the correct conjunctions and punctuation.

Mary is on her way to book her PTE exam, and she wants to take the computer-based test, but she is not sure if it is available in her country.

It is important to use complex sentences correctly to score above band 6 in terms of grammatical accuracy.

2. Articles

Articles are another common source of mistakes that PTE test-takers make. Most people know that we use a and an only with a single countable noun, but you can also use these when you talk about a noun for the first time. For example, I saw a movie yesterday.

Additionally, we use articles when we talk about non-specific things like a building, a sea, a president, a country, an office, etc.

We use the with both single and plural nouns. It is also used when we use a noun that we have mentioned before. For example, I saw a movie yesterday. The movie was fantastic.

The article the is also used to denote something specific like a university name. For example The University of South Australia


Certain prepositions signal that a date or specific place follows

3. Modal verbs

Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that modify (add more meaning to ) the main verb in a sentence.

Modal verbs are used to express possibility, probability, ability, suggestions, obligation, deduction, habits, hypothetical, imaginary, and conditional situations. They are also used to express politeness.

Here are some common modal verbs along with their functions:

Modal Verb



Possibility and ability (important when discussing hypothetical situations.

For example

This could damage the economy

She can cook well


Uncertainty and polite requests

For example:

This may create a problem


Expresses the conditional future, the past, past habits and behaviours, future in the past, hypothetical situations, opinions, willingness, polite requests, preferences, possibility, to indicate disapproval and advice.

For example:

If people were to save more, they would not go into debt.


Expresses recommendations,

suggestions and advice

For example:

We should not expect success


Obligation and necessity

For example:

The council states that people must follow the rules

Subject-verb agreement:

To put it simply if a subject noun is in the singular form, then the verb used in the sentence must also be in the singular form. If the subject noun is in the plural form then the verb form should also be in plural form.

E.g. He is very quiet.

They are very noisy

Don’t Use Unnecessary And Complicated Grammar

Remember accuracy is also important, so never overcomplicate things unnecessarily. You might make many mistakes and end up doing just the opposite! You could try going the self-study route, but it would be far easier to understand your grammar weak areas and improve upon them by taking the assistance of a trusted PTE professional, who has a better understanding of the grammar rules and structures needed to impress the examiner.

Common Grammar Mistakes

You will lose points for making these common silly PTE grammar mistakes.

1. Countable Nouns

Countable nouns are those that can be counted individually and have a plural form

E.g. 1 book or 2 books

Uncountable nouns are not counted individually and do not have a plural form

E.g.  milk, butter, water or tea.

It’s important not to use plural forms when dealing with uncountable nouns. For example, you can say I would like 2 teas but you can say I would like 2 cups of tea

Unfortunately, the only way to remember whether a noun is countable or not is to memorise lists of uncountable nouns

2. Punctuation

Punctuation (for instance candidates miss adding a comma or do not make use of the apostrophe when needed or use the apostrophe at the wrong place or use of colon where it is not needed, excessive use of superfluous commas,)

3. Use Of Commas

In the IELTS writing test we often use phrases called ‘discourse markers’ or ‘liking phrases’ to link our ideas together, such as, firstly, secondly, in conclusion, in summary. We normally use a comma after a discourse marker that introduces a sentence:

Firstly, the main cause of pollution is motor vehicles.

On the one hand, motor vehicles are said to be the main cause.

4. Using Contractions

Contractions are used frequently in spoken English to shorten words. However, they should not be used when you write a formal essay.

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

How To Improve Grammar Skills?

1. Read More

I think that one of the best methods to improve your grammar is to Read in English: The more you read, the more you will know about grammar and vocabulary. Reading helps you see how English grammar works and you can transfer this knowledge towards improving your writing skills.  This will also obviously  help with your Reading module as well Find some reading material that you like – books, newspapers – it doesn’t matter, as long as it uses accurate English.

2. Write More

Write more in English: Try keeping a diary or journal in English. Any practice can help you. Write more, and you will discover more common grammar mistakes you make.

Practice more: Do exercises in your textbooks and try to understand the answers.

3. Get An Outside Perspective

Many students overestimate their language skills. Getting a second opinion on your practice essays might open your eyes to errors and gaps in your understanding. This is especially necessary when it comes to identifying grammatical errors. Many students are unaware of the level of the grammar needed to produce complex sentences, and they often waste time learning unnecessary grammar topics. This is why it is useful to have the assistance of a trained PTE professional, not only will they be able to point out your mistakes, but they will also be able to help you improve in your weak areas.