10 learning grammar challenges

10 learning grammar challenges

Ten ambitious but achievable grammar learning targets to improve your motivation and language knowledge

Learning grammar can be difficult and not give a feeling of progress, so this article gives you ten goals to set yourself to give yourself motivation and to achieve more useful grammar practice. Such grammar practice shouldn’t reduce your work on things that are perhaps even more important like vocabulary, listening, reading, speaking and writing, so tips are also given on how to put grammar together with each of these.


Use one tense as much as you can for a month

It can be too much of a challenge to try to master two or more contrasting grammar points at the same time, so it is often best to choose one of them and use it as much as you can, even at times when you are pretty sure it is wrong. For example, if you have problems using irregular past forms, you could spend a month using the Past Simple forms whenever you can, spend the next month trying to get Present Perfect into the conversation, then finally try to combine them in the third month. 


Try to stop making one grammar mistake

If you often make one error such as missing off -s in verbs like “he says” or missing “a/ an” with countable nouns, choose one of those mistakes to concentrate all your efforts on in the next week, in the next fortnight or in the next month. Then switch to one more point.


Study the 20 most useful grammar points in one month

Students who try to finish a whole grammar book mostly find that it takes too long, and includes practise of points which are too easy, too difficult or not useful enough. Few students therefore ever finish such a challenge, and most of them have not covered the most important points when they give up. It is therefore better to select twenty points which you have had problems with, which you know are in the exam which you are studying for, which are related to your work, etc. Then try to do all those pages in one month. The time you spend selecting the points will also make you think more about the grammar and so also be time well spent. 


Use a different grammar book or different grammar app every month

Switching the grammar book and/ or app you use will mean that you can skip the less useful parts left in the previous one, can do the same points again if they are still your priorities, and can benefit from the different approaches in the new materials. For writing practice and more motivation to try a selection of grammar practice materials, you could also write online reviews of each source of grammar practice that you use.


Study all the (useful) English tenses in one year

You could easily cover the tenses in one grammar book in a couple of weeks. However, there is no chance that you will then be able to remember all language, use it in writing and use it all in speaking. It is therefore better to set a longer time period such as a whole year, meaning one or two tenses per month. Before starting with the next tense, you can try to use that tense as much as you can in communication, do extra practice in different ways such as watching YouTube videos about that tense, and try to notice how that tense is used as you do lots of listening and reading.


Memorise five example sentences per day

Learning some example sentences like “I haven’t seen him since Monday” and “In that case, I’ll go and get some” is a great way of having a reference in your head which you can compare your speaking and writing to. These example sentences can be put into your vocabulary list to be learnt in similar ways to how you learn words, with the prompts being gapped example sentences, example sentences with mistakes to correct, key words to make example sentences out of, etc.


Do better in a grammar test every month

Learner’s marks in tests of grammar like Cambridge First Use of English Part Two tend to go up and down each time depending on which specific points they are testing and which grammar you have been studying. However, a month should be long enough for your average score to go up by at least one point if you are studying in the right way. If not, you should try a different tip from this article.


Go up a level in a grammar level test in six to twelve months

Doing tests all the time can take up time that is better used for studying. However, an occasional test can give you a sense of progress and therefore motivation, and maybe show you which weak points still need to be worked on. A good system could be to go back to the same grammar test after six months to see if you have gone from Upper Intermediate to Advanced, from A2 to B1, etc. You can then keep trying each month until you have achieved that gain in level.


Learn the English names for tenses in a week

Although it is not the same as learning how to use them, learning to identify and name “future continuous”, “past perfect”, etc can be a good way of spotting patterns in how tenses are made and named. It will also help with looking for the right resources online. After a week of testing yourself on what the names are, you should be ready to start studying the most useful of them.


Learn the English names for each kind of word in a week

Learning to identify and label a noun, a modal verb, etc has similar benefits to the names of tenses challenge above.

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