1. Question 2 of the Grammar Test

The Grammar Test comprises three questions. The first question (a possible 12 marks = 24%) is a multiple choice question based on four possible answers to twelve missing elements of a conversation between two people. Here is an example, but obviously the items being tested are not quite this easy!


                        Susan: Hello Linda! How (1) … A ….. you?


                        1. A. are   B. is    C. were   D. was


Question three (a possible 14 marks = 28%) tests lexical knowledge and is again a multiple choice task. The items in this section are, however, completely separate and there is no connection between the fourteen questions. Here is an example:


                  To get a passport, you have to send in your birth ….. B ….. and two recent photos.


            1.  A. licence   B. certificate  C. card   D. paper


Question two carries the most marks - 24 marks (= 48%). This part of the test is the only productive section and aims to test knowledge of how the English grammar system operates. Two essential elements are being tested:


  1. the understanding of the relationship between grammatical structures
  2. the ability to manipulate language in order to provide semantically related answers.

This part of the tests requires students to transform sentences, by using a given word (in bold) inside a different structure, without changing the meaning of the original, and within a word limit of six words. For example:


 1. I haven’t had so much fun in years.                       since

     It’s years ………………………………………………. so much fun.



In this example, students are being asked to construct a new sentence starting with the phrase ‘It’s years’ and finishing with ‘so much fun’. The new sentence must contain the word ‘since’. In transformation exercises, the word given in bold must always be used and can never be changed. This example question is testing the students’ knowledge of the relationship between the present perfect simple and the past simple, so students are being asked to construct a second sentence using the past simple tense, but which does not change the meaning of the original. The answer to this question, using three words, is:


It’s years … since I had  ………………………………. so much fun.



This collection of transformation exercises, based on Michael Vince’s Advanced Language Practice (Heinmann, Oxford, 1994), has been designed with the aim of providing students with a series of exercises which focus on the mechanism of question 2. It is clear that students will need to understand the relationship between grammatical items to be able to pass this part of the Grammar Test successfully.