Common Spelling Mistakes in IELTS


Samarpita Goswami
Updated on Jul 08, 2022 04:46 PM IST

Students often make spelling mistakes while writing the IELTS exam which can be detrimental to their overall performance. Read the article to know the most common spelling mistakes in IELTS and how can you avoid them.

Common Spelling Mistakes in IELTS

Some common spelling mistakes in IELTS can cost the students their desired IELTS scores. Although spellings do not form a separate section of the test, it is assessed throughout the written part of the IELTS. Students have to write answers in the reading, listening and writing sections of IELTS and it is important that they deliver only error-free answers.

While a wrong spelling will lead to penalties in the IELTS reading and listening sections, in the writing section, a wrong spelling can make it difficult for the examiner to understand the candidate’s message. This way, the overall IELTS band score will reduce even if your answers are logically correct.

Students should remember that a good IELTS score helps the student to achieve their goals, be it immigration, study or work. Therefore, it becomes imperative that they are careful and mindful of the spellings. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common spelling mistakes in IELTS that students make and eventually reduce their chances of getting a desired IELTS band score.

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Types of Spelling Mistakes in IELTS Exam

Here are some types of common spelling mistakes in IELTS exam that students make and get their marks deducted.

  • Omission of single letters such as when ‘occurring’ is written as ‘occuring’.

  • Insertion of single letters. For example, ‘off’ for ‘of’.

  • Substitution of a letter by another letter like ‘definate’ instead of ‘definite’.

  • Transposition of letters where two adjacent letters are misplaced. For instance, ‘label’ written as ‘lable’.

Most Common Spelling Mistakes in IELTS Exam

Let us find out some of the most common spelling mistakes in the IELTS exam that trouble the students. The rules of spelling if taken care of, can minimise the chances of errors.

Weak Vowel Sounds

Some words are spelt incorrectly because of the presence of a weak vowel sound or schwa. Here the vowel does not make a long or short vowel sound. The schwa sound is generally softer and weaker for example in words such as:

  • Balloon, 

  • Family, 

  • Support,

  • Separate, 

  • Temperature, etc. 

Sometimes schwa hides the pronunciation of ‘r’ such as in ‘opportunity’, ‘pursue’ and ‘surprise’.

Single and Double Consonants

The students make spelling errors when single and double consonants appear close together in a word. Problems occur when:

  • A single consonant is followed by double consonants such as ‘across’, ‘harass, ‘tomorrow’, ‘necessary’ and ‘professor’.

  • A double consonant is followed by single consonants like ‘commit’, ‘immediate’, ‘apparent’, ‘parallel’ and ‘exaggerate’.

  • A double consonant comes after another double consonant as ‘accommodation’, ‘address’, ‘millennium’, ‘embarrass’ and ‘possess’.

Changes in Spelling with Change in Word Form

When there is a change in parts of speech of a word, the spelling changes too. Some of the difficulties encountered by IELTS test-takers are:

  • When adjective changes to a noun. 

    • For example, ‘absent’ becomes ‘absence’.

  • When a noun changes to an adjective.

    • For example, ‘influence’ and ‘influential’.

  • When a verb changes to a noun. 

    • For example, ‘maintain’ and ‘maintenance’.

  • When a noun changes to a verb.

    • For example, ‘excess’ and ‘exceed’.

  • When a verb is changed to past tense.

    • For example, ‘occur’ and ‘occurred’.

When Suffix is Added to Words

Suffixes like -ed, -er, -ing and -est when added to words also confuse the examinees. 

For example, 

  • When ‘big’ becomes ‘bigger’ or ‘biggest’, or 

  • When begin’ becomes ‘beginner’ or ‘beginning’.

Silent Letters in Cluster of Consonants

When silent letters are present in consonant clusters, students misspell words. 

For example,

  • ‘nm’ in ‘environment’ and ‘government’, 

  • ‘mn’ in ‘column’ and ‘autumn’,

  • ‘xc’ in ‘excited’ and ‘exception’.

Position of ‘i’ and ‘e’

Some words that have ‘i’ and ‘e’ closely together can get very confusing for beginners. This can often be seen in words like 

  • Receive, 

  • Deceive, 

  • Deceipt, 

  • Conceive, etc.


Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but are different in meaning or derivation or spelling. Students have to contextually place the words and determine the spellings. 

This can be seen in words such as:

  • Lose and loose, 

  • Passed and past, 

  • There, they’re and their, 

  • Forth and fourth, 

  • Principle and principle

Words with Difficult Spellings

Almost all of us get confused while spelling out ‘entrepreneur’ and this is exactly what a difficult spelling looks like. Some other words with different spellings can be: 

  • Queue, 

  • Empty, 

  • Rhythm, 

  • Amateur,

  • Perseverance.

British and American Spellings

The IELTS accepts both British and American spellings but the students must be consistent with their usage. 

Some of the common words which have different spellings in British and American English include:

  • Colour and color, 

  • Labour and labor, 

  • Anaylse and analyze, 

  • Traveller and traveler,

  • Pretence and pretense

Mistake in Pronunciation

Sometimes, it is found that students pronounce a few words incorrectly. Well, the word ‘pronunciation’ itself is often ‘pronounced’ incorrectly as ‘pronounciation’. 

Two other common examples here can be:

  • Modern - pronounced - modern,

  • Tough - pronounced - tuf,

  • Different - pronounced - diffrent.

French Words Spellings

French words adopted in English are often wrongly spelt because of the difference in their pronunciation. The words frequently misspelt include:

  • Bonjour,

  • Beau, 

  • Mademoiselle, 

  • Chauffeur, and 

  • Silhouette.

Some Spelling Rules for IELTS

Learning the rules to spell correctly can avoid IELTS candidates from making common spelling mistakes in the IELTS exam. Although there are no strict spelling rules in the English language, it has certainly borrowed words from other languages to add new words every year. 

Therefore, candidates can benefit from the following spelling rules for IELTS:

  • Q is always followed by ‘U’ such as in a number of words. Also, when used like this, U does not remain a vowel. Some examples are:

    • Earthquake, 

    • Queue, 

    • Queen, etc.

  • If words end with ‘L’, ‘F’, or ‘S’ in a one-syllable word then the alphabet is repeated such as in

    • Floss,

    • Tall, and 

    • Stiff.

  • When -ing is added, omit ‘e’. For example,

    • Come - becomes - coming,

    • Love - becomes - loving,

    • Make - becomes - making.

  • One ‘l’ must be dropped when ‘all’ is a prefix as in the case of ‘always’ and ‘almost’.  

  • Drop one ‘l’ when ‘full’ comes as a suffix like in ‘beautiful’, ‘cheerful’ and ‘hopeful’.

  • Apostrophes are used for the contraction or omission of a few letters. For example, 

    • Do not - Don’t,

    • Cannot - Can’t,

    • Should not - Shouldn’t,

    • Were not - Weren’t,

    • Would not - Wouldn’t,

How to Avoid Most Common Spelling Mistakes in IELTS?

Writing error-free spellings is not a Herculean task. Students can easily reprimand their mistakes by following some common practices to avoid the most common spelling mistakes in IELTS.

  • Read: One must create the habit of reading books, magazines, newspapers and periodicals. When preparing for the IELTS, it is extremely necessary to read consistently to write well and avoid spelling mistakes.

  • Write: Along with reading, writing is also to be given equal importance. One should make it a habit to write at least 200 words every day, after which one must proofread it. This way, students can see their mistakes in front of their eyes and will eventually not make them.

  • Check the Dictionary: Nobody weak in English can get through the exam without referring to a dictionary. It is, in fact, one of the best ways to learn the spelling of a word while understanding its meaning. 

  • Make a List of Misspelt Words: IELTS candidates can preferably create a list of the words they misspell most frequently. The list would help them memorise the spelling and not repeat the mistake. 

  • Participate in Spelling Quizzes: There are many spelling quizzes available online that IELTS aspirants students can take and evaluate their performance. In addition, they can play word games like Scrabble, Crosswords, etc. which can help students overcome spelling difficulties in English.

Applicants should also check out Common Mistakes to Avoid While Preparing for IELTS for better preparation.

How to Improve Your Spelling Skills for the IELTS?

While writing the IELTS exam, difficult spelling errors are sometimes overlooked by the examiners but the common spelling errors of simple words create a negative impression. IELTS examinees are expected to have a rich vocabulary and only make rare spelling mistakes. 

Some points to improve common spelling mistakes for IELTS are:

  • Students can take expert help to get their copies scanned for errors.

  • Repeated practice of commonly misspelt words can help a long way.

  • Students should repeat the words and their pronunciation in mind.

  • They can frame their own spelling rules.

  • The students are advised to create a notebook for vocabulary so that they can jot down the spellings and meanings.

  • Students can check the internet or books for the most commonly misspelt words and make a list of them.

As vocabulary and spellings form an essential part of IELTS, they should be given special attention. Students should be cautious while writing spelling as they may unnecessarily cost them marks which will lower the overall band score. The eyes and mind should remain open while reading and writing so that they do not make spelling errors.

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Does reading novels help to improve my IELTS spelling mistakes?

Yes, definitely, reading novels do help in improving your IELTS spelling mistakes. A novel contains vast vocabulary and when you read through it you get an idea of how the words are used and what spellings are written. You can write down the difficult spellings in your notebook for future reference. You can also improve your spelling by reading newspapers and magazines on a daily basis. 

What are some common words that are misspelt in IELTS?

Some of the common words that are misspelt in IELTS are ‘Wednesday’ which is written by many as ‘wenzday’ , ‘guarantee’ is written as ‘guarranty', ‘different’ as ‘diffrent’, ‘government’ is written as ‘govment', ‘budget’ is written as ‘buget', etc. There is a long list of words that are spelt incorrectly by IELTS test-takers.

Can I practice IELTS spelling online?

Yes, you can practice IELTS spelling online. There are many spelling tests and online games for spelling that help you to learn spelling in a fun way. You can practice multiple choice option tests for spellings where you will get a few spellings and you need to choose the correct one. This will improve your perception of spelling and you will see improvement in a few days.

How can I reduce my spelling mistakes in IELTS?

You can reduce your spelling mistakes in IELTS by first learning the rules of spelling. It is not possible to memorise all the spellings at a go. But daily reading, writing and practice can help you in attaining perfection. You can check the roots of the spellings to have a better understanding of why a word is spelt like that. Lastly, concentrate while writing.

Why do spelling mistakes occur in the IELTS exam?

Spelling mistakes occur in the IELTS exam due to a lack of knowledge or lack of focus. Students have to write down the answers in a limited time which increases the possibility that they are in a hurry and are not attentive to their spellings. Often, they get confused about which spelling to write due to a lack of clarity regarding the spelling.

How can I avoid spelling mistakes in IELTS listening?

You can avoid spelling mistakes in the IELTS listening section by hearing the audio clip very carefully. The most difficult part is to differentiate between the pronunciations and write the correct spellings. As the audio is played only once, there is no chance to rewind and hear it again. You should also use your common sense to decide if the spelling is correct in the context of the audio.

Should I follow American or British spellings?

You can follow any one of the spellings. Either it has to be American spelling or British spelling. Mixing up both is not encouraged in the IELTS exam so that the IELTS examiner does not get confused about your intention. There are certain differences in spellings so be mindful to main the same spellings throughout.

Is there auto correct in IELTS computer based?

No, there is no auto-correct option in IELTS computed based test. If you make spelling errors they will remain as it is and there is no scope for spell check. So it is up to you to write the correct spellings. Students can go through their answers after they finish to find out if they have made any errors.

How many spelling mistakes are allowed in IELTS writing?

You are allowed to make a few spelling mistakes in IELTS writing and still, there is the possibility of getting band 7. If you wish to get band 8 in IELTS, you will have to be cautious about your spelling except for two or three slips of the pen here and there.

Do spelling mistakes matter in IELTS?

Yes, spelling mistakes matter in IELTS. Writing wrong spellings can lead to a reduction in marks which can prevent you from getting your desired IELTS band score. In the listening section especially, the scores are based on spelling and you have to write what you hear. So if you misspell a word, the context will be meaningless.

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