The IELTS Listening section tests you on your ability to listen to a tape and answer direct questions about what was actually said. There will be a few sneaky questions where synonyms are used instead of the words used on tape.
For example: Jim tells Tyra: “Please don’t be late. In fact, I suggest you reach the venue an hour ahead of schedule.”
The question however might be:
Fill in the blanks with no more than ONE WORD OR NUMBER.
Jim asks Tyra to reach the venue ______.
The answer is EARLY.
But, the IELTS Listening section also tests you on an important parameter often ignored: SPELLING.
One of my oft repeated advice to IELTS aspirants is to be prepared with the spelling. Let’s face it, you haven’t had a spelling test since grade 5 and chances are auto-correct and those squiggly red lines have done most of the spelling for you. Unfortunately, you can’t get away with bad spelling on the IELTS.
I am often asked, “How important is spelling on the IELTS?”
The answer is: Very Important
Of the 4 skills (Reading-Writing-Speaking-Listening) tested on the IELTS, Speaking is the only skill that doesn’t require you to spell.
Spelling mistakes on the writing tasks will be ignored to a certain tolerable extent. For example, if you have spelt ESSAY as ESSY, the examiner might consider it to be a typing error or an error due to speed, but if a particular word is spelt wrong more than once, then the examiner knows that you don’t know the spelling of that word. However, the good news is that even with a few errors, your writing score can be good to excellent. For example, the band 8 candidate produces “rare errors in spelling” while the band 5 candidate “makes noticeable errors in spelling”.
The other two sections, Reading and Listening, are absolutely unforgiving. Recall that each of the 40 questions in those sections carries 1 mark for a correct answer and zero for a wrong answer or no answer. A spelling mistake on any of those 40 answers means your answer is incorrect. So, 4 spelling errors in the Reading or Listening sections means a loss of 4 marks. Spelling errors on the reading test should be uncommon since you mostly have to pick the answers from the text. Spelling errors are most common on the listening section, and they carry a heavy penalty.
First, some good news
The IELTS accepts both standard American and British spellings
So, all these spellings below (and many more) are acceptable
Enrol OR Enroll (single L or LL also in traveller)
Colour OR Color (Absence of U also in labor, flavor, etc)
Apologize OR Apologise (ISE or IZE also in organise, recognise,etc)
Analyse OR Analyze (SE or ZE also in paralyse)
But you CANNOT use both UK and US spelling in your test. The rules of spelling stand you can only choose which set of rules to follow.
In this post we will look at the spellings of the most common words on the IELTS Listening Section. The IELTS does not have a recommended list of such words and there is also no way of predicting for sure the words you will encounter, so how did we come across a list of spellings of common words on the IELTS?
Here’s how: the IELTS listening often uses audio clips related to academics and situations faced by students and immigrants such as finding new accommodation, buying a new telephone connection, discussing study options, a chat about a library or a new text book. That’s how this list was prepared
How to get the spellings right?
There are a bunch of spelling rules, ones that you learnt in grade 4 or 5, but they are numerous and complicated. These rules need to be very consciously considered and following them will improve your spelling skills in 6 – 9 months. Considering you may not have that kind of time set aside for IELTS prep, it is better you familiarize yourself with the most commonly used words.
Though listening tasks 3 and 4 can be from a wide variety of topics, tasks 1 and 2 are generally concerned with education and living situations. So, let’s get to the spellings of a few common words
Most Commonly Misspelt Words
WEDNESDAY (pronounced Wenzday) and FEBRUARY (not Febuary)
YELLOW (not yelow), PURPLE (not purpel) and MAROON (not muroon)
MATHEMATICS (not mathametics) and ENGINEERING (not Enginerring)
VEGETARIAN (not vegiterian) LIBRARIAN (not Libraian) ANTARCTICA (not Antartica)
SOCIETY (not Sosiety or Soceity) GOVERNMENT (not Goverment or Gorment)
DIFFERENT (not Diffrent or Differant) GUARANTEE (not Garranty or Guarentee)
Let’s look at a list of High Frequency words from the IELTS Listening Tests.
Errors in these words are mainly due to spelling them the way they are pronounced.
For example: There is a D in BUDGET even though it’s barely heard in the pronunciation.
Other Words are:
Professor (No double F only double S)
Junior (OR not ER)
Hard-working (or hardworking, not two words)
Diary (as in notebook, milk products are DAIRY)
Disease (illness, Deceased is dead)
Symptom (there is a p)
Refrigerator/fridge (note the absence of d in the long form)
Let’s now categorize the spelling challenges a little more
Words with a single consonant followed by double consonants:
The following are common words that have a double consonant followed by a single consonant
Here are some common words with two pairs of consonants:
Some words are difficult to spell based on their pronunciation
Then again, some spellings change when words change form or tense
Different Forms, Different Spellings
Occur – Occurred
Commit – Committed
Maintain – Maintenance
Pronounce – Pronunciation
Argue – Argument
Success – Succeed
Excess – Exceed
Refer – Referred
Begin – Beginning
Now, we look at words that are often misspelt because of silent letters
Words with Silent Letters
Environment, Government, Column, Autumn
Science, Conscious, Discipline, Fascinate, Ascend, Descend
Finally, we have pairs of words that sound the same but have different spellings and/or meanings (homophones). Now this can be particularly tricky on a listening test and you will need context to figure out which word is in use.
Lose ≠ Loose
(Lose – misplace or not find something Loose – not tightly fastened)
Affect ≠ Effect
(Affect – to impact or disturb Effect – consequence or outcome)
Principle ≠ Principal
(Principle – belief or value (system) Principal – primary or main)
Allowed ≠ Aloud
(Allowed – given permission Aloud – Said out loudly)
Quite ≠ Quiet
(Quite – relatively Quiet – calm or silent)
Mall ≠ Maul
(Mall – a place to shop from Maul – attack as in by an animal)
This list is neither exhaustive nor sufficient but it will go a long way in readying you for the IELTS Listening Section