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IELTS Tips Writing: How important is spelling?

In this post I will focus on two areas where it is easy to lose marks in both General Training and Academic Writing. The first is the word count, and the second is spelling and punctuation.

1. How many words do I need to write?

There’s really no excuse for getting this wrong. Task 1 states that you need to write 150 words, and Task 2 requires 250 words. Yet fully 23% of written answers are under the word count. If you do not write the required number of words, you will lose points, so it’s really important get this right.

I suggest you make this easier for yourself by finding out approximately how much space 150 and 250 words of your writing takes up. Find an essay you have written by hand, and count 150 words and look at the number of lines it takes. Then add another 100 words and look at the space 250 words takes. When it comes to the test, this will give you a good idea of whether your word count is about right. However, it’s still sensible to count when you are checking over your work.

2. How important is spelling?

Spelling is important not just in Writing but in Reading and Listening too. If you spell a word wrongly in the Listening test, you will not be given the mark. In the Writing test, you will be judged on your ability to spell correctly. For example, for a Band 8, the candidate “produces rare errors in spelling”, whereas for a Band 5, the candidate “may make noticeable errors in spelling”. So spelling is important.

Spelling in English is notoriously difficult, and the only effective way of improving your spelling is to learn words one by one. Start by looking at written work you have done in the past, and which has been marked by a teacher. Look for the words you spelt wrongly and write them in a column on the right hand side of a piece of paper. Then try this simple and effective four-stage method to learn the spelling of each word:

  1. Look at the word.
  2. Cover the word with a piece of paper.
  3. Write the word.
  4. Check whether your spelling is correct.

If your spelling is incorrect, repeat the process.

3. What about punctuation?

Punctuation can be especially difficult for those whose first language is not based on Roman script, for example Chinese, Arabic or Amharic. It is easy to forget to write a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence. The examiner will probably let you get away with this once, but if it is happening frequently, you will lose marks. So if your language does have a different writing system, punctuation is one more thing you need to be aware of.