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Common Spelling Mistakes

Need to improve your spelling? Spelling is an easy way to lose marks in the IELTS Writing Section or PTE Academic Writing. Here are some common mistakes students make with spelling, and some ways to improve!

In the writing sections of English exams, like IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic, and in PTE Academic, spelling is an important component. Bad spelling can lose you vital marks – don’t let it happen to you!

Spelling in English is so weird!

We agree! English spelling can be very strange! (In fact, there is a very interesting YouTube video about why) As you may know, one reason it is difficult is that there are so many different ways of spelling the same sound. For example, k-, c- and ch- can all make the hard ‘k’ sound as in killer, cat and choir. There are also sometimes different sounds for the same spelling, e.g. bough, rough, dough, hiccough. Luckily, with a bit of practice, and a few tricks, you can master English spelling!

Getting to know you

It is very important to be aware of the different ways of spelling in English. Get to know the different spelling combinations and patterns. Then, when you come across a tricky word, write it down and start a list of strangely spelled words and words that YOU misspell. For a list of commonly misspelled words, click here and take a test on them here. Now let’s have a look at some common spelling difficulties…

Double letters = double trouble

Words with double letters, especially consonants, can be hard to remember. Some examples of commonly misspelled double consonant words are:






And don’t forget, verbs that have a base form of CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) double the last letter when you add -ing! For example:

hop -> hopping

dig -> digging

dip – > dipping

Even when they have two consonants at the beginning:

skip -> skipping

trip -> tripping

Or more letters (even vowels)!

begin -> beginning

Vowels – ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’

Vowels are perhaps the trickiest for many non-native speakers. They don’t always make the same sound! There are some tricks, however, to remembering which order they go in. For example: ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ is a saying that helps many people remember which order to put the ‘i’ and ‘e’.

For more tips and tricks like these, check out this website.

Help! I kept making the same mistakes!

If you find you keep making the same mistakes, you may need to put in a bit of extra effort. If you have the same bad habit, you have to work a little harder to break it. But it can be done! Try this:

  1. Separate a page into 3 columns

  2. In column 1: write down a list of your common mistakes (If you’re not sure what they are, write a practice essay and send it to us at English Key we can point them out for you! As a student at English Key, you can send us your essays and we will correct them, score them, and provide you with feedback!

  3. Without looking! Cover column 1 and write each word out once in column 2

  4. Check the word

  5. If incorrect, write the correct version in column 3

  6. Repeat every day!

With repetitive practice, you should find that your spelling improves! As you find more words, add them to your list.

American or British Spelling?

A common question from students is: in the IELTS or PTE Academic exam, which should I use: American or English spelling? The honest answer? It doesn’t matter – just be consistent! That is, use one style or the other, not a mix! So choose whichever you are more comfortable with. And don’t forget to set your Microsoft Word dictionary to the style you chose, and turn off autocorrect!

Don’t know the common difference between American and British Spelling? See here.


Here is a list of the 240 most commonly misspelled words with a test for practice at the end. Test yourself and make sure you don’t make the most common mistakes! Moreover, join an IELTS preparation course, or a PTE Academic preparation course at English Key and attend one of our Writing classes! Our professional and experienced teachers can get you even more tips on how to get your perfect score. Contact English Key online, by phone, or drop into our centre in Melbourne or Sydney!

Now, if you really want to test your English spelling and pronunciation, check out this crazy English poem. If you can spell/pronounce correctly even 90% you are doing better than many native speakers!

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