When I was in middle school, I got to the final round of a spelling bee in my district. I used to read a lot and I was really good at spelling (not sports so much though).

I lost on a pretty easy word too! The last word that I had to spell was ‘address’!

For some reason, that word has always been tricky for me and I still mess up the spelling all the time. I can never remember if it is two ‘d’s or two ‘s’s…

Where would we be today without auto-correct on our computers and phones?

Well, we’d be better at spelling that’s for sure! Our brain would also be cluttered with all the weird spellings you find in a language that’s been sleeping around and mutating for thousands of years.

Here are some more vocabulary posts for your reference!

Be sure to avoid the mistakes that most students make on writing by signing up for my exclusive IELTS Ebooks here on Patreon.




There’s a famous example of the confused link between spelling and speaking in English.

How do you say ‘ghoti’?

The correct answer is ‘fish.’

‘GH’ as it is said in rough.

‘O’ as it is said in women.

‘TI’ as it is said in nation or station.

Combine those sounds and it is ‘fish.’

That shows you just how crazy spelling is in English. This is a problem not just for English learners!

Everyone has their own person list of words that they spell wrong basically every single time and rely on auto correct for – for me that includes:

convienent convenient

acurrate accurate

pronounciation pronunciation

rythm rhythm

I go out of my way to avoid spelling those words. If I have to use them, I just scramble together a bunch of letters and let spell check fix it for me because I know I’ll never get them right.

That’s the liberty I have though – you shouldn’t be like me! You won’t have Google to spell check for you on IELTS!

What’s your personal list of hard to spell words? Comment them below!



Let’s get down to the most commonly misspelled words. I’ve chosen words that are academic and likely to come up on the writing so you can improve your IELTS grammar score.

I got these words from my personal experiences marking essays and from surveying my students.

10. Deteriorate

9. Veterinarian

8. Mediterranean

7. Amphitheater

6. Committee

5. Unnecessary

4. Successive

3. Conference

2. Assassination

1. Bureaucratic


How many of those words could you spell?

Which words give you the most trouble?



Well, now that you don’t feel so bad about your bad spelling, let’s look at some ways to improve your spelling.

There are two problems you have to overcome.

The first is that English is a mess. There aren’t any 100% consistent rules for English spelling.

The second is that once you start spelling a word wrong, it’s easy to keep doing it your whole life.

That’s why I’m still messing up the word ‘address’ 20 years later!

Even though there aren’t consistent rules for English spelling there are still some rules. We do have an alphabet after all and it kind of matches the way we say things.

Here are 5 helpful rules:

1. All kids in America learn the ‘i before e except after c’ rhyming rule.

For example, believe, fierce and friend.

But be careful because there are some exceptions like ancient, science and neighbour.

2. If a word has just one sound/syllable like ‘big’ and we add an ending ‘bigger’ we always add an extra consonant.

For example: swimming, hitting, flipping, redder, etc.

3. The plural endings for words with ‘f’ like knife or leaf changes to a v: knives, leaves.

4. Another plural rule is that we add ‘-es’ to any words that ends with x, z, ch, s, ss, sh.

For example, matches, kisses, wishes, quizzes, foxes, etc.

5. Another common rule that kids learn is to change ‘y’ to ‘ie’ when you add an ending to it.

For example, try to tried, cry to cried, baby to babies.


The second problem is more interesting and means that you need some spelling activities to break your bad habits.

These activities have worked for my students in the past so they might work for you as well:

  1. Anagrams: take the hardest words that you are learning to spell and make them into anagrams here:  Print out the last or copy it down and use it to practice your spelling a few times throughout the day.

  2. Keep a record of the words that you often mess up. You can do this when you are typing something online. Before you use the autocorrect to fix it, save the word to a separate document. Practice writing those words every day until you stop making mistakes with them.

  3. Download a fun spelling game. You can find versions of scrabble, boggle, scattegories, and bananagrams on your phone. You can read about some more here. My favourite is Words with Friends, which you can play with a friend who is also studying.

  4. Buy or download a book of wordsearches or crossword puzzles. These are a fun way to work on your spelling as well as your memory for vocabulary.

  5. Challenge your friend to a spelling contest. One of my good friends recommended this to me. It’s a simple way to practice with a friend when you have nothing better to talk about. Simply say a word for your partner to spell and then your friend says one for you. If your friend has worse English, you can give him/her easier words. You can also have a dictionary available to make it really challenging.


Good luck!

Remember to comment below: what is the hardest word for you to spell in English?

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