Little Mistakes Count Big

March 16, 2016 by Tony Rusinak Tony Rusinak

Ten ways to avoid losing marks on your IELTS test.


Imagine losing half of your company's profit because of a spelling mistake. According to the BBC, earnings can be reduced to less than 50% if customers notice a spelling error on your business' website.

You may not be an online business owner, but you are taking the IELTS test, and depending on your situation, the stakes can be almost as high for you. You can lose lots of points for little things like spelling mistakes, and a whole lot more. The following are ten things you can do to make the most out of your English-language ability and not lose marks on silly little mistakes.

1. Easy as won, too, tree. (Aka, spelling matters!)

spelling errorsThe reading, listening, and writing parts of the IELTS exam all require accurate spelling. For every mistake you make, you risk dropping your score. Try to find the ten commonly misspelled words below. If you can't you will definitely need to improve. See the answers at the end of the article.

Mispelling too much, don't worry. Mispellings won't polute the enviroment. They won't get you in trouble with the govenment. Soceity won't revolt. You won't loose your house. Its ok. It'll probebly only effect the bands on your IELTS test.

2. Not just yes or no.

Let it flow. You probably have thousands of hours of English language practice under your belt. When doing the speaking and writing tests, it's important you show the examiner this. You're not at an immigration interview at the airport. The examiner wants you to demonstrate as much of language skill as possible. If you don't give him/her enough language to grade, you'll lose marks

3. Be yourself!

IELTS grades your language, not your opinion. If you are asked for your opinion on the writing or speaking test, you should give it. It's a fact that we speak more and better if it's a topic we enjoy or are comfortable with. If you feel like talking about your favorite puppy dressed in a tuxedo, do it!

4. Copy cats aren't cool.

do not copyIt may be tempting, but just say no. Don't copy the test book language to make your writing or speaking more professional. IELTS examiners know this trick very well and it does not earn you any points. Minimizing direct language from the questions, paraphrasing, and using synonyms are very important here.

5. The show must go on.

IELTS tests fluency. It's also a timed test. How quickly can you produce effective language? You have to demonstrate this during your test. If a question comes up that you can't answer in the listening or reading section, move on. Put your energy into questions you can answer fluently.

6. Read every word in the question.

A common way to lose points is to go off-topic in the writing. Understand the question, take a little time to plan out what you're going to write, and stay focused. If the question asks for discussion on public transportation and it talks about  less CO2, don't write about recycling and riding bicycles. Write about buses and clean air.

7. It doesn't hurt to ask.

do not be afraid to ask questionsDo I need my passport? Could you repeat that question please? Can I have an extra paper? Now is not the time to be afraid of asking questions. There are many times it is not okay to ask questions, like to another test-taker during the listening module. However, there are many times it is okay. If you need something, are confused about a process, or don't understand what the speaking examiner says, it can be a big help just to ask.

8. Know how to speak IELTS.

How can you do a test if you don't know what the instructions mean? Make sure you know the key instruction words that are common on the test. For example, quickly try and explain the words in the list below as they might appear on an IELTS test. If you have trouble with this, you should be paying more attention to instruction language when doing your practice tests.

Common IELTS Instruction Language

  • Summarize
  • Discuss
  • Benefit
  • Description
  • Passage
  • Heading
  • Mention

9. Preparedness averts peril.

This Chinese idiom has never been so true when it comes to sitting the IELTS. I have seen educated native speakers crash during the test because they didn't know the basics. The IDP Canada IELTS website has a wealth of preparation materials. Be sure to take advantage of them.

10. Make the most out of the free resources.

free IELTS webinarFree stuff that can help you is the best kind of free stuff! To avoid shock and surprise during the test, becoming familiar with the free resources that are available is a great idea. There is an IELTS candidate brochure that clearly tells you critical information you need to succeed, as well as free seminars and webinars that give you an overview of what to expect on test day and common mistakes to avoid! Why waste time worrying and guessing when you have all this information already available?

These ten tips will help you make sure you're not losing unnecessary marks and will ultimately support your ability to get the highest score you can, based on your English-language skills. Whether you're taking your test in Canada or somewhere else in the world, we encourage you to come back soon and check out more blogs as we work to help you reach your goals!

Answers to tip #1: 1. Misspelling, 2. misspellings, 3. pollute, 4. environment, 5. government, 6. society, 7. lose, 8. It's, 9. probably, 10. affect