That said, there are still some tips and rules you will find enormously helpful in your pursuit of improved IELTS/PTE spelling outcomes. (And don’t forget, there are exceptions to every rule!)

  1. Make a log of your 100 demons. You should even consider doing this old-school style in an exercise book:
    i) write down the word;
    ii) write out its definition and a couple of synonyms;
    iii) write out one or two sentences using the word in context.
  2. Spend a few minutes each day writing these words out. If you have someone to dictate the words at random, that’d be most helpful.
  3. In the IELTS/PTE, spelling is but one aspect of your writing assessment. Spelling accurately does matter, of course, but it’s not the end of the world if your Enabling Skills spelling score is relatively low. Apocryphal evidence suggests that it is possible to attain a perfect 90 in writing despite a poor showing in spelling.
  4. Beware of homophones. These are words that are pronounced the same as another word but have a different meaning: they might also be spelled differently. Here are some examples of common homophones:
  • ad, add
  • ate, eight
  • be, bee
  • I’ll, aisle, isle
  • blew, blue
  • buy, by, bye
  • cell, sell
  • hear, here
  • hour, our
  • its, it’s


  • English words are often non-phonetic. This means that they often don’t sound as they are written (e.g.: head, find, loan). Sometimes, you do spell ‘em as you say ‘em, though (e.g.: cat, bed, hit).
  • When you have a consonant-vowel-consonant word (e.g.: big, hit, pot) the vowel in the middle makes a short sound. When these words are built upon, the consonant must be doubled to preserve the short vowel sound:
  • big/ bigger/biggest
  • hit/hitter
  • pot/potty
  • Every word has a vowel (sometimes using a ‘Y’ instead, which is a vowel sound).
    • Print
    • Scan
    • rhythm
  • Every syllable has a vowel (again, sometimes using a ‘Y’). Practice breaking words down into their con-sti-tu-ent parts.
    • Per-sis-tent
    • Prox-im-i-ty
    • Fla-tu-lence
  • Change the ‘Y’ to ‘I’ when adding a suffix.
    • Beauty – beautiful
    • Happy – happiness
    • Apply – application
    • Ready – readiness
  • Add ‘ES’ to words that end in -S, -SS, -Z, -SH, -CH, -X
    • Nurses
    • Busses
    • Sizes
    • Dishes
    • Lunches
    • Fixes
  • Drop the ‘E’ when adding a vowel suffix.
    • Write – writing
    • Hope – hoped
    • Sense – sensible
    • Oppose – opposition
    • Like – likable
  • Drop one ‘L’ from ‘ALL’ at the start of words.
    • Alright
    • Almost
    • Already
    • Always
    • Although

100 Spelling Demons of the English Language!

Spelling, like all skills, requires repetition in the pursuit of improvement. To lean on an axiomatic phrase: Practice makes perfect! So write often, list the words that give you trouble and memorize them.

To get you started, as a very special treat, I present you with the One Hundred Spelling Demons of The English Language:

which, been, writing, country, ready, guess, choose, early, very, read, their, since, heard, February, forty, says, tired, instead, none, said, there, used, does, know, hour, having, grammar, easy, week, hoarse, separate, always, once, could, trouble, just, minute, through, often, shoes, don’t, where, would, seems, among, doctor, any, every, whole, tonight, meant, women, can’t, Tuesday, busy, whether, much, they, won’t, wrote, business, done, sure, wear, built, believe, beginning, half, cough, enough, many, hear, loose, answer, colour, knew, blue, break, piece, truly, friend, here, lose, two, making, laid, though, buy, raise, sugar, some, write, Wednesday, too, dear, tear, coming, again, ache, straight,


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