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Writing tips

How to prepare for the IELTS Writing test, tips and techniques that help to raise your score

How to Get Rid of Bad Handwriting in IELTS

Get Rid of Bad Handwriting in IELTS: Top Tips and Strategies for Improvement

In the paper-based IELTS bad handwriting is a real problem: if the examiner struggles to read what you’ve written, it could negatively impact your score. Handwriting can potentially affects 3 IELTS skills out of 4 (Listening, Reading and Writing), because all the answers are written by hand. Any answer that isn’t legible will receive 0 marks, which means 75% of your score can suffer from poor handwriting.

Legible handwriting is just as important as your content. Yet it is a common not only for younger people but also for adults to struggle with their handwriting. The problem is compounded by the fact that we type more than write by hand these days, and our handwriting skills deteriorate because we don’t use them enough. Luckily there are effective ways to make your handwriting clear and readable.

Bad Handwriting in IELTS

Practical Tips to Make Your Handwriting Easy to Read

1. Switch to Print Handwriting: If you usually write in cursive, switch to print handwriting. This style, where each letter is separate and not connected, significantly improves legibility and readability. It’s easier for examiners to decipher individual letters and words, reducing the risk of misunderstandings.

Bad Handwriting in IELTS

2. Relax Your Grip: A tight grip on the pen can lead to hand cramps and uneven writing. By loosening your grip, you’ll find that writing becomes more comfortable, and you can maintain a consistent quality of handwriting for longer periods of time without your hands tensing up.

3. Use Double-Ruled Paper for Practice: This is a great tool for keeping your letters uniform. Keep your letters between the two lines, just touching the top line, with only taller letters like ‘t’ and ‘f’ extending above. Make sure your capital letters stand above the top line – the difference between them and lowercase letters has to be clear. If there are no visible capitals starting each sentence, your score for Grammatical Range and Accuracy may be impacted.

Bad Handwriting in IELTS

4. Slow Down: Speed can often be the enemy of legibility. Take your time to form each letter properly. This might feel slow at first, but accuracy is more important than speed in the beginning stages of improving your handwriting.

5. Gradually Increase Your Speed: Once your writing looks fine when you’re writing slowly, start to gradually increase your writing speed. Regularly read back what you’ve written. If it’s understandable, you’re maintaining good control at that speed.

6. Practice regularly: Like any skill, handwriting improves with practice. Commit to writing at least one page by hand every day. You’ll likely notice a significant improvement in just two weeks.

Improving your handwriting for the IELTS is not just about making your answers legible. It’s about ensuring that your knowledge and hard work are accurately represented and understood. By making these tips into your daily routine, you can fix poor handwriting, once and for all. Keep going, don’t give up, and with regular practice, your handwriting will turn from a weakness to a strength in your IELTS journey.

IELTS Spelling: British or American?

IELTS Spelling: British or American?

What spelling to use in IELTS, British or American? This is a very common question that my students keep asking, and here is the answer. But first…

What is the difference between US and UK spelling?

There are words with differences in spelling – ‘color’ (American) vs ‘colour’ (UK), ‘labor’ vs ‘labour’ and so on (see the non-exhaustive list at the end of this article). Depending on where you learnt English, you will be accustomed to one of the variations, and the other one will seem foreign to you. As a general rule words like ‘generalize, prioritize, socialize’ that are spelled with a ‘z’ in the US, are spelled with an ‘s’ in the UK – ‘generalise, prioritise, socialise’, etc.

What spelling should I use in IELTS, US or UK?

IELTS accepts both US and UK spelling, with just one rule – you shouldn’t mix them. When I say ‘mix them’, here is what I mean:

Case 1: Mixing different spelling within the same task

Imagine you’re writing your essay and you’ve used the words “colour” and “emphasize”. The first word has the UK spelling and the second – US. This is considered to be mixed spelling and you should avoid it.

Case 2: Mixing different spelling within the same skill

You’ve written your Writing Task 1 and you’ve used the word “prioritized” (US spelling). You have then written your Writing Task 2 and you’ve used the words “labour” and “colour” (UK spelling). This is also considered to be mixed spelling and you should avoid it.

What spelling should I use in the Reading test?

Luckily, in the Reading test you don’t need to worry about choosing US or UK spelling – all your answers should be copied directly from the text, and so whatever spelling version the text is using, you will be using the same.

Can I use different spelling in different IELTS Parts (e.g. UK in Listening and US in Writing)?

Your score won’t be affected if you use UK spelling in one part of the test, such as the Listening test, and US spelling in another, such as the Writing test. Different IELTS parts are marked by different examiners.

Listening is clerically marked and your answers are compared to a list of correct answers. If the word can be spelled in more ways than one, all of them will be on the list of correct answers. You won’t be marked down for using US or UK spelling on the Listening test.

Writing is marked by a different, highly trained examiner and so if you have been consistent with your spelling in the entire Writing section (including Writing Task 1 and Task 2), if you didn’t mix US and UK spelling, your score is safe.

What words are spelled differently in the British and American English?

Here are some words that frequently appear in IELTS texts, topics and answers:

British (UK) vs American (US)
colour vs color
neighbour vs neighbor
labour vs labor
centre vs center
metre vs meter
litre vs liter
dialogue vs dialog
travelling vs traveling
offence vs offense
licence vs license
prioritise vs prioritize
specialise vs specialize

Download a list of spelling words

Download a complete list of words spelled differently in the British and American English here.