The official IELTS by IDP app is here! Download it today.

Close

In the IELTS Reading and IELTS Listening tests, there are 40 questions in each paper.  All of these questions are worth one point, but there are some things to watch out for to avoid scoring 0 for the item.  Here is a guide to avoid scoring zero for a question unnecessarily.

Spelling

Correct spelling is important in both of IELTS Reading and IELTS Listening tests as your answer will be marked as incorrect.  Here are some common words that are often spelled incorrectly: 

Incorrect

Correct

goverment

government

enviroment

environment

seperate

separate

definate

definite

accomodation

accommodation

aquire

acquire

sucess

success

neccessary

necessary

occassion

occassion

untill

until

Remember too, that hyphenated words must be spelled correctly and that they are not counted as separate words.  For example:

  • good-looking (one word) 

  • 3-year-old (one word) 

Duplicate Words

Make sure the answer you write down does not include a word that is already mentioned in the question. This would be marked as incorrect. Here is an example to demonstrate:

Question Sample:

Write no more than THREE WORDS for each answer. Children responded more positively to generous _____________.

Article Sample:

… where research found that the youngsters had better reactions towards family members who were more giving. This would imply that …

From this article sample, we can see that children (youngsters) responded more positively (had better reactions) towards ‘giving family members’.  Let’s look at two possibilities: 

Answer A 

giving family members (incorrect)

This answer is marked as incorrect as the word ‘giving’ already appears in the question as ‘generous’. 

Answer B 

family members (correct)

This answer is correct as there is no duplication of words. 

Incomplete Answers

When you are allowed to write up to 2 or 3 words for your answer, consider whether more words are needed to provide a more specific answer.  Sometimes extra definition is needed, especially when the article or recording compare two things.  Let’s use the following demonstration: 

Question Sample: 

Write no more than THREE WORDS for each answer.  Children responded more positively to generous _____________. 

Article Sample: 

… where research found that the youngsters had better reactions towards immediate family members who were more giving as opposed to relatives that were more distant, like uncles, aunts and cousins .  This would imply that … 

Answer A 

family members (Incorrect)

This answer is incorrect, as it is too broad.  This is because in this context, the children did not respond more positively to all members of the family. 

Answer B 

immediate family members (correct)

This answer is correct because the particular family members are mentioned (compared to distant family members)

Punctuation

In both the IELTS Reading and IELTS Listening tests, correct punctuation is important.  Problems particularly occur in the IELTS Listening test, as this is the paper than normally has more numerical answers.  Punctuation can be problematic for test takers who use a different convention compared to their first language.  Here are some common errors to consider. 

When separating ‘thousands’, use a comma instead of a full stop.  For example, if the answer is ‘three thousand’ note the different punctuation: 

3.000 (Incorrect)

In English, this number is ‘three’ and is therefore wrong. 

3,000 (correct)

However, when dealing with decimals, a full stop is used in English rather than commas.  So, if the answer is supposed to be six and a half: 

6,5 (Incorrect)

6.5 (correct)

This convention is also used for currency.  Let’s use ‘ten dollars and 5 cents’ as an example:  

$10,05 (Incorrect)

$10.05 (correct)