Capital Letters in IELTS: Will it affect your score?

When to use capital letters in your IELTS listening and reading test. Will you get a lower score if you make a mistake with capital letters? Can you write your answers in all capital letters? What are the rules for capital letters in IELTS? Capital letters in IELTS 2017.

Using Capital Letters for Answers: IELTS Rules

Capital Letters in IELTS Listening and Reading

In IELTS listening and reading, you can write all your answers in capital letters if you want or not.

  • You can write your answers in small letters if you want.
  • You can write in all capital letters.

Examples of capital letters in listening and reading:

  • HOSPITAL = correct / hospital = correct / 9am = correct / 9AM = correct /

Which is best? Capital letters or lower case?

I recommend writing your listening and reading answers in capital letters. It is easier to read and this means it is better for the person marking. Of course, it is your choice. But my advice is to use all capital letters for writing your answers in listening and reading.

Transferring Answers

In IELTS listening, you will be given 10 mins extra to transfer your answers to your answer sheet. Check your answers and check your spelling – then write your answers on the answer sheet.  If your handwriting is poor, write using all capital letters so it is easy to read.

In IELTS reading, you will not get 10 extra mins to transfer your answers. You must write your answers directly on your answer sheet. But it is completely your choice how to write your answers. The most important factor is not clear writing. Use all capital letters if your handwriting isn’t clear.

Capital Letters in IELTS Writing

In IELTS Writing, you can choose to write your essay in capital letters. But I wouldn’t recommend it because:

  1. you have a strict time limit and it takes too long to write in capital letters
  2. you WILL be marked on punctuation so the use of capital letters and lower case is important to show. You must have a capital letter at the start of a sentence, for example.

So, write your essay in lower case and remember to use capital letters when appropriate. The examiner will mark you down if you use capital letters incorrectly. Here is a list of typical words that use capital letters:

When to use capital letters in English grammar

  • Days/ Months = Thursday / September
  • Names and Titles = Mrs J Blogs / Dr Author Jones
  • Countries / Cities = India / Vietnam / Paris / Hong Kong
  • Names of Places = University of London
  • Acronyms = BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Start of a Sentence = “The majority of people use cars to go to work these days. However, it would be better if they used healthier means of transport such as the bicycle.”

Biggest Mistake with Capital Letters

  • but / because / and
    • These linking words NEVER start with a capital letter because they should NEVER be used to start a sentence. See my page of linking words for writing task 2 to learn tips and get a useful list: IELTS Writing Task 2 Linking Words

What about speaking part 2? Well, the notes you make for your talk are not marked and only you see them. The examiner will not check them or mark them. So, don’t write sentences or bother with punctuation, just write words, ideas and tips to help you present a good talk.

More IELTS Tips

What about using a pen or pencil? Click on this link: IELTS Pen or Pencil

How are words counted in IELTS Listening? Click on this link: How Words are Counted in IELTS

Can I use “I” or “my” in writing task 2? Click on this link: How to express your opinion in IELTS WT2

Tips & Practice for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking:

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IELTS Reading Paragraph Information: Whaling

This passage is similar to the level of GT passage 3 and just below academic level. However, it is a useful passage for academic students because it will help develop skills without too much heavy academic vocabulary.

This IELTS reading practice requires you to match information to a particular paragraph. Read instructions carefully.

A Brief History of Whaling

A) People have been whaling for thousands of years. Norwegians were among the first to hunt whales, as early as 4,000 years ago. The Japanese may have been doing so even earlier.

B) Traditions as varied as the Inuit (who hunted in the Arctic Ocean), Basque (who hunted in the Atlantic), and Japanese (who hunted in the Pacific) relied on whales to provide material goods, as well as part of their cultural identity.

C) Nearly every part of the whale was used. Meat, skin, blubber, and organs were eaten as an important source of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Baleen was woven into baskets and used as fishing line. In warmer climates, baleen was also used as a roofing material. Bones were used primarily for tool making and carving ceremonial items such as masks.

D) During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, whaling gained popularity throughout Northern Europe. Whale oil and baleen (sometimes called whalebone, although it’s not bone at all) were valuable commodities. Whale oil comes from the blubber of right and bowhead whales, and the head cavity of sperm whales. It was used primarily for oil lamps. Corsets and hoop skirts were constructed from whalebone.

Questions 1-5

The reading passage has 4 paragraphs. Which paragraph contains the following information? Letters may be used more than once. Write the correct letter (A-D) as your answer.

  1.  Whaling became common in Northern Europe.
  2. A variety of different cultures have used whales to furnish important supplies.
  3. The Japanese probably started hunting before anyone else.
  4. Whale oil was used for lighting.
  5. The body of a dead whale was used for many purposes and little was wasted.

You can download a free pdf copy of the passage and questions: ielts-reading-history-of-whaling


Click below to open the answers for the above IELTS reading practice.

  1. D = Information about Northern Europe and whaling is contained in A (Norway) and D. However, information about whaling being common is contained only in D = gained popularity.
  1. B = Paragraph B contains the names of different cultures. It contains the words ‘provide material goods’ which can be paraphrased to mean ‘furnish important supplies’.
  1. A = Paragraphs A and B contain information about the Japanese. However, paragraph A contains information about the beginning of whaling and the last sentence in paragraph A contains the exact information.
  1. D = Paragraph D contains information about whale oil which was ‘used primarily for oil lamps’.
  1. C = Both paragraphs C and D contain information about the uses of whale. The first sentence of paragraph C, gives further information about not wasting the body.

Passage from: National Geographic 


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Sentence Completion: Life on Earth

This is a short reading passage to practice sentence completion questions. It’s quite an easy passage to give you all a chance to practice.

Life on Earth

Life on Earth started around 3.8 billion years ago and has since evolved and diversified through the process of natural selection to be adapted to almost every environment possible. There are currently an estimated 1.9 million animals, plants, and other forms of life on Earth.

Life can be found in every nook and cranny/niche of the globe, from the extreme environments of deep sea hydrothermal vents and the freezing conditions of the Polar Regions to the lush habitats found at the equator.

Looking back through time, by means of the fossil and phylogenetic record, we can see that the Earth has been home to many more species than are alive today. Taking a historical perspective shows that life is constantly evolving, with the success and dominance of different groups waxing and waning over time.

The diversity of life is truly amazing, but all living organisms do share certain similarities. All living organisms can replicate, and the replicator molecule is DNA. As well, all living organisms contain some means of converting the information stored in DNA into products used to build cellular machinery from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. 

Questions 1-4

Complete the sentences. Choose no more than three words and / or a number from the passage for each answer.

  1. The world has been developed and changed by ……………………………… for over 3.8 billion years.
  2. The past history of the species that used to exist on earth can be found through the …………………………………………. record.
  3. The coming and going of specific groups and species can illustrate to us that life is forever ………………………………………. .
  4. Without ……………………, life forms would not be able to replicate.


Click to get the answers: Answers

  1. natural selection
  • developed and changed = evolved and diversified
  • it is not possible to have “the natural selection”
  • it is not possible to have “natural selection process”
  1. fossil and phylogenetic (spelling must be correct)
  • past history = looking back through time
  1. evolving
  • coming and going = waxing and waning
  • forever = constantly
  1. DNA
  • life forms = living organisms

All reading exercises on have been written by myself to help you develop skills for IELTS. These lessons are not practice tests, they are exercises for students.   



To practice more IELTS reading and other parts of the test, see the main pages below:

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IELTS Reading Practice: Marie Curie

IELTS reading practice for matching sentence endings questions. This topic is a biography of Marie Curie, a famous scientist. Skim read the passage before attempting the questions. Please note this is not a practice test but just IELTS reading practice to develop skills and understanding of this type of question.

Download the PDF file for the passage and questions: IELTS Reading Practice Marie Curie

Marie Curie

During the 19th century scientists knew little about what went on inside an atom. However, by the end of the century there were startling new ideas about the structure of the atom resulting from the discoveries of X-rays, radioactivity and the electron.

Marie Sklodowska was born in Warsaw in 1867. She was a brilliant student and dreamed of studying at the Sorbonne in Paris but it took eight years of scrimping and saving before she could afford to go. Despite very poor living conditions and a lack of French she graduated in physics in 1893 and mathematics in 1894.

While looking for a laboratory in Paris to continue with her experiments she was introduced to Pierre Curie, a highly regarded professor at the School of Physics. At 35 years old, Pierre was already an internationally recognised physicist. With his brother Paul-Jacques, he discovered piezo-electricity: the fact that crystals under pressure produce electric currents. He also studied crystal symmetries and the magnetic properties of bodies at different temperatures. His papers had been well received by distinguished colleagues but he was still an outsider in the French academic community. Like Marie he did not care for outward distinctions or a career. They married in July 1895.

During her studies Marie had heard about Henri Becquerel’s discovery of some sort of radiation emitting from uranium salts and decided to investigate these mysterious ‘uranium rays’ for her doctoral thesis. She soon discovered that the intensity of the rays was in direct proportion to the amount of uranium in her sample. Nothing she did to the uranium affected the rays. This, she said, ‘shows that radioactivity is an atomic property’. She also found that two minerals, pitchblende and chalcite, were much more radioactive than uranium itself, and realised that they must contain a new radioactive element.

After the exciting results of Marie’s early experiments, Pierre abandoned his study of crystals to join her in her search for new substances. The couple laboured over their work, Marie carrying out the chemical separations and Pierre taking the measurements. They continued with the painstaking refining and by December 1898 the couple announced the discovery of an even more radioactive substance in pitchblende which they called radium. This discovery had far-reaching effects; opening up the fields of radiotherapy and nuclear medicine.

Matching Sentence Endings

Complete the sentences by selecting the correct ending, A-L (not all letters will be used).

  1. In the early 20th century, scientists….
  2. It took Marie 8 years…
  3. Marie tolerated sub-standard accommodation but still…
  4. The research of Pierre Curie was received well …
  5. Both Marie and Pierre shared the same belief that…
  6. The research by Henri Becquerel …
  7. On discovering that there must be a hitherto unknown substance …
  8. The revelation of radium had a momentous  impact on …


  • A) by the college where he worked.
  • B) lacked French.
  • C) had already made novel discoveries about the atom.
  • D) by notable fellows in his field.
  • E) recognition or vocation was not the main goal.
  • F) graduated in two subjects.
  • G) had rediscovered the x-ray.
  • H) nuclear medicine and radiotherapy.
  • I) prompted her to investigate his discovery further.
  • J) pitchblende.
  • K) her husband relinquished his work for hers.
  • L) of economising prior to  realise her goal of studying in Paris.
  1. C
    • novel = new / by the end of the 19 century means that this was already happening at the start of the 20th century
  2. L
    • Second paragraph. economising = being careful with money and not overspending = saving
  3. F
    • The answer can be found here: “Despite very poor living conditions and a lack of French she graduated in physics in 1893 and mathematics in 1894.”
  4. D
    • notable = distinguished / colleagues = fellows in his field. Please note that colleague and college do not have the same meaning.
  5. E
    • The answer can be found at the end of the third paragraph: “Like Marie he did not care for outward distinctions or a career.” Please note that “he” refers to her husband, Pierre. outward distinctions = recognition / career = vocation
  6. I
    • The answer can be found in the fourth paragraph: “During her studies Marie had heard about Henri Becquerel’s discovery ………and decided to investigate these mysterious ‘uranium rays’ for her doctoral thesis.”. Prompted means that she was persuaded or it caused her to.
  7. K
    1. The answer can be found in the last paragraph: “Pierre abandoned his study of crystals to join her in her search for new substances.”.  “he reliquished his work” means that he abandoned (gave up) his work.
  8. H
    1. The answer is in the last sentence of the passage: “This discovery had far-reaching effects; opening up the fields of radiotherapy and nuclear medicine. “. The word far-reaching is paraphrased as momentous.

Article from

More Practice with Matching Sentence Endings:

IELTS Reading Passage: Crime & Punishment 

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IELTS Tips: How words are counted

Learn how your words are counted in IELTS. This page explains about counting words, numbers and symbols. You need to know how words are counted for IELTS listening, reading and writing. If you make mistakes with the number of words, you can lose points which can affect your band score.

How words are counted in IELTS

1. Numbers, dates and time are counted as words in writing. For example 30,000 = one word  /  55  = one word  /  9.30am = one word / 12.06.2016 = one word. In listening, 30,000 is counted as one number and 9.30AM is also counted as one number.

2. Dates written as both words and numbers are counted in this way: 12th July = one number and one word.

3. Symbols with numbers are not counted. For example, 55% = one number (the symbol “%” is not counted as a word). However, if you write “55 percent” it is counted as one word and one number.

4. Small words such as “a” or “an” are counted as one word. All prepositions, such as “in” or “at” are also counted. All words are counted.

5. Hyphenated words like “up-to-date” are counted as one word.

6. Compound nouns which are written as one word are also counted as one word. For example, blackboard = one word.

7. Compound nouns which are written as two separate words, are counted as two words. For example, university bookshop = two words.

8. All words are counted, including words in brackets. For example in IELTS writing, “The majority of energy was generated by electricity (55%).”. This sentence is counted as 9 words. The number in brackets is counted.


Advanced IELTS Writing Lessons: Liz’s Advanced Lessons

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IELTS General Training Reading: Information & Tips

Learn about the IELTS General Training Reading Test. The IELTS GT reading is different to the academic reading in a number of ways but mainly due to the language and difficulty level of the texts. Similar to the academic reading, the general training reading test is 60 minutes in length and has 40 questions.

General Training Reading Sections

There are three sections in the IELTS GT reading. However, sections one and two might have more than one text. The sections get increasingly difficult.

Section 1

: This section is based on one, two or three texts about English life and could be, for example, an advertisement for a hotel,  sports center facilities or educational courses. The texts are not long and are factual rather than descriptive.

Section 2

: This section may also consist of more than one text and often relates to work about pay schemes, work conditions or machinery instructions.

Section 3

: The final section is usually one text which is quite long and it is the hardest.

IELTS General Training Reading Band Scores

Below is a list of the scores from band 2 to 9 for the GT reading test. The scores are not the same as the academic reading test. Click on the table to enlarge.

general training reading scores

IELTS Reading Question Types for General Training

The types of questions you will be asked in the GT reading test are the same as the academic test. Here is a list:

  • matching headings
  • true false not given / yes no not given
  • matching paragraph information
  • summary completion
  • sentence completion
  • short answer questions
  • table / flow chart completion
  • diagram labeling
  • multiple choice / list selection
  • choosing a title
  • categorisation
  • matching sentence endings

You can learn Tips on the Different Types of Reading Questions by following the link. You can also practice most of these types of questions on my blog on the IELTS Reading Page and learn more tips. However, most practice exercises are on the level of section 3. Also learn How to Improve your IELTS Reading.

For GT IELTS practice reading tests, please visit the BC IELTS page of practice tests.

IELTS True False Not Given Questions

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IELTS Reading: Using Online Translations for Medical Purposes

This exercise is based on matching paragraph information for IELTS reading. This reading exercise is not difficult and could be classed as medium in level. It’s a useful practice lesson.

Skim read the article and then look through the statements below. Take time to think about the information in the statements and consider possible paraphrases for vocabulary before you attempt to locate information.

Using Web Based Translations in Medical Communication

A)  A complex medical and treatment discussion with patients whose knowledge of the local language is inadequate remains challenging. After treating a child whose parents did not speak English, we resorted to the use of a web based translation tool. We were unsure as to whether Google Translate was accurately translating our complex medical phrases. We aimed to evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of Google Translate in translating common English medical statements.

B)  Ten commonly used medical statements were chosen by author consensus. These were translated via Google Translate to 26 languages. Translations only were sent to native speakers of each language and translated back into English by them. The returning English phrases were compared with the originals and assessed for meaning. Minor grammatical errors were accepted but not if the meaning was altered.

C)  The results showed that of the ten medical phrases translated by Google translate and then translated back into English, 57.7% were correct and 42.3% were wrong. Out of the 26 languages used, Africa languages scored the lowest, followed by Asian languages. Western European languages were the most accurate. However, there were some serious errors discovered. For instance, “Your child is fitting” translated in Swahili to “Your child is dead”. In Polish “your husband has the opportunity to donate his organs” translated to “your husband can donate his tools”. In Mathi “your husband has had a cardiac arrest” translated to “your husband had an imprisoned heart”.

D)  The conclusion drawn is that in today’s world “just google it” is considered to be the answer to everything, but for health related questions this should be treated with caution. Google Translate should not be used for taking consent for surgery, procedures, or research from patients or relatives unless all other avenues to find human translators have been exhausted and the procedure is clinically urgent.

Questions 1-7

In which paragraph (A-D) is the following information found. Letters may be used more than once.

  1. When calculating the results, slight mistakes in language, possibly related to syntax or structure of language, were admitted.
  2. It is believed that most information and help can be found on google.
  3. The aim was to test whether Google Translate could be used reliably for medical communication.
  4. Significant mistakes were found in the translations which were web based.
  5. The research was conducted after a situation in which a patient’s relatives did not speak English.
  6. The translate function is not admissible to get people’s permission for operations.
  7. Accuracy in meaning was essential.


Click below for answers.

  1. B
  2. D
  3. A
  4. C
  5. A
  6. D
  7. B

Adapted and edited from BMJ article by Patil and Davies, December 2014 publication

All reading exercises on have been written by myself to help you prepare for your IELTS test for free.   


Vocab Builder
  • inadequate = lacking / deficient / not enough
  • resort to = turn to  / make use of
  • evaluate = assess / appraise
  • consensus = agreement
  • minor = small / insignificant
  • donate = give
  • cardiac arrest = when the heart stops / ceases to function
  • the conclusion drawn = the conclusion derived
  • other avenues = other possibilities
  • exhausted = finished 



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IELTS Reading Tips: How can I improve my score

Below are some IELTS reading tips about how you can improve your score. The tips include developing both IELTS reading exam skills and also improving your English.

IELTS Reading Tips: How to Increase your Score

  1. Develop skills of each type of question in reading. There are around 14 different types of questions and you need to find a strategy to tackle each one. Some question types have answers that come in order and others do not. This type of information will help you not only save time but also locate the right answers. Follow the link to learn about the IELTS reading question types. Most students struggle with True False Not Given questions, see this IELTS TFNG video to learn how to approach this type of question.
  2. Skimming and Scanning. You should be able to skim and scan passages to do well in IELTS. Skimming is reading a passage to get a general idea of the content. This is recommended to do before you tackle the questions. All types of questions, except one, are given after the passage because it is recommended to skim read the passage before the questions. This does not mean you try to understand the passage. It’s just a chance to get a sense of the topic and layout. You should skim read the full passage in 2 to 3 minutes – not longer. At the same time, you should underline any key words you see. The only types of questions which comes before the passage is matching headings, for those, you don’t need to read the passage first. Scanning is your ability to locate information quickly and has no relation to comprehension of the passage.
  3. Develop your speed reading skills. This test has a strict time limit which will really challenge your ability to complete the questions in time. You must develop speed reading skills to be able to find your answers quickly. This means you must be able to scan the passage quickly to locate information.
  4. Don’t try to understand the full passage. Your task is to locate answers only. Most questions test your ability to locate specific information given to you and then to comprehend the sentence or sentences which contain that information. There are only two types of questions which will require a more detailed understand of the whole passage – matching headings and choosing a title. All other questions are based on locating information. For more tips about reading techniques for IELTS, follow the link.
  5. Developing vocabulary. This is one of the key reasons why students don’t get the score they need. Learn vocabulary is not just about learning the meaning of a word, it is about learning when you can and can’t use a word. It is also about what collocations can be used with words, for example verbs and match nouns.  You should write words lists that include common paraphrases and also any problems you had finding the answer. You can do this by learning vocabulary from practice reading passages.
  6. Key words. Each question will have key words to help you locate the information in the passage and to spot the right answer. You should learn to spot key words and use them correctly. You should also check whether the key words can be paraphrased. You will soon learn to use key words correctly when you review your answers in practice reading lessons. Some key words are obvious, for instance names, dates, numbers, places etc. Other key words are more subtle.
  7. Grammar. Question types such as summary completion and sentence completion require that the sentence is grammatically correct when you have put the answer in. This means that grammar can help you to spot the right answer. Many students post question on this blog asking me why one answer is correct and the other is not – the reason is often grammar related. You will see this when you do practice reading lessons.
  8. Practice makes perfect. Unless you practice regularly, you won’t improve. Here’s a link to all my reading lessons for IELTS. The lesson are useful for students taking both the GT test and academic test because they are aimed at building skills, understanding of question types and also vocabulary.
  9. Getting used to difficult passages. If you have time before your test, you should be widening your reading skills and familiarity of complicated passages on a range of topics.  read the bbc news, the new scientist, the economist etc. Here’s a link to a page with useful websites for IELTS which includes links to websites useful for reading.
  10. IELTS Practice Reading Tests. You can find practice tests online for free (see my useful website page for links)or you can buy the IELTS Cambridge Test books (number 10 is the most recent). You should use IELTS practice reading tests for two purposes:
    1. To develop your skills, practice different types of questions and enhance your vocabulary
    2. To test yourself under exam conditions to check your score and check if you have developed or no
  11. GT Test. The first two passages in the GT test are different to the academic test but the third passage is similar. To practice the first two types of reading passages, you can practice reading materials such as instruction manuals, schedules and employment terms. You can find practice tests in the IELTS Cambridge books. The same skills and question types apply to both the GT test and academic test so all lessons on this blog will be useful to Gt students.
  12. Know your weaknesses. Unless you know your weaknesses, you won’t know how to improve. You must check the reasons why you are getting your answers wrong or right. If you are getting answers wrong due to your understanding of the passage, then you know you must improve your English language. If you are getting your answers wrong because your couldn’t find the information or you didn’t understand the question or you ran out of time, then the problem is your technique and strategies. Spend time reviewing your performance.
  13. Be realistic. If your level of English is not strong, don’t expect to get band score 7.
  14. Plan your training for IELTS reading. You should spend time
    1. developing vocabulary and paraphrasing limitation
    2. practicing particular question types
    3. developing speed in locating information
    4. doing practice test not under exam conditions so you can work on skills
    5. doing practice tests under exam conditions to test your score and improvement
  15. You must prepare. Like all tests, you need to prepare. Even native speakers need to prepare by learning about the different types of questions and developing the right skills.

Useful Links for IELTS Reading

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