IELTS Spelling: US or UK?

Does IELTS accept UK or US spelling? Can you write “colour” or “color” in your IELTS test? Will you lose marks if you use US vocabulary?

What is IELTS?

IELTS means “International English Language Testing System”. This means that it is not a UK English test, it is an International English Language test.

US or UK Spelling in IELTS?

As IELTS is international, it means that you can choose either UK or US spelling. So, if you write “specialized” or “specialised”, both are accepted.

Can I use UK and US spelling in my writing?

No, you can’t mix your spell. You must choose all US spelling or all UK spelling. You can’t write some words with American spelling and other words with British spelling. Choose your language and stick to it.

US / UK Vocabulary List

See this list of vocabulary with both spelling: US UK Vocabulary Spelling List (this is from a different website).

More IELTS Test Information

If you want to learn more about the IELTS test – get rules and tips, see my IELTS Information Page

If you want model answers, tips and free video lessons, see the main pages below:

Main IELTS Pages

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  1. Hi Liz,

    Do we also have to stick to either British or American vocabulary. I try to be consistent when practising but sometimes some words don’t have a direct synonym like film and cinema. In this case can we use movie and theatre in writing and speaking test as a synonym? I’ve seen your model essay containing both flat and apartment.

    I am waiting for your answer. Thank you very much for the free material. It’s really useful

    • The word “theatre” has a completely different meaning in UK English so that is not possible to use. The word “movie” might be American in origin, but it is now accepted as an international English word for film – so that’s fine to use. How many synonyms do you think there are for one word in English? All languages have limited. It is normal to repeat words.

  2. Hello Liz!

    Somebody told me that you either have to use American or British English in the writing tasks. Therefore, using a mixed vocab of both is incorrect.

    Is the above correct?

  3. Hello Liz, could you please answer 2 questions I have. If a person who has learned English from Canada has the British spelling like centre, harbour, and all words related with french spelling, and also has the US (United States) spelling of some words like, apartment, tire, license, apologize, virtualize, and so on.

    1) How does this person is going to be evaluated., if the spelling is mixed but consistent for the writing section?
    2) I know that you cannot use mixed words and be inconsistent in your writing, if you repeat them like using (centre/center), it’s wrong.
    e.g., I shall install the first server at North Caribbean data centre; later I shall connect network cables at south data center.
    3) May I use mixed words like in Canada spelling, but I must not change the spelling of one word between US and British in the letter if I decided to use it? Like if I use License, centre, virtualize.
    e.g., I shall be there in a minute to do my job, and I want to inform you by this medium I have reactivated my license, Now I am capable to fix the lamps in the data centre B, after that, the team will initiate to work again with the virtualized servers, to finalize my job, I shall start by unmounting the servers from the racks at data centre B.

    I shall be waiting for your answer, I appreciate all the work that you have done, and the information shared with all of us, Bye.

  4. Hey Liz
    I was wondered about one of my task2 writings in which I had no mistake except spelling, more than 5 times.So, I wanted to know how much would I be penalized for misspelling, and there where like these: “phenomonal” instead of “phenomenal” or “sinetific” instead of “scientific”, “failioure” instead of “failure”, and also one terrible mistake which caused misunderstanding which was “rich a peak ” instead of “reach a peak”. Otherwise, I used various grammar structures without any mistake .

    I would be awesome if you could have helped me
    thanks in advance

  5. Thanks, this is helpful. Really was quite confusing to use either US or UK spellings. On top of that, the tutor doesn’t really tell us all minor bits n pieces of IELTS.

  6. Hi Liz,
    I had my exam (Ielts academic) on yesterday. In writing task2, the question was “parents are encouraging their young children to play more on computer because it is helpful for their technical skills. Do you think advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
    I first paragraph, I wrote it has both pros and cons but I didn’t mention if I favor more advantages or disadvantages. However, I wrote more advantages and only 2-3 disadvantages.
    Plz tell me how much it will affect my score.

    • It is important to present a clear position, which means a clear opinion, in this essay question. It will affect your score for Task Response – but that’s only 25% of your marks for task 2. So, overall, you’ll have to wait and see how it affects your total writing score. Good luck!

  7. Hi Liz. Thanks for your advices. What if I mixt up US and UK spellings on the listening section?

  8. Hello Liz. Thank you for all you do! I’m curious if for the reading test, must the answers be copied exactly as written? In other words, if written in British English copied only in British English…

  9. Dear Liz,
    I appreciate you that you’re sharing knowledge with millions of IELTS students.
    May god bless you

  10. Ahlam Taha says

    Hi Liz April 22 ,2017

    Thank you so much Liz always follow you for your valuable IELTS lessons I stop IELTS helping my family now I am Ready to start with you thank you for your supporting and Help

  11. Thank you, Elizabeth ma’am. The site is very simple but laconic. So it is very useful and easy to follow.
    I have a question. Does mixing up the UK and US accent in speaking test affect marking?

    • No. It’s fine to mix accents in speaking. I am British but because I’ve lived abroad for years, my accent is a bit mixed now. So, don’t worry about it. For speaking, it’s fine.

  12. You mean we can’t use US and UK spelling in one essay? Or say for instance you can’t you spell color in a paragraph and then colour in another paragraph? Please explain, as i know am pretty sure i don’t even know which is UK or UK of most words i use.

    • That’s correct. You can’t use both, you use one or the other. There is a link in the page above to see common words with different UK and US spelling – take a look and start making sure you don’t mix them.

  13. Narayan Pandey says

    Thanks for your valuable tips and lessons which helps me to borden my knowledge about IELTS.. I don’t have any words to thank you for ;your support and help.

  14. thank you so much Mam Liz , I always follow you and your advices I have exam on 13th may i whish be ready for that ^^

  15. Hi Liz,
    My name is Man I’m live in West Yorkshire. Have you got online student or have you got private training,

  16. Dear Liz,
    A happy and blessed Easter to you.
    Ruth Li

  17. Now I’m taking IELTS preparation class before attending the IELTS real test, finally I find this amazing website to enrich my English skills, thanks Liz.

  18. Hi Liz,
    I think sometimes mixed spellings are accepted in Australia, like “the program was cancelled.”

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