Can You Pass This Elementary School Spelling Test?

By: Torrance Grey

If you've done something wrong, you might be in what?

"Trouble" is something that all elementary school students know about. "Ooh, you're gonna be in trouble!" is a common refrain on the playground. It's a close second to the perennial "I'm telling!"

When you draw a line, try not to make it ____.

Though the spelling here is simple, the pronunciation of this word can be a difficult one for kids to learn. "Crooked" looks like one-syllable words like "cooked" or "looked," but is pronounced with two syllables, in the style of earlier English pronunciation. (When you read poetry or Shakespeare, you'll notice that words like "armed" are pronounced "arm-ED," which makes the line meter work out).

What's the correct spelling of a weather phenomenon?

Making a compound word into two individual words is still considered a spelling error, even though both words might be spelled correctly. It's more common for older people to make this mistake, as they might have learned it that way: In English, words morph from two words to hyphenated to a single word, no hyphen.

Which of these does a bride wear?

This word is covered by the mnemonic rhyme "i before e, except after c, and when pronounced as 'ay,' like in 'neighbor' and 'weigh.' " It's the last part of that rhyme, obviously, which applies here.

If something is undeniably true, what is it?

Just four little letters, but it can be fairly difficult for young children to learn. Need to Know Dept: The first choice, "facet," is a word. It means "an aspect," or, in jewelry, a feature of how a gem was cut.

While traveling in the tropics, you might see a troop of what?

Yes, the official name for a group of monkeys is called a "troop." This question highlights a certain amount of confusion among children learning to spell about "y" words being pluralized: Usually, the "y" changes to an "ie."

If you are bicycling to school, you are _____ destinations.

A tipoff to this word's meaning is the "tw" part, also seen in "two" and "twice." It suggests that two points, destinations or ideas is at play, with the subject of the sentence not directly at either one. "Betwixt" is an old-fashioned word meaning the same thing.

What's the right spelling of the opposite of "late"?

How we wish it was as easy to learn to always be early as it is to learn to spell "early"! This word is related to the now mostly archaic "ere," meaning "before." You'll see "ere I go ..." in several plays by Shakespeare.

What is the right spelling of a word meaning "talk about in detail, especially about appearance"?

The root word here is "scribe," which is a word unto itself, meaning a person who writes things down. Well, it was in the old days. Now, we use a variety of terms for this, including "stenographer" or "note taker."

What's a popular item for lunch?

Children who are exposed to ghost stories and fairy tales often have trouble with this one, choosing the spelling "sandwitch." Fun fact: The lunch item is named for the Earl of Sandwich, supposedly the first person to think of putting meat between two slices of bread. (We kind of suspect peasants were doing this long before that, but didn't get credit because nobody paid attention to what the poor folks were doing).

In the Midwest, farmers store grain in ...

The English language can be very confusing, more so for adult English learners than for children born in English-speaking countries. The plural of "tomato" is "tomatoes," and "domino" is "dominoes," adding an "e." But not so with "silos" or "dynamos." Why? It's just how a complex language grew, with plenty of exceptions to its rules.

What's the correct spelling of a word meaning "in every instance"?

This word is a shortening and a simplifying of "all ways," meaning that something happens "in every occasion" or "every circumstance." That is, "The fire extinguisher should always be in its wall bracket in the kitchen."

Which of these is the correct spelling of a word meaning "to lay out the facts"?

This frequently used word requires an "x," not a "ks" or a "cs" or other ways to make this sound. You might hear "esplain" as a mispronunciation by a speaker of one of the other Romance languages, like Spanish or Italian.

What's the force that keeps the moon circling the Earth?

Gravity is one of the four essential forces in the universe. The others are the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force and electromagnetism. We'd explain further, but we don't really understand these concepts. Can we get credit just for spelling them correctly?

_______ is probably the most serious crime a human can commit.

Too serious a topic for grammar-school students to deal with? Maybe. But hey, in Christian schools in comes up quite early, when students are taught the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. They might as well spell it right.

Which of the following words is spelled right?

Yup, all three of these are correct spellings of words with different meaning. "Wave" is something you do with your hand; "waive" means to allow the bending of breaking of a rule, and a "waif" is an orphan or a slight, fragile person (usually female).

What's the right spelling of a word meaning "better than good"?

This is an important one for young students to get down pat. They often spell this "grate," but, of course, that's a different word. It means a protective cover, usually of metal, which allows the passage of air, water or tiny objects, but keeps larger objects out.

If you're very confused, something is a _____ to you.

This word has a sophisticated spelling; it's rare for "y" to be used more than once as a vowel in the same word. However, we suspect that kids learn this one fairly young, because of the preponderance of mystery books — e.g. "Nancy Drew" — aimed at children.

Which of these is a military rank following "colonel"?

Of course, it's more common for us to use this word in it's adjective form, in which it has nothing to do with the military. In that sense, it refers to something broad or widely shared: "There was a general sense of relief."

This word means "safe" or "well-established." What's its correct spelling?

Fun fact: Delete two letters from this word, and you'll get a close synonym, "sure." These two words don't mean exactly the same thing, though: "Secure" often implies physical safety, whereas "sure" means something can be counted on.

One of these is the opposite of "width." Which is it?

This one can be tricky for kids and English-language learners. Some regional accents render the "g" silent, making it "lenth." It helps to remember that the root word is "long."

What's the correct spelling for a word close to "imagine"?

Kids should learn early how to spell this one correctly — playing games of "pretend" is a common activity in childhood. This word is related to "pretense" and "pretentious," words that will come up in vocabulary lists later.

What's the word for having emotional interaction with someone or something?

"Relate" is one of those words which people use very frequently, but can be wickedly hard to define. Well, in some cases, it's not, such as when it simply means "tell": "He related a charming anecdote." But in the instance of "I relate well to teenagers," the definition is both broad and subtle, hence our somewhat clunky definition above.

What's the right spelling of a word meaning "a barrier of water"?

This is another word that's probably familiar to children thanks to fairy tales. The first choice, "mote," is also a real word, meaning "small speck." You'll find this one in the gospels, where Jesus tells a questioner to "remove the board from your own eye before you remove the mote from your brother's." (Question: Can someone really get a whole board in their eye? We suspect this is a translation issue).

What do you use to cross a body of water?

This is a basic word kids will be using a lot in life. In addition to something that crosses a river or ravine, a "bridge" has a musical meaning (it's part of a song that transitions back to the original melody) and one in dental medicine: It's a structure containing more than one prosthetic tooth.

A joining of two things is a ...

Students will be learning about this one fairly early. The United States of America is sometimes poetically called "the Union," at least, as a concept or political entity, not necessarily as a geographical place. The word comes up most often in studies of the Civil War.

The study or management of money is called ...

Granted, in grammar school, you don't really need to know about "high finance." In the early grades, it's all about milk money! Even so, it doesn't hurt to know how to spell the word.

What's the correct spelling of a word meaning "related to cats"?

This word comes from the Latin "feles," which meant the same thing, "cat". As in English, it can mean a wild cat or a domestic one. Despite the similarity, it doesn't seem to be any relation to the Latin word "felix," for "happy."

A person who participates in a sport is a what?

If you chose "athalete," perhaps you grew up watching WWE wrestling. Longtime announcer Jim "JR" Ross was constantly referring to wrestlers, in an Oklahoman accent, as a tremendous or amazing "athalete."

Which of these is the correct spelling for a word meaning "advice"?

Good advice is commonly called "wise counsel." This term has also morphed into a word for a lawyer or a team of lawyers (it can be singular or plural), as in, "Please approach the bench, counsel."

Something that measures pressure or temperature is a what?

Actually, it's not just temperature or pressure that might be measured by this. Merriam-Webster's site (our go-to for word-and-language questions) defines this word simply and broadly as "an instrument for measuring and testing."

These might hang from the eaves of your roof. They are ...

This is a commonly misspelled word, thanks to its dropping of the "e" from "ice," and of the soft "c" being pronounced like an "s." Sidenote: "Iscycles" gets our vote for a new name for those fat-tired bicycles that can be ridden in winter conditions.

Which of these is the right spelling of a word meaning "at the same time"?

Don't confuse this with "Unisom," the brand name of an over-the-counter sleep aid. "Unison" comes into play most often when describing speech; people say things "in unison." But we suppose there are other uses: a line of can-can dancers is kicking in unison, for example.

A nonagenarian is a person who is at least _____ years old.

This one should be simple, right? The single-digit number is "nine," which uses a final "e" to derive its long-i sound. So the "e" should be there in ninety, right? But start paying attention, and you'll notice how many people write this one "ninty."

What was the title for the man who ruled ancient Rome?

New rule: We think that on the first day of culinary school, all students should be rounded up and this spelling pounded into their heads. For good measure, writing it correctly should be a graduation requirement. It clearly isn't now -- just look at any chalkboard with the day's specials, or even some permanent, laminated menus, and you'll see a mangled spelling.

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About This Quiz

Let's put it out there: Spelling is hard, not "fun" as Taylor Swift has famously said — just before it was pointed out that some of her merch had the spelling "your'e" instead of "you're" on it. But take heart: Spelling is also well known to have no correlation with actual IQ. Still, errors can make you look stupid, and on a resume or in an important memo, that can have serious consequences. (In a love letter? Maybe; it depends on the spelling skills of your beloved and how much your ardent declarations of love carry the day). 

Success in this area starts in grammar school. That's where you learn the correct spellings of words you'll need on a regular basis. You'll likely be forgiven for misspelling "prerequisite," and anyway, if you know you can't spell it, there are ways to avoid using it. But everyday words like "believe," "necessary," and "unique" trip quite a few people up. Then there are a few job-specific words: Don't get us started on the widespread inability of our nation's restaurateurs to spell the name of a popular salad ... (we'd say which one, but it's a spoiler for the quiz ahead). 

How confident are you in your basic spelling skills? We've got a quiz to help you figure out if you'd get a bright red "A" on a quiz, or a great big "F." Don't worry, though — nobody needs to know but you!

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