The Language section of the HSPT is made up of a variety of question types, one of which is spelling. Many students struggle with spelling, so we’ve put together a list of spelling rules along with a list of commonly misspelled words.
If you’re struggling with spelling questions, you can also check out our comprehensive HSPT workbook which includes tons of spelling practice questions, along with more than 2500 practice questions covering all five sections of the HSPT, and three full-length practice tests.
Spelling Rule 1: U Always Follows Q
The letter “q” is almost always followed by the letter “u,” for example, in the words “queen,” “question,” “equation,” and “plaque.” There are some exceptions to this rule, but these words are not commonly used and will likely not show up on the HSPT.
Spelling Rule 2: I Before E Rule:
This rule states, “I before E, except after C, unless it sounds like A, as in neighbor and weigh.” (Note: there are exceptions to this rule.)
Examples of Words that Follow the Rule
I before E: “niece,” “believe,” “piece”
Except after C: “perceive,” “ceiling,” “receive”
Unless it sounds like A: “beige,” “weight,” “sleigh”
Examples of Words that Don’t Follow the Rule
“science,” “atheist,” “being,” “weird,” “forfeit,” “seize,” “glacier”
Spelling Rule 3: Drop the Silent “E” Before Most Suffixes
When adding a suffix that starts with a vowel to the end of a one-syllable ending in a silent “e,” the silent “e” is typically dropped.
For example, the word “strike” would become “striking” when adding the suffix -ing, and the word “ride” would become “rider” when adding the suffix -er because these suffixes begin with a vowel.
However, the word “pave” would become “pavement” when adding the suffix -ment, and the word “like” would become “likeness” when adding the suffix -ness because these suffixes do not begin with a vowel.
There are a few exceptions and special cases for this rule:
We typically keep the silent “e” when adding the suffix -able, for example, “manageable”
We typically keep the silent “e” when the word ends in two “e’s”, for example, “fleeing”
We typically keep the silent “e” when adding the suffix “-ous” when it is added to a word ending in “g”, for example, “courageous”
The suffix -y is a special case because sometimes the silent “e” is removed, for example, “slime” becomes “slimy”. However, other times, the silent “e” is not removed, for example, the word “price” becomes “pricey.”
Spelling Rule 4: The Prefix al- means “All” (but only has one “l”)
While the word “all” has two “l’s” at the end, the prefix -al has only one “l” but still means the same thing as the word “all.” Therefore, words that start with the prefix -al should NOT be spelled as if they are compound words made up of the word “all” and another word. Some examples of words that follow this rule are “altogether,” “always,” “alright,” “already,” and “almost.”
Spelling Rule 5: Prefixes Don’t Usually Change the Spelling of a Word
Adding a prefix to a word generally does not change the spelling of the word. For example, adding the prefix -de to the word “escalate” creates the word “deescalate”. Another example is adding the prefix -over to the word “react” creates the word “overreact.”
List of Commonly Misspelled Words
The best way to improve spelling is to practice! Follow this link for a list of words that are commonly misspelled. We suggest having a parent, friend, or tutor quiz you on the spelling of these words. While these words are commonly misspelled, they aren’t the only words that will show up on the HSPT, so it’s important to practice spelling as many words as possible.