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IELTS: Talking Numbers

By Ashlee Fisher

Numbers occur in different forms throughout all sections of the IELTS test. There are different strategies to use when dealing with numbers. Here is a breakdown of each section and the variety of numbers that may be included within them.


Numbers are a major part of the listening section. They can appear in any of the 40 questions, but are most frequently seen in Section 1. Here, you may encounter numbers, ages, currency, measurements, dates, times, telephone, credit card numbers, and so on.


When it comes to numbers such as age, year, and just counting how many, quantities that end in -teen and -ty are used often. Make sure you can hear the difference between, for example, 13 and 30, as they have similar ending sounds.

13 - 30 thirteen - thirty

14 - 40 fourteen - forty

15 - 50 fifteen - fifty

16 - 60 sixteen - sixty

17 - 70 seventeen - seventy

18 - 80 eighteen - eighty

19 - 90 nineteen - ninety


The two most commonly used types of currency on the IELTS test are dollars ($) and pounds (£). You can choose to write the word ‘dollars’ or ‘pounds’ or you can put the symbols. When listening to the amounts, just remember they can be said in different ways.

4.50 = 1. Four dollars fifty cents

2. Four pound fifty

measuring tape


Different measurements appear such as centimetres, kilometres, and kilograms. When writing these measurements as numbers, you are allowed to abbreviate the word.

Sixty kilometres OR 60 kilometres OR 60 km OR 60 kms

All forms above are correct on the IELTS test. You are allowed to write the word form of a number; however, writing the number form or abbreviating is best as you won’t have a chance of making a spelling error.


Dates are flexible and can be written in a variety of ways. You can use the number or word form, as well as abbreviate days of the week and months of the year.

March 5th OR Mar 5th OR 5th of Mar OR 03/05 OR 5/3

Be careful with ordinal numbers. First is ‘st’, Second is ‘nd’, Third is ‘rd’, and fourth to tenth all use ‘th’. If you put, for example, 2th, you will be marked as incorrect.


Times are generally written the same way, however, can be said differently.

6:45 = 1. Six forty-five

2. Quarter to seven

cell phone screen

Telephone and Credit Card Numbers

With a sequence of numbers, there are a few things to remember. Sometimes, 0 (zero), can be called ‘O’, like the letter. Also, the same number twice or three times in a row may be referred to as double or triple.

2450 - 7762 - 3338 = 1. Double seven

                                       2. Triple three


There are not many strategies to follow when it comes to numbers in the reading section, just remember to carefully transfer your answers to the answer sheet, especially when there are multiple zeros.


When it comes to writing an academic Task 1, you want to write your numbers in a variety of ways. This can be as simple as writing the number as opposed to the word form or completely changing the number form.

1. 10,000 OR ten thousand

2. 25% OR twenty-five per cent

3. 75% OR ¾

It is also beneficial to write exact numbers along with approximations.

66% OR sixty-six per cent OR Just above 65%

Under 70%

Over half

You also have to clearly understand the axis of the graphs and learn how they are measured. Here, the numbers are in the millions.

Woodward Chocolate Bars Graph

1. The number of Wuzzle Bars sold in Q3 was 40.

2. The number of Wuzzle Bars sold in Q3 was 40 millions.

3. The number of Wuzzle Bars sold in Q3 was 40 million.

With these three sentences, the last option is the only one that is correct. Although the graph is written in 10s, it states that the numbers are in millions. Also, when referring to a general number, you can write ‘millions”, however, when it’s a specific number, you have to write ‘million’.

I have millions of dollars.

I have 20 million dollars.


When referring to numbers in the speaking test, try to keep everything casual. For example:

2500 = two thousand five hundred (formal)

twenty-five hundred (casual)

2019 = two thousand nineteen (formal)

twenty nineteen (casual)

numbers on board

Numbers can feel like a small detail but play an important role on the IELTS test. Make sure you deliver them correctly in order to obtain the best score possible.

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