"How to write numbers in IELTS "

The skill of presenting your thoughts in a more refined way is one of your best bets for cracking IELTS. Describing numbers is a very general but important aspect of any language. Through this article, we will be looking specifically at why it is so important for the IELTS test and what can be learned to improve the IELTS score.

Some different ways and expressions can be used to describe numbers. Through this article, we will come across

  • The importance of describing numbers
  • What problems could come while describing numbers
  • Why are they so key in your IELTS academic examination?

The importance of describing numbers

The more expressions that we have will prevent us from having to repeat. It's exactly why it's essential to describe numbers and to describe numbers to show changes in the graphs or charts. The ability to describe different numbers in various ways showcases the excellent knowledge and hold of the test taker on the language and expression of thought.

Which part of the IELTS examination would you need to describe the graph?

IELTS Academic Writing Task one exactly describing numbers which provide us with that range of the language.

So we're going, beginning with talking about the length of the examination and a little bit where else you might need to recognize and acknowledge numbers in the academic IELTS. So in IELTS listening, part one of the listening will have some numbers in there. It might be a telephone number; it might be a reference number; there might be some other numbers. So you should develop the listening skill to introspect the number into words as soon as you hear it.

In the reading sections, there will be some form of description of numbers or quantities or something somewhere probably, amongst those three reading texts. We discussed listening and writing part one, which is key to the reading tasks.

In speaking, make sure to learn a range of expressions that you can use in IELTS speaking because often, in the topics that we discuss, we could be talking about the number of people that do something or how many times we've done something.

So having a few of those, maybe the fixed expressions like the collocations, that we talked about in previous session articles are key. And they're very useful and quite easy to place into your IELTS writing task.

The following are a few examples and expressions of how to describe words in different ways, which will also help in increasing the vocabulary and the skill of expression in the English language:

1. 3, 13, 30

These are quite simple numbers and can be expressed as three, thirteen, and thirty. Also, keep in mind the pronunciation and the spelling mistake for these numbers.

2. 23, 155, 8234

The numbers above are expressed as twenty three, hundred and fifty five, eight thousand two hundred and thirty four. Now keep in mind where the 'and' comes or is placed in expression. It placed after hundreds and before tens place.

3. 1/3, 1/4, 1/2

These are fractions, and they are written as a third, quarter, and half. There are other ways to express these fractions, but these are more academic.

4. 2/3, 4/5, 1/20

These are also a few more complex fractions, and they are described as two thirds, four fifths, and fifth. Let us look closely at how these are expressed as such. 2/3 define two parts of three, 4/5 is four parts of 5 or simply four over the five, and finally, 1/20 is said to be fifth because it is the fifth part of 100 or if 100 is divided into five parts is one fifth of the whole.

You can say four over five or two over three, but it would probably be more academic if you write it out as four fifths or two thirds.

5. 25%, 57.8%, 0.5%

Normally we would mention the above percentages as twenty five percent, fifty seven point eight percent, and point 5 percent or zero point five percent, which are all very correct. However, we can still enhance it to be more academic. Writing all these numbers followed by the word percent is too laborious and time taking. The primary purpose is to describe the words academically and in a non-repetitive fashion. To change the outlook of your answers, look at the following examples:

6. 50% is half

25% is quarter

0.5% or 2% is a small fraction

33% is a third

66% is two thirds

75% three quarters

10% one in ten or a tenth

Now the examples listed above are quite definite, but to do when the percentage or number given is not definite, then you can use the following words:

7. 8% becomes almost a tenth

10% is exactly one in tenth

12% is more than one in tenth

3% is a small fraction

65% is almost a third

76% more or less three quarters

23% is nearly a fifth

Now words to describe approximate numbers are numbers close to the number that is more or less. Then words like approximately, around, more or less, about, etc., can be used.

Now words to describe less numbers, they are almost, nearly, just under. Similarly, words to describe more are more than, over, etc., and you can prefix exactly or precisely in front of words that are the exact number.

We looked at percentages; we would need examples of these in task one, academic writing. All these other expressions that we use, like when we're talking about speed or how fast or slow something goes, the following are some of the ways we can do it.

We could talk; we could say it goes at 100 mph, that is, a hundred miles per hour, or 25kmpm kilometres per minute. And the speed of light is a collocation.

Okay, so we have talked about speed; that is how fast something goes; if we're talking about weight, we might use kilograms or tons or grams and pounds and ounces in the UK. The height was over six feet, depicting how tall something is and how short something is like it was 650 meters high.

To practice the different ways, we can tell the time, it could say like am or pm would that be in the morning or the afternoon/evening. If talking about a timetable, more formally, we tend to use the 24-hour clock.

So, the time when an airplane might leave is listed in the 24hour clock. Then we could use a slightly longer version, all in words where we'd say something like quarter past seven or quarter to six.

We also need numbers in dates like your birthday, for example, 23rd of January and the year. Now the question that arises is which form of dates we should write in the listening? The 27th of April or April 27, it doesn't matter. Just be careful. Whether you put the date first or the month First, it would depend on whether you have opted for British English or American English as the question.

Scores are given in numbers. The first one there could be my football team scored nil, or zero. We sometimes hear telephone numbers in the listening section. Here you've got 0033, that would be an international code. And then numbers can be read in different ways. It would be like zero-zero-three-three-seven-six-five-four-five-zero-seven-zero-eight (0033765450708). Some people refer to the zero as Oh, which will sound like Oh-Oh-three-three-seven-six-eight-four (00337684) or five-seven-oh-three (5703). It can also be said as double zero, double three.

You might hear an extension number on the listening section: extension four, double one, six. Then we talk about ordinal number s. Ordinal numbers are the order that things come in. So we've got first, second, third, so on, practice the pronunciation of third, third. Okay, we've got the tenth or sixteenth.

Then coming to the area, so how big something in the area you might need this if you're describing a map maybe it is academic. For example, the dimensions of the area under construction are 20 by 14 or 100 square feet.

We have so far had a brief outlook and quite an understanding of how to describe words. Let's talk specifically about your IELTS Academic task. The sort of data you might get in IELTS task one academic, where you would need to describe numbers is tables, graphs, diagrams, describing proportions, percentages and pie charts, etc.

For example, A bar graph is presented in the task on the topic Media in the UK. The question reads as follows, the graph above gives information about types of media in the UK as a percentage usage of the media by population between 2001 to 2005. And by the amount of usage of the same over the years, 2001 and 2005. Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

So we've already got some numbers in there, we've got the dates, the topic, and the percentage, and we've also got the 150-word limit, which is recommended. We would suggest you try to write just a little bit more than 170 words; that would be great. A little bit over 150 because the requirements say the minimum. That means it's the lowest it can be, so it's better to stay a little above the minimum.

We will tell you how to approach the task, starting by paraphrasing the information given. So you want to be writing and need the same information but in your words.

So we've got the graphs above which give information about types of Media in the UK. Can we paraphrase that as a percentage of the population using then between 2001 and 2005 and by the level of utilization of which type of media for 2001 and 2005.

One of the fundamental things you must include at the beginning is a paraphrase followed by an overview statement. First, describe the graph and then start comparing after the overview goes into describing the key features.

So without here using specific numbers, what do we recognize? What is the overall trend? Look carefully at the graph first. Note that the key here is, whether you see a steady increase plateau, is it staying the same or going down. As you can see, it's not a steady, gradual increase, followed by the fondness and dwelling of the people to the type of the media. So that's a key element of our overview.

Then you would go on to describe the individual key features. So, you need to look carefully at task one; and work out the sort of numbers you'll be describing, and you need to think about the question in a second.

Think and introspect about the language for the overview, ideally, without specific data, then identify those key features and find a range of structures to describe them.

Let's look at another example of a pie chart. This pie-chart depicts the preferred mode of transport by a certain amount of population. Again, the modes of transport are given in different percentages in different shades of color. Now let's see how we should go about describing numbers in the pie chart.

You can describe the modes of transport as follows:

Around a tenth of people drive themselves to work.

Nearly a fifth of the population commute via bus.

Approximately a quarter of people take the bike.

Under half of the population decides to take the metro when they commute.

I hope you had a fair idea about how to describe numbers and approach this task involving graphs, charts, etc.


Yes, it is okay to do so. As long as you have that overview statement somewhere those overview sentences somewhere in your task, you can look at a six and higher band score. I tend to suggest to my students first to paraphrase. Second, the overview then describes the key features. It seems a much more structured and logical approach to the task. That's my opinion which can help you increase your overall band score.

To decide which tense to use, always remember the time periods that are present in there. For example, in the above graph, the years mentioned are 2001, 2003, 2005, which are all past. So, you would either be using the simple past or present simple to describe what you can see.

So you can begin by saying the graphs illustrate, which is present simply because you can see it and then use the past simple to refer to 2003 or 2005.

So the answer to that is if it's a table, yes, you'd be looking for the highest and the lowest points. The most significant and very good explanation is that you're looking for the most significant overall. So imagine if the IELTS examiner can't see the data, but you can; what would be the first thing you would tell the IELTS examiner about the data. You wouldn't start by going into the little details; you would present the overall big picture.

No, Never. Never put your opinion purely in task one; describe the data only. You can visit the MarvelIELTS.com website and look at some of the videos regarding the tasks to get a clearer perspective.

That's an interesting question. Nowhere in the public descriptors, or what the examiner uses to assess you, does it say anything about paragraphing for task one, so it's entirely up to you. But, again, my suggestion to my students tends to be the first paragraph, paraphrase overview. And then two other paragraphs with your key features.

First, find the relationship between those two pieces of data. Include that in your first paragraph. And then, look for the key features, compare the data, and make links where you can see them.

You can familiarize yourself with the task and the concept of describing numbers, and we suggest you practice and practice. You can go through various practice tests, excersies including reading passages, reading modules, and other question answers asked in the IELTS listening test, IELTS writing test, IELTS speaking test, and IELTS reading test on the MarvelIELTS.com website; and learn more about these exam sections. You can also visit our institute in Zirakpur, where our best IELTS teachers and other faculty can guide you better for your IELTS preparation.