IELTS Tips: How words are counted

Learn how your words are counted in IELTS. This page explains about counting words, numbers and symbols. You need to know how words are counted for IELTS listening, reading and writing. If you make mistakes with the number of words, you can lose points which can affect your band score.

How words are counted in IELTS

1. Numbers, dates and time are counted as words in writing. For example 30,000 = one word  /  55  = one word  /  9.30am = one word / 12.06.2016 = one word. In listening, 30,000 is counted as one number and 9.30AM is also counted as one number.

2. Dates written as both words and numbers are counted in this way: 12th July = one number and one word.

3. Symbols with numbers are not counted. For example, 55% = one number (the symbol “%” is not counted as a word). However, if you write “55 percent” it is counted as one word and one number.

4. Small words such as “a” or “an” are counted as one word. All prepositions, such as “in” or “at” are also counted. All words are counted.

5. Hyphenated words like “up-to-date” are counted as one word.

6. Compound nouns which are written as one word are also counted as one word. For example, blackboard = one word.

7. Compound nouns which are written as two separate words, are counted as two words. For example, university bookshop = two words.

8. All words are counted, including words in brackets. For example in IELTS writing, “The majority of energy was generated by electricity (55%).”. This sentence is counted as 9 words. The number in brackets is counted.


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  1. i want to know that if i write ” do not ” or ” don’t ” so for these two how many word will count ?

    • You NEVER use contractions in writing unless you are writing an informal letter for GT writing task 1. The words “do not” are two words. If you write “didn’t” in listening, it is one word.

  2. B.Bugra says:

    Hi Liz,
    I get confused about “no more than two words or/and a number” question types.
    In the general reading test, the answer was a phone number which is “6546 6475”
    (There was a gap in the middle between 6546 6475)
    I wrote an answer “call 6546 6475”
    What do you think that did i fail that question or is that acceptable?
    Many thanks in advance.
    Greetings from Istanbul.

  3. Hi Liz,

    Can I write more than 150 words in task 1 and how can they count it?

  4. I’m taking the General IELTS. So, do they count the beginning of the letter that they give us in the question like Dear Sir/Madam?

  5. shamsul arefin says:

    i have seen that somewhere written 2words / 1 number
    but in answer i saw that,
    40 north avenue

  6. Hi Liz,
    In Writing task-1: are we suppose to write our name at the end?
    For Ex:
    Yours faithfully,

  7. HI Liz,
    “5 working days” are 2 words or 3 words?

  8. Hi liz , firstly, how about auxillary verbs “be, do, have, has, will ” like (I+am , It+is, He+is, I+will etc.) are they counted as one word?
    and second, auxillary verbs for compound tenses “I have eaten” or “”I will have eaten” are they counted singly as 3 or 4 words? Their future perfect (I+will+have+eaten or It+will+have+been+sold) and their progressive in passive ( It+will+have+been+being +selling) as 5 or 6 words?

  9. In the listening the recording said “July the 30th” and that is what I wrote on the answer sheet but the word limit was one word and/or number. Will this be considered incorrect?

    • Yes, it would be wrong. All dates are always written July 30th – without the word “the”. Although the word “the” is spoken, it is never used in written dates. I know it can be confusing as you must write down what you hear, but you still need to follow English grammar rules.

  10. Xiumei Zhang says:

    Hi Liz,
    Many thanks for your help in IELTS study, I think you are great.
    It would be great if you can send me the links of advanced writing vedios to me
    which i have purchased.
    Best Regards

  11. I think there has no another way,,,without thanking you mam,,,
    in a word this realistic topic,and helpful information,tips,advice will help me to get an outstandig bandscore……..

  12. Simon Peters says:

    Thanks alot Liz for your useful blog. I found it quite helpful. It is the main source of the study guide used for my preparations and helped me a great deal to get the required band score. I am very grateful. God bless you Mam.

  13. Hi Liz
    Could you show me the vocabulary that I have to know to write the writing task 1, pls?
    Thanks for your help a lots.

  14. Hi Liz, You are doing a great job. Your blog is of great help to the takers of ielts. Congrats and all the best!

  15. Thanks liz Great trip for Ielts EXamination

  16. trinaPanda says:

    Thanks for this teacher Liz!!

  17. Hi Liz, how can i improve reading and speaking? i really hard i huge problem in that and i’m preparing for my ielts exam this coming week.

  18. Hi Liz,

    I have been following your blogs, for IELTS exam preparation, from quite some time now. Thanks for sharing the valuable suggestions online.
    Recently, I had appeared for IELTS exam and am unable to find the correct answer for below question (or similar scenarios):
    Instruction: Write no more than ONE word for the answer.
    I don’t remember the exact wordings of the question but it was something like….
    Qsn: Its hard to attend the class because the number of ……………xxxx yyy zzzz.
    Audio script mentioned something like it is required to attend’5 lectures’ in a day….
    Now the answer should be ‘5 lectures’ or only ‘lectures’ in this case ….I overheard someone after the exam who sounded very confident that it must be ‘5 lectures’, though I had only ‘lectures’ in the answer sheet?

    Thanks in advance for your time and explanation.


  19. HI !.Liz mam…i’m from Srilanka…..
    Thank you so much….it’s very useful…..

  20. mouhammad halwani says:

    thank you very much for this good information

  21. Hi Liz,

    I have been watching your ielts videos and following tips from it. There is a huge improvement noticed in me by following your videos. Thank you very much for your valuable tips.

    Liz I’ve a question. In listening test some answers are in following format 1) (an) intermediate student 2) (a) person

    So I would like to you (an) / (a) beside the words is it an optional or this is essential to link with a word. Please clarify my doubt.

  22. Hi Liz,
    Is there any difference in exam between normal IELTS and IELTS UKVI?
    Please suggest some tips in IELTS UKVI.

  23. Hi Liz.
    I have some friends who want to pass IELT next month. If you have free time, could you help me to check their writing reports and essays and evaluate them? I can send the essays to your e mail address if you want. It would be great if you can do it.

  24. Philip Aaron Akpu says:

    Hi Liz,
    Your site has given me a firm grip of what happens in IELTS. I am scheduled for Saturday and Sunday (20th & 21st Feb, 2016); LWR-20th, S-21st. any final tips for me?


  25. Oscaricious says:

    Hi Liz, just stumbled on this site three days ago,I must say you are doing a good Job,God bless you.

    • I’m glad you found my site. I’m holiday until April but you’ll find plenty of help and tips on this blog. Good luck!

      • Mahfuza says:

        Hi, I’m from Bangladesh. My exam date is 19 March 2016. Could you please add me any whatsapp group where i can get recent question answer?

  26. Hi Liz,

    I promised I would post my result: Listening 7.5, writing 7.0, speaking 7.5, reading 7.0. Your practice materials gave me the skills I needed to pass the IELTS that I wrote on the 9th of January 2016. I practiced for only about 3 weeks using only your site as I discovered it in December. I have recommended your site and do so anytime. Thanks.

  27. Vibin Baby says:

    I am so glad to say that your videos about writing helped me to score 7.5 form 6.0.
    Thanks a lot.
    I wont forget you in my life.

  28. Hi dear liz
    Thank you,for giveing all the valuable information that really heplful to get good band in ielts requremet to get 7 each band to apply for pr.i am sure your hard work definatly help me. Thank you dear

  29. thank you very much, Really useful information.
    Do you have any suggestion for listening.
    R 7.5
    W 7
    L 5.5
    S 7
    R 8
    W 7
    L 5.5
    S 7

    • Start making a list of paraphrases that are used in all listening exercises that you do. Also make a list of common errors you make – word based, grammar based etc. Decide which types of questions are most difficult for you and work on them. Make note of key words for each answer so that you become more aware of these. Remember that to improve you need to have structured, focused practice and not just do practice tests. See my main listening page: and also use IELTS Cambridge test books 1 to 10.
      All the best

  30. Thank you, it`s very useful)

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