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Dealing with figures (instructions)

In the Listening test and in Task 1 of the Writing test (Academic), it is usual to deal with numbers, but there are some issues that do arise for some test takers. Let’s have a look at a problem some have with interpreting the instructions.  Here is a sample task:

WRITE NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER

Question 7

This law can be found in ________________.

Here is a transcript of what the speaker says:

“There is evidence of this legislation in about 13 different countries.”

So, is the following answer possible?

13 different countries

The answer is ‘yes’, because according to the instructions, TWO WORDS AND A NUMBER is one of the options.

Dealing with figures (Writing / Listening)

One thing to be careful of is the punctuation that is used in English when dealing with various figures and measurements. The punctuation in your first language may be used the in the same way as in English, but be careful in case there are differences.

One common problem is with the separation when dealing with thousands and millions. Let’s look at the example of twenty-five thousand:

In English, thousands are separated by a comma:

25,000

In some countries, the separation is with a full stop or period:

25.000

In English, this number reads as just ‘25’, so if you write this in your Listening test, it would be marked wrong. In your Writing test, this would affect your grammar score as punctuation is one of the key criteria.

However, when dealing with decimals, English uses a full stop or period.  The number ‘twelve point five’ (or twelve and a half) is written as:

12.5

It is not written as:

12,5

Dealing with currency is similar to this too. ‘Twelve dollars and fifty cents’ is written as:

$12.50

Common mistakes would include:

$12,50

$12.5

12.50$

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Numbers and figures may sound unimportant, but they play an important role in English and IELTS test. Make sure you are able to write them correctly and get the best possible score.