Counting of words in the IELTS

1. All words are counted. Even small words like articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (on, in, at, etc.) are counted.

2. Hyphenated words are counted as one word. For example, word-of-mouth, self-esteem, runner-up, up-to-date, etc.

3. Compound nouns written as one word are counted as one word. For example, toothpaste, bedroom, haircut, boyfriend, policeman, motorcycle, lookout, rainfall, onlooker, bystander, drawback, software, greenhouse, blackboard, input, output, redhead, upturn, bluebird, overthrow,etc.

4. Compound nouns written as two words are counted as two words. For example, washing machine, swimming pool, university bookshop, public speaking, driving licence, water tank, printer cartridge, etc.

5. Compound nouns written as hyphenated words are counted as one word. For example, dry-cleaning, passer-by, dining-table, take-off, train-spotting, hanger-on. All hyphenated words are counted as one word.

6. Contractions are counted as one word. If the contractions are expanded,then they are counted as per the number of words written. For example, it’s = 1 word; whereas, it is = 2 words.

7. Any word that is repeated is counted as many times as it is repeated. It is common to repeat the definite article ‘the’ multiple times. For example, in the sentence “The girl entered the shop to purchase the dress”, the article ‘the’ is repeated three times and so it will be counted as three words. Therefore, the word count of the sentence is 9 words.

8. In the writing test, all dates, time and numbers are counted as words. For example, 12.04.2018 = 1 word; 10.30am = 1 word; 60,000 = 1 word; 99 = 1 word.

9. In the listening test, numbers and time are counted as numbers. For example, 60,000 = 1 number; 10.30am = 1 number.

10. Text written as both numbers and words are counted likewise. For example, 27th April = 1 number (27th) and 1 word (April); 99 percent = 1 number (99) and 1 word (percent).

11. Symbols are not counted. For example, 99% = 1 number (the symbol % is not counted as a word). Parentheses ( ) are also symbols and are not counted; however, anything between them is counted. For example, (from January to May) = 4 words.


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