Listening for Details, Part 1


Part 1 – Numbers

Part 2 – Times and Names/Letters/Addresses

For this lesson, make sure you turn the audio on to play along while you read! This is necessary so that you can hear the sound differences we will discuss in today's lesson.

You can pause and restart it at any time.



This lesson is the first of two posts on Listening for Details. In this post we will focus on numbers.

On the IELTS Listening test, numbers as answers are extremely common in Sections 1 and 2. Remember, Sections 1 and 2 are easier than Sections 3 and 4, but you should still make sure to practice listening for details. You don’t want to make any mistakes on these simple questions!

Let’s get started.




A Common Mistake with Numbers and a Trick to Help You:

Can you tell the difference between “16” and “60”?

Mistakes with “teen” numbers and “10” numbers are really common on the IELTS Listening Test. (Actually, native English speakers have trouble with them too!)

The trick for these numbers is to realize that not only is the pronunciation different (sixteen / sixty), but there is also a difference in word stress.

With “sixteen”, the second half of the word is stressed (we say it louder), like this:


With “sixty”, the first half of the word is stressed, like this:


This is the same for all of the “teen” numbers, and the “10’s” numbers. Let’s go through the list for practice:

                   13               30

                   14               40

                   15               50      (careful, this is the hardest one!)

                   16               60

                   17               70

                   18               80

                   19               90



Note that it doesn’t matter whether you write “8” or the word “eight” on your answer sheet… both ways still simply count as a number for the instructions. You should always just write the number (like “8”) to save yourself time.


Big Numbers:

How do we say “1300”? Actually, there are two ways.

  • We could say “one thousand three hundred”.
  • Or, we could say “thirteen-hundred”.

You might hear either on the IELTS Listening Test.

*Note that this is only possible if the second number is not a zero! 3000 is always just “three thousand”… but 3100 can be “three thousand one hundred” OR “thirty-one hundred”!

Let’s go through a list of big numbers for practice:







Note that a big number like “27,000” just counts as one number.

Also, remember that you don’t have to worry about commas or spaces in large numbers. Just write them out like this: 27000. Punctuation (like commas and spaces) doesn’t matter on the listening test.



Since the IELTS relates to all English speaking countries, you may hear two different kinds of money. They are:

  • Dollars ($)
  • Pounds (£)

Dollars are used in most English speaking countries (Canada, USA, Australia) while pounds are used in the United Kingdom.

Pay attention to the test paper to see whether you are listening for the word “dollars” or “pounds”; the questions will always be marked with either the $ or the £ symbols.



Note that you will never be expected to write “dollars” or “pounds” (and you don’t have to include the symbols, either). This notation ($ / £) will already be marked on the question paper. 

Note that any time a symbol for notation is already on the question, make sure you don’t add it into your answer or it will be marked wrong! (for example, if the question says 14. _____ %  and you write “75%” on the line – so it says 75%% – then you would be marked incorrect.)


Telephone Numbers:

Telephone numbers are quite common in Section 1 and 2 of the listening test.

You should learn the pronunciation of numbers in general, but there are also two tricks the IELTS listening test often uses:

1. Zero as “oh”. Often the number zero will be pronounced simply as “oh”. For example:

     780 – 2489

When there are two zeroes in a row, sometimes the text will say “double-oh”. For example:

     983 – 0091

2. The second trick is that sometimes someone will begin to read a telephone number, and then correct themselves with a different one! For example:

     “Okay, so the number is 338… no, wait. That’s my old number. Ah here it is: 342 9740.”

In this case, you will need to be careful to use only the second number for the answer! (You can just scratch out the first… don’t waste time erasing. Remember, the examiner doesn’t look at your test paper, just the answer sheet!)



Remember, spaces between the numbers don’t matter. Again, punctuation is not marked on the listening test!


Let's Get Some Practice!

That's it. For more practice with numbers, you should do some IELTS practice tests and focus on Sections 1 and 2. I also highly recommend picking up the official Cambridge Guide or Cambridge IELTS textbooks, which you can find online, or at a library.

I also recommend using the scripts that come in the back of the Cambridge books for practice! You should always take note of your incorrect answers and then go find them in the scripts to understand where you went wrong.


Good luck!