Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Where can you use abbreviations on the IELTS exam?

You will see them on IELTS Listening and Reading.

You can use them to write IELTS Listening answers.

However, you shouldn’t use abbreviations on IELTS Writing!

Today we share details about how and when to use abbreviations.

We’ll also share the Latin origins of 5 commonly used English abbreviations.

This will keep them from tripping you up on test day!

Where did the idea for today’s episode come from?

Aubrey heard Trevor Noah’s stand-up comedy show where he talked about odd abbreviations.

For example, lb. being the abbreviation for “pound” when the letters “l” and “b” are not in the word “pound!”

Many of these abbreviations come from Latin!

When you know the Latin origin, they are easier to remember!

Where can you use abbreviations on IELTS?

Do not abbreviate on Writing Task 1 or Writing Task 2.

Because it is more formal, words should be spelled out.

The exception is for symbols like % and $ which you should use, as they are faster to write and very commonly used, even in formal writing.

However, you can use abbreviations in your Listening answers!

You can abbreviate common measurements and units.

  • kilometers – kms
  • meters – m

What’s up with different systems of measurement?

In the 1800s, Great Britain was using the imperial system of measurement.

When the United States won its independence from England, they continued to use this system in America.

In 1965, England adopted the metric system.

The United States did not, but instead continued to use the imperial system.

We still use it today!

Abbreviation #1: lb.

This is a unit of weight in the imperial system.

  • pound – lb.

This abbreviation comes from the Latin word “libra.”

This is short for libra pondo, or “pound weight.”

We would not commonly write “13 pounds of meat.”

Instead we write, “13 lb. of meat.”

Abbreviation #2: oz.

There are 16 ounces in 1 pound.

  • ounce – oz.

It is abbreviated the same whether it is plural or singular.

The recipe calls for 1 oz. of vanilla.

I need to drink 64 oz. of water.

Its origin is the Latin “uncia,” a unit that was 1/12 of the Roman pound (libra).

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Abbreviation #3: no.

  • number – no.

We use both the symbol # and the abbreviation no.

This is also originated from Latin and is a short form of numero, the ablative form of the Latin noun “numerous.”

You may see these in an IELTS Reading passage.

You can use this abbreviation to replace the word “number” on IELTS Listening answers.

Abbreviation #4: Rx

Without knowing the history of this abbreviation, it’s baffling!

We use this as a symbol for prescriptions.

It is from the Latin imperative verb “recipe,” which means “Take!” 

Knowing this, it makes sense that Rx refers to instructions for how to take a medication.

Abbreviation #5: stat

You will often hear this word used on medical shows and movies.

  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • House
  • ER
  • Scrubs

“I need four units of blood, stat!”

  • stat – at once; right away

This is taken from the Latin “statim,” meaning “immediately.”


You may see abbreviations in IELTS Reading passages, and you need to know their meaning!

These explanations of the Latin roots of some inexplicable abbreviations will help you remember them.

It’s also vital that you know where on IELTS you can use abbreviations!

You can use common abbreviations in your IELTS Listening answers.

However, don’t abbreviate words on IELTS Writing!

For more strategies that will help you get 7 or higher on IELTS, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS today!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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