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IELTS General Training Writing Task 1

Write a short letter for a specific purpose

Task 1 in the General Training Writing section is a letter of correspondence where you demonstrate your ability to communicate using English letter-writing conventions.

You will be given a common, everyday situation such as writing to apologise for missing a friend’s party, or complaining to a company about bad service, writing to give advice to a friend about where to go on holiday, or writing to express your interest in a new job.

In addition to being given the situation, three bullet points will outline exactly what information you need to include in your letter. You might, for example, have to describe details, give reasons, express likes and dislikes, or make suggestions or recommendations.

You will need to choose and use the correct tone in your letter. Tone is the way you communicate with people that shows the kind of relationship you have with them. In letters it is clearly indicated by a proper salutation and closing and it should also be conveyed by your choice of words or phrasing as well as the kind and amount of details you include.

Different relationships require different levels of respect which is probably true in your language as well. IELTS letters are usually either formal, or informal in tone. Generally, if the letter is to friends, people you know well, or family, and the reason for writing is positive, the tone is informal. Letters to everyone else and for all complaints or negative messages should be more formal.

Here are examples of the two main kinds of letters that can appear on the test with advice on how to create tone for each.

The formal letter

You live in a room in college that you share with another student. However, there are many problems with this arrangement and you find it very difficult to work.

Write a letter to the accommodation officer at the college. In the letter,

  • describe the situation
  • explain your problems and why it is difficult to work
  • say what kind of accommodation you would prefer

Begin your letter as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam,

A key indicator of a formal letter is when you are given the salutation of “Dear Sir or Madam,” which shows that you do not know the person you are writing to.

The following are some suggestions for how to create and keep a formal tone in your letter:

Openings and closings:

Begin with: Dear Sir or Madam, or Dear Mr. Smith, or Dear Mrs. Jones

End with: Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely

Kind and amount of detail:

Get to the point or purpose of your letter right away, include the necessary and relevant information only and make sure you cover the three bullet points in the question accurately (if you are asked to explain your problems (plural), give more than one and stick to the facts).

Use polite, formal language and DO NOT USE CONTRACTIONS OR SHORT FORMS:

“I am writing to thank you . . . ”

“I apologise for missing the birthday celebration . . . ”

“I would like some more information about . . . ”

“Would it be possible for us to meet . . . ”

The informal letter

A friend has agreed to look after your house and pet while you are on holiday.

Write a letter to your friend. In the letter:

  • give contact details for when you are away,
  • give instructions about how to care for your pet
  • describe other household duties.

Begin your letter as follows:

Dear . . .

Notice that you have to choose the salutation, unlike the previous task sample. This does not automatically mean it is an informal letter. You should look to see who you are writing to and why. This example is a letter to a friend and the situation is a positive one (not a complaint or a serious apology), so an informal tone can be used.