IELTS General Writing Task 1

The IELTS General test comprises of IELTS Listening test, The IELTS General Writing test, IELTS speaking test

The IELTS General Writing test may seem a little difficult to many IELTS test-takers during their IELTS preparation. There are many reasons that IELTS writing seems difficult which range, from limited knowledge of grammar and vocabulary to simply not knowing how to start preparing. It's especially tough for people who do not know where to start preparing for the test on their own.

The IELTS General Training Writing test includes two tasks, which are based on general topics.

  • 1. Task 1: In this IELTS writing task, you will be given a situation in which you will be asked to write a letter explaining the situation or requesting information. The IELTS letter given may be formal, semi-formal, or informal in style.
  • 2. Task 2: Essay writing in response to an argument, point of view, or problem. The essay can be slightly more informal or personal in style compared to the IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 essay.

This article will be concentrating on task one of the general training writing task of the IELTS exam, which is letter writing. It will help IELTS candidates or any learner who would like to improve their letter-writing style. We will explore different sorts of letters and the differences between the IELTS general writing section and the academic paper.

The minimum word limit for task one is about 150-170 words, which will be the same for both the academic and the general training paper. In the academic paper, you are asked to describe the data; often, there are graphs, maps, or an illustration of a process.

A total of one hour will be given for the writing paper, out of which we recommend you spend 20 minutes on your task one and 40 minutes on your task two.

There are different types of letters, and we will mainly concentrate on the following three letters:

  • The Formal letter
  • The Semi-formal letter
  • The Informal letter

The language that you choose for each type will be indicated in the task. So, it will be mentioned what kind of letter you to write.

Before describing the letters and their formats, let's look at some important points on how to approach or write the letter or what to keep in mind while writing the letter.

  • The Purpose of the letter
  • Approach and Formality of the letter
  • The Tone of the letter
  • Outlook of the letter
  • Format– whether the letter format is appropriate
  • Whether all the bullet points are presented, highlighted, and extended

State the purpose of the letter

Mention the purpose of the letter clearly in the first paragraph. The precedent of the letter must be clear as to why you are writing the letter. The purpose should be a direct response to the question at hand. For example:

  • Dear Sir/Madam,
    I am writing to express my discontent (or Dissatisfaction) with the product that I have recently purchased and request a full refund for the same.

  • Dear Sir/Madam,
    I am writing to express my discontent (or Dissatisfaction) with the product that I have recently purchased and request a full refund for the same.

  • Dear Sir/Madam,
    I am writing to express my discontent (or Dissatisfaction) with the product that I have recently purchased and request a full refund for the same.
Approach and Formality of the letter

The approach of the letter should be according to the outlook and the formality chosen for the letter. The letter should be written keeping the format in mind and maintaining symmetry and uniformity for the topic.

Tone of the Letter

The tone of the letter is the same as the format; for example, if it is formal, the entire letter should be extremely formal. Similarly, if it's informal, the entire letter should be informal, casual according to the topic; here, proper sentence formation plays an important role in maintaining the tone.

Outlook of a Letter
  • A letter mainly starts with Salutation
  • The Salutation is followed by the main body of the letter, which is generally divided into three paragraphs: Introduction or the overview paragraph; Main reason and explanation or body paragraph; and Conclusion or Closing
  • Greetings, or regards
Formal letter

Formal letters are strictly conventional, and these are the ones that are written to a company or writing to someone who is not known personally, you don't know their name, and that would require the most formality and uses formal language. For example, the question comes as an employment letter which is as follows,

You are looking for a full-time job. Write a letter to an employment company. Start the letter as follows:

  • Introduction of yourself
  • Explain the kind of job required
  • Mention your experience and skills
  • Begin your letter as follows: Dear Sir/Madam

Another example would be writing a complaint letter to a company. You could approach the letter like this to tell the company what you'd like them to do about it. You hope that they will agree to replace the product and send it without delay. Otherwise, you would like a full refund and will also be contacting the company's complaints department in the event of failure to replace the faulty product.

While writing formally, we address the letter, dear Sir/Madam, and finish them with yours sincerely or yours faithfully.

Semi-formal letter

Semi-formal letter those would be addressed to people that are known but are not your friends. So, you know them by name, and you have some form of relationship with them, but it's not a friendship. For Example:

You are taking a short holiday in the Maldives, and you want to rent a holiday home while you are there. Write to the tourist information office. In your letter:

  • explain what you need
  • mention the dates of travel there
  • ask for information about prices
  • Begin your letter as follows: Dear Mr/Ms __________

The letters written semi-formal can start with something like this, Dear Mr. Brown, or Dear Ms. Phillip, Dear Miss Edwards. As already mentioned, this letter is for somebody we know, but we don't know that well or closely, it might be a colleague from work or your landlord who you pay your rent to or you may be contacting somebody at your school.

This is an example; Your child is going on a school trip abroad for five days, and the school has asked if any parents would like to go on the trip and help, and you would like to assist. Write a letter to the principal. Three bullet points will follow this. So, approach the letter in the following way:

  • Describe what you can do to help
  • Ask more questions about the trip.
  • Write at least 150 words.
  • You do not need any addresses.

Informal letter

An informal letter is a personal letter or maybe a letter to a friend or someone you know quite well, the familiar style used by an informal language. For example:

You attended a conference in the USA and stayed at your friend's residence during that time. Unfortunately, you left a large envelope of important documents and two-course books in her room. Write a letter to your friend. In the letter:

  • thank your friend for the stay
  • describe the envelope, course books and where you left it
  • ask them to return them to you by post or courier
  • Begin your letter as follows: Dear _________
  • Finish with something like: hope to see you soon, Lots of love, Find regards. Of course, it will depend on the tone of the rest of my letter.

Another example would be; You want to sell your computer, and you think a friend might want to buy it. So write a letter to your friend. And then you see there are three bullet points.

  • Explain why you are selling the computer.
  • Describe the computer, and
  • Suggest a date or time that your friend can come and look at it.
  • You do not need to put any addresses
  • Begin the letter as: Dear and the first name like Dear Adam, Dear Helen.

Above all, the letter's degree of formality from start to finish must be in an appropriate style.

Examples of Kinds of letters written in various formats

Kind of Letter Formal Semi-Formal Informal
Apologizing Please accept my sincere apologies for… I am very sorry about… Sorry for…
Asking for help I'd be grateful if you could… I would appreciate it if you could… Could you please…
Giving good news I am pleased to advise you that… I am delighted to inform you that… I am happy to tell you that…
Giving reasons This is due to… This is a result of … This is because…
Making suggestions Perhaps it would be useful to… Perhaps it would be possible to… It might be helpful to…
Asking for information I am writing to enquire about… I am writing to find out about… I would like to know about…
Complaining I am writing to express my discontentment I am writing to express my vexation (annoyance) with I'm not happy with
Closing I look forward to hearing from you I look forward to seeing you I look forward to meeting you
Expressing satisfaction I was delighted to learn that… I was very glad to hear that… Expressing concern
Expressing concern I am writing to express my concern about… I was very sorry to learn that… I was really sorry to hear that…
Thanking I am extremely grateful for… I really appreciate… Thank you for…

What could possibly go wrong?

The format of letters in your language must be very different from that of English. To overcome this problem, we suggest you practice lots of sample letters and good examples, which you can do on, where you will find various practice sheets that will assist you with the same. In addition, there are also sample questions and sample answers for the IELTS writing test given on our website.

There's a wealth of information on the IELTS official website, and many other resources are also present at the British Council

Another potential problem that you can encounter is vocabulary that you need to get your point across clearly.

Timing is also another problem, stating whether you can write 100 or a minimum of 150 words in 20 minutes.

How can we overcome these problems?

Practice, practice, practice! Write to your friends, write to your teachers, write to your classmates, practice writing letters, and use the time wisely. Timed practices will also help you to improve your performance and overcome these problems.

Another thing is that students are concerned about their letters not being complex enough for the general letter writing; they're not complicated enough. Nowhere in IELTS are they looking for complications. Your English needs to be clear, and it needs to fulfill the task requirements. Ideally, some complexity is required but nothing complicated as such. Your letter should portray your hold on language and the vocabulary, which should be rich, and it should tell the letter in a simple yet impressive way.

So, depending on what band you're aiming for, you will need a combination of compound and complex structures in your grammar. You're going to need some examples of collocation and topical vocabulary. You'll need to find a way to structure your letter and make your ideas link together to improve your cohesion and coherence. And obviously, you need to fulfill all the task requirements.

Keep practicing!