Succeeding at any exam requires positivity, preparation, and practice!

The IELTS General Writing Task 1 measures your ability to communicate about common practical issues. You have 20 minutes to respond to a question prompt, by writing a letter to a person, company, or institution. Your response is worth about 30% of your writing score and is graded separately from the Task 2 essay.

The information below includes test-taking tips, strategies, expressions, sample questions, model letters, and references. It can help you get the highest possible score on the letter-writing section of the IELTS. Use it regularly to keep track of your progress. All the best!

Tips for IELTS General Task 1

1. Identify the type of letter you are being asked to write.

  • Formal
  • Semi-formal
  • Informal

Step 2 will help you recognize each type of letter.

2. Identify the purpose of the letter.

Type Purpose
Formal Requesting information from a company
Applying for a job
Complaining to a bank, store, airline re:product/service
Making a recommendation/suggestion
Semi-formal Complaining to a landlord
Explaining to a neighbor
Asking a professor for permission
Informal Inviting someone you know well
Thanking a friend
Apologizing
Asking for advice

Read lots of sample questions. Decide whether the question requires a formal, semi-formal, or informal response. Steps 1 & 2 will help you choose the right language, style, and tone for your letter.

3. Open and close the letter correctly. Do this based on the type and purpose of the letter.

Style Characteristics Opening Ending
Formal To someone you have not met, whose name you don’t know Dear Sir/Madam, Yours faithfully,
Semi-formal To someone you may or may not have met, whose last name you know Dear Mr Brown,
Dear Ms Stone
Yours sincerely,
Informal To someone you know well, whose first name you know and use Dear John,
Dear Anita,
Best regards,
Warm wishes,

4.Start the letter appropriately.

a. Open a formal and semi-formal letter with a formal sentence and paragraph. Get down to business and say why you are writing. Don’t try to be friendly, as you do not know the person you are writing to.

Formal:
Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing to inquire about…
I am writing in connection with…

Semi-formal
Dear Mr Johnson,
I am writing to inform you that…
I am writing to…

b. Open an informal letter with a general, friendly paragraph. Acknowledge your friendship first, before explaining the reason for your letter. In fact, the first paragraph could include just friendly small talk, unrelated to the reason for your writing.

Dear Susan
I hope you and your family are all well! It was so wonderful to spend time with all of you last month. It felt great to catch up with you and Bob, get to know your children, and have fun together after so long. You have always been dear friends of mine, and always will be.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing is that I have some good news: I am getting married in September…

5. Learn and use standard written phrases.

In English letter writing, we use a number of standard expressions and phrases. These not only save time and effort, but also make it easier for the reader to understand our meaning. You can add on the specific information you wish to communicate to these standard phrases. See the list of Useful Expressions below.

6. Spell commonly used words correctly. Learn and practice the correct spelling of words you are likely to use on the exam. Examples are: “sincerely”, “faithfully”, “in connection with”, “apologize”, and so on. This is an easy way to boost your score.

7. Divide your letter into paragraphs.

Usually you need four paragraphs:

  • Introduction
  • Problem / Situation
  • Solution / Action
  • Conclusion

Make sure to signal the start of a new paragraph in one of two ways:

Indenting: Do NOT leave a line space between paragraphs. Start writing a little to the right of the left margin.
Skipping a line: Leave a line space between paragraphs. Start writing directly from the left margin.

8. Use clear handwriting. Make sure your writing is neat and legible, so your words can be read easily and do not appear to have spelling mistakes. Get feedback from a teacher on your handwriting. Pay special attention to how you form and connect letters such as a, e, i, u, n, r, and w.

9. Write at least 150 words. Practice writing letters till you know what 150 words feels like and looks like. You will lose marks if you write less. You will not lose marks if you write more.

10. Include all three bulleted points. If you exclude even one of the points given to you in the question prompt, you will get a lower grade. Answer all the points.

In your letter:

  • explain the problem
  • describe why it disturbs you
  • suggest a solution

11. Finish in time.

The IELTS General Task I letter is worth about 30% of your writing score, so make sure you complete the whole letter. Though you have to make up a story to explain the situation, keep it simple so you don’t run out of time. Make sure to keep 40 minutes to complete the essay in Task 2, which is worth much more in terms of points.

12. Read model letters but don’t memorize them. Instead, read the letters to get an idea of the overall flow and to pick up new vocabulary and expressions. Make sure to consult only reliable sources, such as Good Luck IELTS, for model answers.

13. Understand the scoring criteria. Learn how to get a high score by knowing what examiners look for and how they award or deduct points.

IELTS General Task 1 Grading Criteria

Task achievement Do everything you are asked to do
Give a full developed response
Include/cover all the necessary points
Write 150 words
Coherence & cohesion Coherence:
Present ideas logically
Use structured paragraphs

Cohesion:
Write so points stick together, make sense, and convey your message
Use standard expressions & transition words
Lexical resource Use a wide range of vocabulary naturally, correctly, and fluently
Use correct spelling
Choose the right words (word choice)
Use the correct form of words, such as verbs, nouns, etc. (word form)
Grammar range & accuracy Use a wide range of grammar structures
Include different kinds of sentences – simple, compound, complex
Use effective punctuation
Use correct capitalization

14. Practice writing letters regularly and get them checked by an IELTS trainer. Not every English teacher understands the demands of this particular exam, so find someone who has IELTS teaching experience, if possible. Practice writing answers to sample questions every day in order to improve your skills, your speed, your confidence, and your score!




IELTS General Task 1: Useful Expressions for Letter-Writing

To complete your IELTS letter-writing task within 20 minutes, learn to use and spell common phrases and expressions correctly. Choose the correct level of formality based on your question prompt. By using these phrases, you will save time and effort and earn a higher IELTS score. Most of the expressions below are arranged from formal to semi-formal to informal.

For a full list of phrases and expressions, check Good Luck IELTS.

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…

Asking for information
I am writing to enquire about…
I am writing to find out about…
I would like to know about…

Closing
I look forward to hearing from you,
I look forward to seeing you,
I look forward to meeting you,

Complaining
I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with…
I am writing to express my annoyance with…
I’m not happy with…

Expressing satisfaction
I was delighted to learn that…
I was thrilled to hear that…
I was very glad to hear that…

Expressing concern
I am writing to express my concern about…
I was very sorry to learn that…
I was really sorry to hear that…

Giving bad news
I regret to advise you that…
I regret to inform you that…
I am sorry to tell you that…

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…

Thanking
I am extremely grateful for…
I really appreciate…
Thank you for…




IELTS General Task 1: Sample Questions

Formal

You are looking for a full-time job. Write a letter to an employment agency. In your letter:

  • introduce yourself
  • explain what sort of job you would like
  • say what experience and skills you have

Begin your letter as follows: Dear Sir/Madam

You should write at least 150 words. You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.



Semi-formal

You are going to take a short holiday in Singapore and you want to rent a holiday apartment while you are there. Write to the tourist information office. In your letter:

  • explain what you need
  • say when you plan to be there
  • ask for information about prices

Begin your letter as follows: Dear Mr/Ms __________

You should write at least 150 words. You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.



Informal

You stayed at your friend’s house when you attended a conference in Australia. Unfortunately, you left a large envelope with some important documents in your room. Write a letter to your friend. In the letter:

  • thank your friend for the stay
  • describe where you left the envelope
  • ask him/her to return it to you by post

Begin your letter as follows: Dear _________

You should write at least 150 words. You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.




For more sample IELTS questions, visit:

Good Luck IELTS: Sample IELTS Letter Topics 1
Good Luck IELTS: Sample IELTS Letter Topics 2
Good Luck IELTS: Sample IELTS Letter Topics 3

IELTS General Task 1: Model Letters:

Informal

Last month you had a holiday overseas where you stayed with some friends. They have just sent you some photos of your holiday.

Write a letter to your friends. In your letter:

  • thank them for the photos and for the holiday
  • explain why you didn’t write earlier
  • invite them to come and stay with you

Write at least 150 words.

You do NOT need to write any address.

Begin your letter as follows: Dear __________




Dear Ajay and Sunita,

Thanks so much for your kind letter, with the lovely photos of my holiday in Mumbai. Sorry for the delay in replying, but your package arrived as I was about to leave town on a business trip. I’ve just returned to Toronto today.

Looking at the photos brings back so many happy memories of the times we spent together and the wonderful hospitality you extended to me. I felt completely pampered by both of you! You surrounded me with warm friends, tasty food, amazing sights, great shopping, unforgettable cultural events and laughter-filled evenings. I would have been lost without you! I can’t thank you enough.

These good memories gave me an idea. I know you’ve always wanted to visit Canada. Why don’t you plan a holiday and stay with me this summer? The weather is great at that time of year and I could take two weeks off from work. Aside from seeing Toronto, we could drive to Niagara Falls, Thousand Islands, Montreal, Ottawa, and Quebec City. I would be thrilled if you could make it.

Thank you both again for the beautiful holiday and the photos, which are already up on my wall. Now, I’m really looking forward to hearing from you.

Warm wishes,
Carol
(205 words)

For more formal, semi-formal, and informal letters, check Good Luck IELTS – Sample IELTS Letters

IELTS Reference Material

Good Luck IELTS – Complete, free guide to the IELTS

EngVid IELTS videos

IELTS official website

IELTS band descriptors

engVid quiz
Quiz

Test your understanding of this English lesson

Test your understanding of the English lesson by answering these questions. You will get the answers and your score at the end of the quiz.
In the IELTS General Writing Task 1, your letter has to be at least __________ words long.

What are the three types of letters?

In the IELTS General Task 1, if you are asked to write a formal letter, you must begin and end as follows:

In a formal letter, what rule should you follow in the first paragraph?

You should spend _____ minutes on writing the letter.

You will be able to write faster if you practice writing often and use _________________.

If you leave out one of the bulleted points in your question prompt, you can still get a full score.

If you start a letter with "Dear Mr. Bronson,", how should you end the letter?

Separate your paragraphs by leaving a blank line or by:

Which of the following has no spelling mistakes?


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