Common IELTS General Training Letter Writing Topics

During the IELTS General Training Writing test students have to write a letter of about 150 words within 20 minutes. The type of letter can range from either a formal, semi-formal or informal letter. In this article, we will take a look at the common IELTS letter writing topics that are usually mentioned in the writing task, along with some useful details and tips about each topic and relevant sample letter examples that have appeared in recent writing tasks.

Since Lexical resource (vocabulary) makes up 25% of your writing band score for both the Academic and General Training tests, I have included topic related vocabulary that is useful for both students from Singapore and other parts of the world.

These are some common  letter topics you can find in the General Training Writing test:

  • An Apology.
  • Letter of Complaint.
  • A Request.
  • A Letter Offering Information
  • Letters of Application & Resignation
  • An Invitation

An Apology Letter

This is a common topic in the IELTS Writing test. It involves a situation in which you have made a mistake and wish to take responsibility for and make amend for your actions. This type of letter can be either formal or informal. However, writing a formal letter of apology usually requires more respectful language and phrasing than an informal one. Here are some examples of both types:

Sample questions:

An Informal Apology Letter:

You said you would attend a friend’s dinner party, but you did not go.

Write a letter to your friend.

In the letter:

  • Apologize for not attending
  • Explain why you did not attend
  • Say what you will do to make up for it

A Formal Apology Letter:

You missed an important meeting at work.

Write a letter to your manager.

In the letter:

  • Apologize for not attending
  • Explain why you did not attend
  • Say what you will do to make up for it

Here are some useful phrases that you can use in an apology letter:

Formal phrases:

  • I wish to sincerely apologize for missing the meeting.
  • I deeply regret that I was not in attendance.
  • Please accept my sincerest apology.
  • I am very sorry that I was not able to come.

Informal phrases:

  • I’m very sorry about / that….
  • I’m really sorry but….
  • I’d like to apologize for….

A Letter Of Complaint

A complaint letter is about some unpleasant situation or issue that needs to be resolved. This type of letter is usually either formal or semi-formal. Some of the most common forms of IELTS Complaint letters include letters to the local council or local newspaper, regarding a problem in your neighbourhood or town. It could also be about a complaint to a shop about a faulty piece of merchandise that you wish to return. In these kinds of letters, you have to bring the problem to the attention of the person responsible for overseeing such issues and suggest possible solutions.

Here is an example of a complaint letter question:

You recently bought a piece of equipment for your kitchen, but it did not work. You phoned the shop, but no action was taken.

Write a letter to the shop manager, In your letter

  • describe the problem with the equipment
  • explain what happened when you phoned the shop
  • say what you would like the manager to do

Here are some useful phrases that you can use in a complaint letter:

  • I am very unhappy with / about….
  • I am writing to complain about….
  • I am extremely dissatisfied with/about
  • I am writing to express my disappointment…

A Request Letter

This is a letter in which you are required to request (ask) for certain information and give reasons for your request. This type of letter could be either formal, semi-formal or informal depending on the intended recipient.

Here is an example of a formal request letter:

You work for an international company and would like to spend six months working in its head office in another country.

Write a letter to your manager. In your letter

  • explain why you want to work in the company’s head office for six months.
  • say how your work could be done while you are away.
  • ask for his/her help in arranging it.

Here is an example of an informal request letter question:

You are going to another country to study. You would like to do a part-time job while you are studying so you want to ask a friend who lives there for some help.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

  • give details of your study plans
  • explain why you want to get a part-time job
  • suggest how your friend could help you find a job

Here are some useful phrases that you can use in a request letter:

Informal Request Letter Phrases:

  • Please can you….
  • I’d be really grateful if you could….
  • I was wondering if you would….
  • Would you mind….

Formal Request Letter:

  • Could you please….
  • Please would you consider….
  • I would be grateful if….
  • I would appreciate it if you could….

Job Application Letters

This is a formal or semi-formal type of cover letter in which a person is required to request employment at a particular company or organisation. Generally, you will have to mention how you heard about the job, who you are and what your qualifications are. You will also have to mention your views on why you think you would be a good fit for the job in question.

Here is an example of a job application question:

You have seen an advertisement in an English newspaper for a job working in the City Museum shop during the holidays.

You decide to apply for the job.

Write a letter to the director of the Museum. In your letter:

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Explain what experience and special skills you have.
  • Explain why you are interested in the job.

Here are some useful phrases that you can use in a job application:

  • I am writing to apply for the position of….
  • I would like to apply for….
  • Please find my CV attached.
  • I am writing to inform you that….
  • I am writing to request…
  • I am writing with regard to…

Invitation Letters

There are different types of invitation letters that can be asked for in the IELTS General Training Writing test. You could be asked to write a letter inviting someone to an event or you could have to write a letter to accept or decline an invitation given to you by someone else. Both of these cases could also require a formal or informal response depending on the intended recipient.

Here is an example of an invitation letter:

You are organizing a family party.

Write a letter to your friend inviting him/her to attend the party. In your letter:

  • Explain why you are organizing the party.
  • Say why you want your friend to come to the party.
  • Describe what you are planning to do.

Here are some useful phrases that you can use in an invitation letter:

  • Make an invitation:
  • I’m having a party and would love you to come.
  • Do you fancy going to….?
  • Would you like to ….?
  • Accept or decline an invitation:
  • I’d love to come….
  • Count me in….
  • I’m sorry but I can’t make it….

To aid in your preparation it would be useful to take a look at authentic IELTS writing task 1 band 9 model answers in order to get a better idea of the type of language required by examiners.  You could also consider enrolling in an IELTS preparation course to overcome any weaknesses you may have regarding your writing skills

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.