IELTS General Training Writing Task 1: Techniques for Effective Letter Writing 

 April 6, 2024

By  Jonathan

In the IELTS General Training Writing section, Task 1 requires you to write a letter in response to a given scenario. To achieve a high score on any IELTS writing topic, it’s crucial to demonstrate mastery of traditional formatting, a suitable tone, and a well-organised response.

Understanding Letter Scenarios in Task 1

  • Situations: Common scenarios include making a complaint, requesting information, explaining a situation, or offering an apology.
  • Purpose: The prompt will clearly specify the reason you are writing and your intended outcome (resolve an issue, get information, persuade, etc.).
  • Target Audience: Determines the level of formality. This could be a manager, customer service representative, colleague, neighbor, etc.

Types of Letters

  • Formal: Used when you don’t know the recipient personally. Adhere to strict conventions and professional language.
  • Semi-Formal: Employed when you have some relation to the recipient (a colleague, a known business contact) but formality is still required.
  • Informal: Reserved for those you know well (friends, family). The IELTS Task 1 is unlikely to require this style.

Essential Techniques

  1. Formatting & Layout:
    • Your Address & Date (Top Right): If not provided in the prompt.
    • Recipient’s Address (Top Left): If required.
    • Salutation: “Dear Mr./Ms. [Surname]” (formal); “Dear [First Name]” (semi-formal if you know the name).
    • Subject Line (Optional): Briefly summarizes the purpose of the letter.
    • Paragraphs: Use clear paragraph breaks to organize your content logically.
    • Closing: “Yours sincerely,” (formal); “Regards,” or “Kind regards,” (semi-formal).
  2. Tailor Your Tone
    • Formal: Polite and respectful, but direct. Avoid contractions (don’t, can’t) and overly casual language.
    • Semi-Formal: Maintains professionalism but can be mildly conversational. Contractions may be acceptable in this context.
    • Be Cautious of Strong Emotion: Even in complaint letters, maintain a firm but respectful tone. Focus on clear justification of the issue.
  3. Structure for Success
    • Opening Paragraph: Clearly state your purpose for writing. Refer to any previous correspondence if relevant.
    • Middle Paragraph(s): Develop your main points. Provide details, justifications, requests, or explanations as per the prompt. Each key idea should ideally have a separate paragraph.
    • Closing Paragraph: Summarize your key request or desired outcome. Thank the reader for their time (in formal/semi-formal scenarios).
  4. Language Tips
    • Linkers for Cohesion: Use words like “therefore,” “however,” “furthermore,” to connect your ideas smoothly.
    • Action Verbs: Employ strong verbs (“request,” “clarify,” “resolve,” “recommend”) for a clear and assertive tone.
    • Specific not Vague: Support your points with details when possible, but avoid overly long descriptions.

Example: Formal Complaint Letter

Reason for Writing: Subpar quality of a recently purchased item, seeking exchange.

  • Strong Opening Line: “I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with a [product name] I recently purchased from your store on [date].”
  • Weak/Overly Emotional: “I am extremely angry that you sold me such a terrible product.”

Additional Tips

  • Plan Before You Write: Spend a few minutes outlining your key points before diving into the full letter.
  • Proofread Carefully: Grammatical errors and typos detract from an otherwise well-written letter.
  • Practice with Variety: Seek out different letter-writing scenarios from IELTS resources to practice adapting your style.

Word Count Matters

Aim for AT LEAST 150 words. Significantly less will be penalized. It’s acceptable to exceed this slightly, but don’t write an excessively long letter, wasting time needed for Task 2.

Remember: IELTS General Training letter scenarios mirror real-life communication tasks. Mastering these skills will serve you well beyond the test environment, in professional and personal contexts where clear written communication is essential.

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.