How to write a great letter for IELTS Writing Task 1 (General Training)

Table of Contents

by Philip Askew

ILAC Pathway Teacher


Before taking the IELTS exam, we recommend you study the different parts of the exam closely. If you are familiar with the various questions on the exam through study, you will be more comfortable when it is time to take the actual exam and you can easily improve your score. This article will focus on Writing Task 1 of the General Training (GT) IELTS exam, which involves letter writing.

Let’s look more closely at what kind of questions you can get in Writing Task 1. 


The GT IELTS Writing test gives you 60 minutes to answer two questions: Task 1 and Task 2. Writing Task 1 takes about 20 minutes and requires at least 150 words. It always asks the student to respond to a specific situation by writing a letter, either formal or informal. Some examples of Writing Task 1 situations include: 

  • Writing a letter of complaint to your university about your living situation 
  • Writing a letter of request to a company for a refund 
  • Writing a letter of enquiry to find more information about a local gym’s facilities 
  • Writing a letter of appreciation to a friend for allowing you to stay at their house as a guest 

The examiner will be looking for certain features in your letter (as well as checking that your English is correct!).

Let’s look at what features are most important to get right in Writing Task 1. 

Have a clear purpose

Before your start, take some time to identify and understand the situation outlined in the question, then you should address it directly at the start of your letter.

Begin your letter by clearly stating your reason for writing the letter. For example, if you are writing a letter to your local library to suggest improvements to their services and facilities, start your letter by explaining exactly what your letter is about:

“Dear Sir/Madam, I am writing in response to your call for suggestions for improvements to the Toronto Public Library’s services and facilities…”

Use an appropriate tone

As you write, consider the tone of your letter. Make sure you read the question carefully to understand what style of letter you need to write. Who is the audience of the letter your friend, your boss, or your local bank? Should your letter be formal or informal?  

Tone for formal letters

Formal letters usually have longer sentences, modal verbs, passive voice, and more complex vocabulary (“It is recommended that you proceed with your strategy, as it could offer many benefits”).

Formal letters usually open with “Dear Sir/Madam,” (or if you know the recipient, “Dear _____,”), and close with “Yours faithfully,” (or if you know the recipient, “Yours sincerely,”). 

Tone for informal letters

Informal letters are more conversational, and usually include more contractions and phrasal verbs (“I suggest that you go ahead with your plan, it’s good for you.”) The opening and closing of your letter should also match the tone. 

Informal letters usually open with “Hello,” (or if you know the recipient, “Dear _____,”), and close with “Best wishes” or “Best regards.” 

Follow a good letter structure

The letters you write for Writing Task 1 should all follow the same basic structure:

  1. The opening greeting;
  2. Then, the purpose of the letter;
  3. Followed by each point in the body of your letter;
  4. Finishing off by rounding off and closing.

You can find the points for the body of your letter in the question’s bullet points. There are usually 3 bullet points to address, and each point will take 2 or 3 sentences to write about. It is worth introducing each point in a separate paragraph. Remember to write in full and connected sentences – it is never appropriate to write your letter as bullet points. This is a writing test, and the examiner wants to see your writing style, not a list of ideas! 

Your closing sentence will depend on the style of your letter. Formal letters may say “Please reply as soon as is convenient”, while informal letters might say they are “Looking forward to seeing you again in the summer!” 

And remember...

The GT IELTS Writing test can be stressful for students if they don’t know what to expect from the questions. However, you can prepare yourself by knowing what the exam expects from you and what you need to do, thereby achieving a high score. Writing a letter in 20 minutes can seem scary, but a simple structure and a clear purpose will help guide you. Remember to adjust the tone of your writing to the audience of your letter!

Try some practice questions here.

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