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In a world where short-form media like emails, DMs, SMSes, and Tweets are how we now communicate on a daily basis, is long-form letter writing now obsolete? Well, you’ll find upon entering university or the working world that there will be key occasions where you may need to craft a professional, formal letter. You’ll also need to be able to craft a letter to showcase your English language proficiency if you’re taking the IELTS Writing test for IELTS General Training.

To add to that, more people are getting back into informal letter writing nowadays as a sentimental way to connect or stay in touch with loved ones – so you might just find it coming back into fashion soon!

Even if you think letter writing seems old-school, there’s a good reason why it’s included as Task 1 of IELTS Writing for IELTS General Training. When you enter higher education or the workplace, you must be able to write a formal letter when applying for certain grants, scholarships, business events, or even job positions. So this task gives you real-world experience that may come in useful in the future.

Whether you’re writing a formal or informal letter, it’s a good way for the examiners to assess your ability to convey your thoughts clearly and persuasively through writing. IELTS is seen as the standard of English proficiency by employers and institutions worldwide, and your performance in the Letter Writing component conveys to potential employers or mentors that you know how to write and communicate clearly how to write and communicate clearly across a variety of situations.

However, not having many opportunities for letter writing in everyday life may make this section of the IELTS seem daunting or unfamiliar to you.

So, to help you ace this part of IELTS Writing, we’ve put together some key letter writing and IELTS answering tips to help you tackle this section with confidence. Read on to find out how.

How IELTS Writing is assessed

Before diving into the letter writing tips, it's crucial to understand how IELTS Writing Task 1 is administered during the IELTS General Training test and how it’s assessed.

During the assessment, you will be asked to write a letter based on a specific situation. The letter could be formal, semi-formal, or informal in nature, depending on the situation provided. However, the required formality will not be explicitly mentioned, so you will need to discern it from the question. For example:

“You have been invited to a friend’s birthday party. However, you later learn that you have a work event on the same day and at the same time that you cannot miss. Write a letter to your friend. In the letter (A) describe your feelings about the party (B) explain why you cannot attend (C) tell your friend about a present you have bought them.”

The question will also specify a minimum word count for your letter and whether any formal elements are required (e.g. addresses for a formal letter). Your performance will then be evaluated based on several key criteria:

  • Task achievement: Have you addressed all parts of the question or prompt appropriately? (e.g. If the question specifies a formal letter request, have you provided a response that displays the specific features of a formal letter?) Does it suit the formality required of the letter?

  • Coherence and cohesion: Is your writing logically organised, with a clear progression from one idea to the next? Have you used signpoints and signal phrases to communicate changes in ideas or different sections of the letter?

  • Lexical resource: Have you demonstrated a wide and appropriate range of vocabulary?

  • Grammatical range and accuracy: Is your grammar usage correct and varied?

In order to score a Band 9 for IELTS Writing, you’ll need to:

  • Ensure you comprehensively answer all parts of the question with responses that are directly related and relevant to the question.

  • Provide an in-depth and well-structured answer, showing clear, logical progression and detailed illustration where necessary.

  • Ensure your writing flows smoothly, with no gaps in understanding or coherence.

  • Use an appropriately diverse range of vocabulary.

Do note that the section is only available for IELTS General Training and not for IELTS Academic. Writing Task 1 for IELTS Academic is not letter writing but instead requires you to respond to a graphic stimuli, table, or chart provided.

Now, let's explore the essential letter writing tips to help you succeed.

1. Know the purpose and type of the letter.

Understanding the purpose and type of letter you're required to write is fundamental. Different situations call for different tones and styles. For instance, writing a personal letter to a friend about your holiday plans requires a casual and friendly tone, while composing a semi-formal letter to your boss regarding taking holiday leave demands professionalism and respect.

For letters of the same tone, you’ll need to know how to vary your writing according to the situation prompt given. A formal letter to a business colleague will look and sound different compared to a formal letter to your landlord, resulting in different vocabulary or structural choices.

2. Have a solid structure for the letter.

Your letter should have a clear and well-structured format, starting with an appropriate greeting and closing with a suitable sign-off. Each section should flow logically to the next, providing the reader with a smooth reading experience. Here's a general structure to follow:

  • Opening: Greet the recipient appropriately.

  • Introduction: Provide context or purpose.

  • Main body: Present your points logically.

  • Conclusion: Summarise the main points.

  • Closing: Sign off politely.

3. Understand how formality affects your vocabulary.

The level of formality in your letter influences your choice of vocabulary and tone. In formal letters, avoid contractions and use more sophisticated language . Informal letters, on the other hand, can include contractions and a more relaxed tone. Take for example a situation in which you’re writing to the recipient to ask for more information on an event. A formal letter may begin with the phrase “Dear Mr Smith, I am writing to you to enquire about …”, while an informal letter may begin with “Dear John, I’ve heard about [event]. Can you tell me more about it?”

To excel in IELTS Writing Task 1, it's crucial to understand these nuances of formality and adjust your language accordingly. Like a skilled actor preparing for different roles, you must adapt to the demands of the situation. Familiarise yourself with the differences and adjust your language accordingly, brushing up on more casual turns of phrases as well as more formal constructions alike. This also extends to the opening and closing salutations, such as signing off with “Yours faithfully” in a formal letter versus “Best wishes” in an informal letter.

4. Plan your letter properly before beginning to write

Before putting your fingers on the keyboard, take a moment to plan your letter. This step is often underestimated but is incredibly valuable. Outline the key points you want to address, and ensure there is a logical flow between each point of your letter. This planning phase not only ensures your letter is well-structured but also helps you avoid unnecessary rambling.

It's also a wise strategy to set a word or time limit for your Task 1 response, leaving ample time and energy for Task 2. You can incorporate this time limit during your pre-test IELTS practice, starting with a greater time allowance and working up to the exact time you’ll need to finish writing during the test.

Model letter sample


To further illustrate these letter writing tips, here’s a model letter sample:

[Dear Andrew

I was pleased to hear that you’re going to visit Brisbane, so I’m writing to give you some information to think about before you come.

Most people travel to Brisbane in the summer months, but I think it’s uncomfortably hot at that time of the year. Autumn is the best season, between April and June. It’s still sunny, but much cooler than in summer.

At the moment, all our bedrooms are full, so unfortunately, we can’t put you up. However, there are some cheap places to stay, like Airbnb’s, in our suburb. You could also stay in a serviced apartment in the city centre or on the Gold Coast. There are lots of specials online, so I’m sure you’ll find somewhere affordable.

When you get here, let me be your tourist guide. I’ll take you to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where you can feed kangaroos and koalas. I can also drive you to the Gold Coast for a swim. To add excitement, we can visit the theme parks there too.

Looking forward to catching up.

Best wishes


Prepare for IELTS Writing Task 1 effectively with IDP

Excelling in IELTS Writing Task 1 for IELTS General Training requires an understanding of the assessment criteria and the ability to adapt your writing style to different situations.

With sufficient practice prior to the test and dedicated honing of these letter writing tips, you can confidently tackle the letter writing portion of the test and score a band 9. More than that, you can master a skill that extends beyond the test and can significantly impact your academic and professional endeavours outside of the classroom.

As joint owner of the IELTS test, IDP’s wide range of official IELTS resources and preparation materials are available to aid you in your journey to a Band 9. Explore our IELTS classes and IELTS preparation material online, sign up for IELTS online exam practice tests, and download the IELTS by IDP app for a comprehensive preparation experience to achieving your best score.

Ready to take the next step? Book your IELTS test through IDP and embark on your path to success.