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3 simple things to remember when writing letters on the IELTS General Training test

Published on July 16, 2018

You are getting ready for the IELTS General Training test and you know that you will be given a short (150 word) letter writing assignment. Are you ready for that

The letter will have a basic purpose such as making a complaint or requesting something from a friend. It seems straight forward to many but, sadly, some slip up and make errors that could have easily been avoided had they done a little bit of preparation.

So, it’s a good thing that you are here because I am going to outline three simple things to remember to do when writing.

Let’s begin with a little true false questionnaire to get you thinking.

This is writing prompt that might appear on the exam (find this practice exercise and sample marked responses here).

After you read the task and think about how you would answer it, look at the the statements that follow and say whether they are true or false.

True or false?

You should:

  1. Ask the accommodation officer to return your rent money.
  2. Sign off the letter with “Best regards”.
  3. Discuss one problem with the arrangement that makes it difficult for you to study.

You’ll find the answers as I explain what you should remember when writing.

Avoid distracting or incorrect information:

The answer to (a) is FALSE and here is why. You have been asked to “say what kind of accommodation you would prefer” and this implies that you would like a new room or roommate. The purpose of the letter is not to get your money back but to improve your situation. If you focus on money, it looks like you don’t understand the task.

To help yourself stay focused, highlight key words so that the purpose remains clear as you write.

Remember to open and close your letter correctly:

Sometimes people completely forget the closing OR start and end their letters in a way that does not suit the situation. This is unfortunate because it can bring their scores down.

The salutation and closing need to fit the tone of the situation. In this case, the letter is in a formal style because it is a complaint. This level of formality is also clear because the given opening, “Dear Sir or Madam”, shows that you do not know the person you are writing to so the language needs to be more formal. Therefore, the appropriate ending is “Yours Faithfully”.

So, the answer to (b) is FALSE because “Best regards” is used for more casual writing such as a letter to a friend or someone you know well.

Include and completely address all the bullet points:

The answer to (c) is also FALSE. If you don’t respond to all of the bullet points in your answer, you are going to knock your score down. Watch especially for plurals.

In this case, to get a higher level score, you must describe at least two problems that you are having as well as explain how these issues effect your studying. Writing about only one problem is not enough.

Now that you have these three simple tips I hope you will have the confidence to write your letter and earn the score you need.