If you are studying IELTS General Training then this is the Task 1 guide for you! Follow our tips to achieve a high score in your exam.

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What is Task 1 General Training?

As part of the 60 minute writing test, you should spend around 20 minutes to write a 150 word letter. This letter might be informal e.g. to a friend, or it might be formal e.g. to a manager of a company.

Here is an example question:

Task 1

A friend has agreed to look after your house and child while you go out drinking.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

  • Give contact details for when you are away.

  • Give instructions for how to take care of your child.

  • Describe other household duties.

Write at least 150 words.

You do not NEED to write any addresses.

Begin your letter as follows:


But people don’t write letters anymore!

Yes, this is true but in the world of the IELTS exam, letters are alive and well, so we just have to pretend people still use them and imagine you are the writer. The more you put yourself into the task, the easier it will be to come up with ideas for your letter.

Cover all three points!

It’s very important that your letter clearly cover the three points in the question, and expand on each one with extra detail. If you don’t write about all three points your Task Achievement score will fall to a 5. Also, It’s a letter so you should write in full sentences – don’t use bullet points.  

Use a logical structure and paragraphs!

You should start by writing the purpose of your letter, and finish with a clear sign off. And your paragraphing should also be logical, so only one or two main ideas for each paragraph.

Formal and Informal Letters

The main skill you have to master for IELTS Writing Task 1 General Training is writing different kinds of letters.

You can see from the table below that how formal the letter is depends on the situation and your relationship with the reader. A request letter written to a friend or to a stranger will be very different.

What kind of letter?

Formal, Semi-formal or Informal?


You write to an important client to invite them to a product launch

formal / semi-formal

depends on how well you know the client

You write a letter to your boss asking them for dinner


They’re the boss but you’re inviting them to dinner so semi-formal is more appropriate.

You write to a close friend to invite them to dinner.

Informal / very informal

depends on how close you are

You write to the lost and found department of a train company to ask if they have found a lost bag which you left on the train.


Can be very formal if you prefer because it’s to a company

You write to a friend to ask if they have found a lost watch from the last time you visited.


Could be very informal if they are a close friend

You leave a letter for the babysitter to look after your child and home for the evening


Could be informal if you’ve know them a long time

Openings: A Clear Purpose

Let’s look again at our example question:

A friend has agreed to look after your house and child while you go out drinking.

The first sentence of your letter should clearly set out the purpose of your letter, but it should use the correct tone – it should be formal or informal depending on the situation.

This is a good example of an informal opening:

Dear Dave,

How’s it going? Thanks so much for agreeing to take care of Sally for me on Saturday. I really appreciate it mate, as this means I can make it to the work party. And as you remember from last year, our end of year parties are legendary! hahaha.

They are a close friend, so the reader already knows a lot of about the writer, and their life and the writer feels very comfortable with the reader.

Therefore it will much friendlier, the language is much more informal, and the information is much less obvious and refers more to things they both know about.

This is a bad example of an informal opening:

Dear Dave,

I hope that this letter finds you well and your family are healthy too. I am deeply grateful to you, my most trusted friend, for agreeing to supervise my small child this Saturday. I am honoured that you are willing to sacrifice your time so I can attend our annual company celebrations. They are always such a thrilling experience.

Although friendly, the tone and language is much too formal for a letter to a close friend. Also there is too much obvious information and less reference to things the reader and writer know about.


The same is the case with closing a letter. The style must be suitable.

This is a good example:

So thanks again Dave. You’re a lifesaver!

See you on Saturday.

All the best


This is a bad example:

Finally, I must thank you again Dave. You are a most honourable man!

I hope to see you at 7pm sharp!

Yours sincerely

Nick Kemp

Vocab and Grammar

There are big differences in the language we use with friends and strangers. As you can see from the examples in the table below, informal writing has simpler structures, uses more contracted forms, and uses more natural vocabulary.



How are you?

How’s it going?

I am deeply grateful

thanks so much

supervise my small child

take care of Sally for me

my most trusted friend


I am honoured

I really appreciate it


make it to

our annual company celebrations

the work party

you are an honourable man

     you’re a lifesaver

such a thrilling experience


How to plan your letter

1. Read the question carefully and answer the following:

2. What type of letter is it?

3. What are the three points that you need to cover?

4. Is it a formal or informal letter? (How well do you know the reader?)

5. Brainstorm information to expand the three points.

6. Think about vocab and functional phrases (formal or informal?)

7. Think about your opening and closing sentences (formal or informal?)

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