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How to Score Band 7+ on IELTS General Writing Task 1

In this guide, we will demonstrate how to score higher bands on your IELTS General Writing exam. We will give you key vocabulary, paragraphing tips, sample answers and much more to help you achieve a 7+. Don’t forget to download your free pdf copy of this exam guide to use offline. Let’s get started!

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What you will learn:

  1. Format & marking criteria
  2. How to structure & plan
  3. Informal letters (with examples)
  4. Formal letters (with examples)
  5. Exercises

 

1. Test format & marking criteria (bands 7-9)

For IELTS General Writing Task 1 you must write a letter of 150 words minimum in 20 minutes. The letter is either formal or informal depending on the recipient. It is worth 40% of your overall IELTS writing score.

Marking Criteria for bands 7-9:

The criteria for this task is split into 4 sections:

  • Task achievement (25%)
  • Coherence & cohesion (25%)
  • Lexical resource (25%)
  • Grammatical range & accuracy (25%)
Band 7
Task achievement  Coherence & cohesion Lexical resource Grammatical range & accuracy
  • Succeeds in covering most of  what the task asks
  • The purpose is clear with a consistent and concise tone
  • Presents the bullet points clearly, however the points could be longer.
  • Organises thoughts and key information logically
  • Uses conjunctions effectively to refer to previous points.
  • Uses a good amount of different vocabulary
  • Uses a small amount of uncommon colloquial phrases.
  • Some minor errors including spelling.
  • Uses complicated structures such as third conditional
  • Frequently writes sentences without   grammatical error
  • May make some mistakes with punctuation.
Band 8
Task achievement Coherence & cohesion Lexical Resource Grammatical range & accuracy
  • Succeeds in covering all of what the task asks
  • Present the bullet points clearly
  • Ideas and information are written logically
  • Paragraphs are written well
  • The letter links together effectively
  • Uses a broad range of vocabulary
  • Uses colloquial terms well
  • Very few spelling errors
  • Most sentences are error free
  • Uses a lot of sophisticated grammar
  • Only a few errors
Band 9
Task achievement Coherence & cohesion Lexical resource Grammatical range & accuracy
Writes a well-developed response covering all the key pointsParagraphs extremely wellUses a broad range of vocabulary naturally.Uses a lot of sophisticated grammar in an accurate manner

Your band will be higher if you:

  • Paragraph and punctuate well
  • Link your ideas and the information effectively
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary (including colloquialisms)
  • Include complex grammar
  • Have the correct tone/style
  • Spell words correctly
  • Answer the bullet points in the task


 

How to structure and plan correctly

Normally in the exam, you will have a task like this:

One of your friends has said they will look after your house and your pet when you are on holiday. Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

  • Leave details of people to contact when you are away
  • Leave instructions on how to look after your pet
  • Describe household chores

To plan well, you must first identify WHO the letter is for. This is very important because you have more chance of succeeding at the writing task if you identify the recipient first. Normally in IELTS they use these types of recipients:

Informal recipients Formal recipients
Friends, family, neighbours, boyfriend/girlfriendColleagues, bosses, members of the government, businesses, schools and universities, emergency services, teachers

In this example task, the letter is for a friend. This tells us that the letter is informal and so we must use appropriate informal language and salutations. It is important to decide on this before you start planning.

Next, look at the three bullet points. Divide these bullet points into your main three paragraphs when you are writing. This is known as “the body”.  When you are planning, be sure to write at least x3 key ideas under each of the x3 bullet points (minimum 9 ideas in total).

Your final plan should look something like this:

  • Salutation,
  • Opening line
  • Paragraph 1 – three ideas
  • Paragraph 2 – three ideas
  • Paragraph 3 – three ideas
  • Closing line,
  • Ending

Remember that a salutation is different to an opening line. A salutation starts the letter by saying hello to the recipient, but the opening line is important to start the main body of the letter.

This template is the same for formal and informal letters and does not change.

Look back at your plan again. Does your plan: stick to the task, use paragraphs well, have a wide range of vocabulary, and contain sophisticated grammar (such as conditionals, phrasal verbs and relative clauses)?

If so, you have planned well!

Remember that planning is extremely important for “good structure” when it comes to writing. You wouldn’t go into battle without a plan and the same applies for IELTS writing task 1! Spend a maximum of 5 minutes planning during this task.
 

How to write informal Letters

How to start and finish an informal letter

Salutation Ending *
Hey, Hi, Hiya, Hello, Dear + name of personThanks, Cheers, Thanks a bunch, Thanks a billion Ta very much, See you soon, See you later, Bye, Lots of love, Love + your name

* Remember the ending you choose depends on the context of the letter. For example, if the person is doing something for you, then use: thanks, cheers, thanks a bunch, thanks a million, ta very much.

If you have made plans with the person, use: see you soon, see you later.

You can use endings like bye, love, and lots of love in any informal context. Make sure to add your name after you use these.

Types of informal letters & opening and closing lines

There are different types of informal letters for IELTS General Writing Task 1. Letters include; thanking someone, asking how someone is, responding to someone who contacted you after a long time, responding to good news, responding to bad news, responding to a plan and making a plan. Look below for good opening and closing lines.

 

Type of letterOpening line Closing line
 1) Thanking someoneThank you for (the thing you are thanking them for). I really appreciate it.Thank you again for your thoughtfulness, Thank you for everything you have done, Thanks once more.
2) Asking how someone isI hope life is treating you well I hope all is well, How are you?, How are you doing?Speak soon, Keep in touch, Take care.
3) Responding to someone who contacted you first after a long timeLovely to hear from you, Thanks for getting in touch, What a lovely surprise, Long time no speak.Hopefully speak soon, Let’s not leave it so long   next time, Keep me in the loop.
4) Responding to good newsThat’s excellent news, I’m so happy for you, Good for you, I am over the moon for you, Congrats on (insert good news).Congratulations once again, I wish you all the best.
5) Responding to bad newsI hope you’re doing ok, Sorry to hear about (insert bad news), How are you holding up?My thoughts are with you, Let me know if you need to chat, I sincerely hope you feel better soon.
6) Responding to a planThank you for inviting me to (state plan), I’m delighted to receive this.Let me know your thoughts, Thanks again for thinking of me, Thanks again for having me in mind.
7) Making a planI was wondering if you would like to (state plan)?, Are you about (state date)?Let me know your thoughts, I hope to see you soon, Let me know if you fancy going/coming

Include an idiom in an informal letter. Idioms like ‘I am over the moon’ (which means I am very happy) and ‘keep me in the loop’ (which means keep me updated) are good ones to use. Check out our guide to IELTS idioms for more info on this topic! 

 

Examples of Informal Letters (bands 7-9)

Look below for examples and improvement feedback. 

Band 7 task:

You migrated to another country. Write a letter to your friend who has contacted you after a long time. In your letter:

  • Describe your present life
  • Tell him/her why you chose this country
  • What you like about your new country
Dear Liz,
Lovely to hear from you.
I am writing to inform you that I have moved to Paris, France. We arrived in Paris in Spring and finally we have settled down.
We moved to Paris because my brothers also migrated there nine years ago. We have planed to join them in Paris and also did this for the children’s schooling and their future as well.
We have just decorated our new home and the kids are enjoying the city’s museums almost every day. They have been attending a private school and have made a lot of friends. The people here are helpful. Jim has also found a job near the city as an accountant. The working environment here  is different from Japan, according to Jim. I am a full-time housewife and I really enjoy having a morning coffee at a local café with a newspaper. Do let me know when you plan to visit Paris. You are always welcome to stay here.
Hopefully speak soon.
Love,
Claire

Improvement feedback:

This is a good letter. The writer included all the points in the task and paragraphed well. However, there were some minor errors. For example, planed should be spelled planned and the phrase ‘I am writing to inform you’ is too formal for a friend. It would be better to say ‘I am writing to let you know’. It would also be good for the writer to include more on what they enjoy about the new country.

Spend three minutes at the end to check your letter. A good way to practise is to read the letter aloud to see if there are mistakes. Get used to proofreading your own written work before the exam.

Band 8 task:

Write a letter to your friend inviting him/her to your family party. In your letter:

  • Explain why you are organizing the party
  • Describe what you are planning to do
  • Say how important it is to have your friend at the party
Dear Paul,
Are you about this weekend?
It is my mum’s birthday, and we are throwing a small party for close friends and family. Come along! The party is going to be in the Italian restaurant on the Main Road, where we used to spend a lot of quality time together. I’m sure you know the way to the Italian restaurant very well, but in case you can’t remember to WhatsApp me and I will send you the address so you can google maps it.
The party will be fun. We will; listen to music, eat lots of Italian food, and drink nice bottles of wine. I am also bringing a cake along.
We have been friends for a long time now, and you know how much my mum loves you. She will be very happy if you come. I know you haven’t seen each other since you started university. I hope you are doing well there, and my mum and I would love to hear all about it at the party.  Hope to see you very soon.
Take care,
Lee

Improvement feedback:

This is a strong letter. All the key points were explained in full. To get a band 9, better vocabulary would need to be used. Other words for very happy are thrilled or over the moon.

Band 9 task:

A friend of yours recently gave you a nice birthday present. Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

  • Thank her for the present and say why you like it
  • Describe other presents that you received
  • Explain the things you did on your birthday
Dear Sam,
Thank you for your present. I really appreciate it and want you to know how much it means to me.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten something quite as lovely as this original, hand-made photo album with photos and notes which remind me of our childhood. I think that all these memories have helped us stay close throughout the years and though we live a long way from each other now, I hope I can add to this album every time we meet up.
With the calligraphy set mum gave to me and the camera I got from my dad, I can easily continue this special work of art!
It was a bit sad that you couldn’t be there for my actual birthday and only the party. I went to the spa with my parents and my cousin. We went to the stunning seaside resort that we often used to go to when we were younger. Do you remember the big sauna room and pool there? Well, everything is still more or less the same, which is good because it was so calm and fancy.
We topped the day off with a nice meal too. What a lovely day it was! I hope you can be there next time.
Thanks once more for this wonderful gift
Lots of love,
Alison

Improvement feedback:

This letter was fantastic. The use of grammar and vocabulary was high. Good adjectives such as hand-made, stunning and fancy made this letter a band 9.

Write down basic adjectives such as fun, sad, beautiful, big, small, long, short, happy and boring. Look in a thesaurus. Write at least 5 synonyms for these adjectives. Repeat for other basic adjectives to build more complexity into your vocabulary.

 

How to write formal letters

How to start and finish a formal letter

Salutation Ending
Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Mr, Mrs, Ms (name), To whom this may concern*Yours faithfully, Yours sincerely, Cordially, Kindest regards

*We use ‘To whom this may concern’ when we do not know the name of the recipient.

Types of formal letters & opening and closing lines

There are different types of formal letters for IELTS General Writing Task 1. Letters include: making a complaint, planning a business event, responding to an advert and leaving your job.

Type of letter Opening line Closing line
1) Making a complaintI am writing to complain about (name what you want to complain about).Please contact me via my telephone number to resolve the issue quickly, I shall have to take matters further if they are not solved in a timely manner.
2) Planning a business eventI am responsible for planning the (name event),I hope to hear from you soon, I will wait for further information on your decision.
3) Responding to an advertI have recently seen your advertisement for…, I am writing in response to your advertisement for…I look forward to hearing from you soon, I await your response.
4) Leaving your jobI regret to inform you I am giving you my notice for this position, I am sorry to say that I am writing this letter to leave my role as (state job)I hope you find a suitable candidate to replace me, I wish you all the best in looking for a replacement. 

Examples of formal letters (bands 7-9)

Look below for examples and improvement feedback.

Band 7 task:

You rented a car from a Car Rental Company. The heating has stopped working. You phoned the company a week ago but it still has not been repaired.

Write a letter to the company. In your letter:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain the situation
  • Say what action you would like the company to take
Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing to complain about the heating in my car, which I took on rent from your company eight days ago. Unfortunately, it has stopped working.
I rented a Ford Fiesta for two weeks. My customer number is 2000. Actually, I was on my way from London to Manchester, and a loud sound came from the engine. At first, I thought that the engine was broken and I might not be able to drive the car.  However, when I felt no air coming from the heater, I realized it stopped working.
When I got back to my hotel, I instantly contacted your customer care helpline and registered my complaint. They issued me a complaint number 141414 and said that they will send a worker at my hotel within 1 – 2 business days to get it fixed. A week has almost passed since I called, but it is still not repaired.
I am not satisfied with your customer service. If you cannot resolve my problem within 2 days after you have received this letter, I want a complete refund of the car rental payment.
I shall have to take matters further if they are not solved in a timely manner.
Yours faithfully,
Helen Saifa.

Improvement Feedback:

Good use of all the points and paragraphing. A few grammar errors such as ‘send a work at my hotel instead of ‘to my hotel’. ‘Which I took on rent’ should be ‘Which I rented’. Always check that the prepositions and verbs used are correct.

Band 8 task:

You are a secretary, planning a corporate event. Write a letter to an entertainment company:

  • Explaining the kind of party you would like to organise
  • Indicate the date and time of the event
  • Your special requests
To whom this may concern,
I am a secretary at JLP Ltd and I am responsible for planning our company’s annual summer dinner party. I am writing to explain our requirements..
The company would like to celebrate at Novotel Hotel on 18th July at 6:00 PM. Our goal is to have a light-hearted event for all staff members. We would like to start with a magic show before dinner is served.
We also want to include a live music show after the dinner and to arrange some indoor team games for staff members before the event finishes.
Apart from this, I would like to request an experienced event ambassador, who can speak both English and Spanish fluently for this party as we are inviting some of the staff from our Spain office.
If you need further information you can contact me via email [email protected] or call my office number 0660779134.
Yours Sincerely,
Callum Lamb

Improvement feedback:

A very strong letter that writes about all the points well. To improve this letter, it would have been better to add more vocabulary about what the event includes. For example, what food will the dinner have? and what type of games will there be?. Also be aware of using ‘want’ in a formal letter. ‘Would like’ is better.

Band 9 task:

You have seen an advertisement for an evening course to study a foreign language. Write a letter to the institution offering the course. In your letter:

  • Ask for details of the course
  • Ask if the course teachers are qualified native speakers
  • Request that the institution sends you their brochure
Dear Sir / Madam,
I have recently seen your advertisement for the Portuguese-language, morning course that your institution is offering and I have a few questions.
I am an advanced speaker in Portuguese and I would like to know what this course comprises of, so that I can decide if it aligns with my abilities and whether I would need to sign up for another course.
I would also like to be informed as to whether the teachers in the school are qualified and mother-tongue speakers. I firmly believe this is incredibly important in order to get a veritable insight into the culture of language being studied. A native teacher tends to have the greatest knowledge of the language that they are teaching.
Finally, I would like to inquire if it is possible for you to send me a document of the different courses offered at your language institution.
I look forward to your response.
Cordially,
Pam Harris

Improvement feedback:

This was a well-written letter. The writer used excellent sentence linkers for cohesion and a broad range of vocabulary such as veritable. This is a good band 9 piece of writing. 

Summary of differences for informal and formal letters

Informal Formal
Sign off with first nameSign off with full name
Use contractions e.g. can’t, I’mDo not use contractions
Use want/ would likeUse would like
Personal communicationProfessional communication
Use more adjectives e.g fantasticUse less adjectives

Exercises to try yourself at home

Try to write these letters for IELTS Writing Task 1.

A) You recently bought some food at a supermarket, but, when you got home, you found that the food was in bad condition. Write a letter to the manager of the supermarket. In your letter:

  • Explain what happened to you
  • Give details of the day and time of the purchase
  • Ask the manager what he/she intends to do about your experience

B) You are working for a company. You need to take some time off work and want to ask your manager about this. Write a letter to your manager. In your letter:

  • Explain why you want to take time off work
  • Give details of the amount of time you need
  • Suggest how your work could be covered while you are away
Before you start writing, remember these 5 points:
  1. Identify if the letter should be formal or informal.
  2. Identify what type of formal/informal letter it is. This will help you with your opening and closing line.
  3. Plan for 5 minutes. Include three ideas for the three points and paragraph using the points. Make sure the plan includes good vocabulary, phrasal verbs and grammatical structures such as conditionals.
  4. Write for 12 minutes. Use your plan as a guide to write well.
  5. Check for 3 minutes. See if you have spelled everything correctly. Read the letter aloud to yourself. Does it link well? Does everything sound good when you read it?

Do you need your letter checked after you have finished it? Contact us today to speak with one of our qualified IELTS tutors!

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Jessica L.
— ESL Tutor.
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