What you need to know about the writing section of the IELTS General Training test
What do you have to do in the IELTS General Training Writing test?
You will be allowed 1 hour to complete two tasks in the IELTS General Training Writing test.
- In Task 1, candidates are presented with a situation and are asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.
- In Task 2, candidates are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay
In the actual test, you will do your writing in an answer booklet or type directly onto the screen if you are doing a computer-based test. Make sure you move swiftly from one question to the next so that your practice is as realistic as possible. You can find practice test questions here. If you prefer to work offline, download the test paper.
The total time allowed for the IELTS General Training Writing test is 60 minutes. Time yourself and allow just one hour to complete both parts.
Task 2 contributes twice as much as Task 1 to the Writing score. In other words, task 1 is worth 33.3 % of the marks and task 2 is worth 66.6%.
What’s the difference between Academic IELTS writing and IELTS General writing?
That’s very simple – in the General IELTS, you’ll be writing a letter (usually an email) for task 1, whereas in Academic IELTS you would analyse a diagram, map or process. Task 2 is the same for both types of IELTS tests.
IELTS General Training Writing task 1
In Task 1 in the General Training Writing test, you are asked to write a letter, where you demonstrate your ability to communicate using English letter-writing conventions.
You will be given a common, everyday situation such as writing to apologise for missing a friend’s party, or complaining to a company about bad service, writing to give advice to a friend about where to go on holiday, or writing to express your interest in a new job.
In addition to being given the situation, three bullet points will outline exactly what information you need to include in your letter. You might, for example, have to describe details, give reasons, express likes and dislikes, or make suggestions or recommendations.
You will need to use the correct tone in your letter. Tone is the way you communicate with people showing the kind of relationship you have with them. In letters, the tone you use is clearly indicated by a proper salutation and closing and it should also be conveyed by your choice of words or phrasing.
Letters are usually written in a formal or informal tone. Generally, if the letter is to friends, people you know well, or family, and the reason for writing is positive, the tone is informal. Letters to everyone else and for all complaints or negative messages should be more formal.
You should spend about 20 minutes on task 1
- write in a personal, semi-formal or formal style
- write at least 150 words
Here’s an example: IELTS practice General Training Writing test – Task 1
This is the first section of the IELTS General Training Writing test. You should spend about 20 minutes on it.
Write about the following topic:
A friend has agreed to look after your house and pet while you are on holiday. Write a letter to your friend.
In your letter
- give contact details for when you are away
- give instructions about how to care for your pet
- describe other household duties
Write at least 150 words. You do NOT need to write any addresses.
Begin your letter as follows:
Writing task 2
In Task 2 of the General Training Writing test, you are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, an argument, or a problem. Topics are of general interest such as whether it is better to homeschool children, whether the drinking age should be raised, who is responsible for the care of the elderly or how families could be brought closer together.
The task instructions give you information about the question telling you how to discuss the topic in your essay. You may be asked to provide factual information, outline and present solutions, justify an opinion or evaluate evidence and ideas. It is important that you complete the task carefully using relevant ideas and examples to support your position. Your ideas should be organised clearly, using paragraphs for each idea. You must write a minimum of 250 words.
You are assessed on your ability to follow English essay-writing conventions to organise and link information in a coherent way using language accurately and appropriately to express your ideas and opinions.
You should spend about 40 minutes on task 2
- give reasons for your answer and include examples from your own knowledge or experience
- write at least 250 words
Here’s an example of task 2:
This is the second section of your IELTS General Training Writing test. You should spend about 40 minutes on it.
Write about the following topic:
Some people believe that teaching children at home is best for a child’s development while others think that it is important for children to go to school.
Discuss the advantages of both methods and give your own opinion. Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.
Write at least 250 words.
Instructions to candidates
In the actual test you will be given the following instructions:
- do not open this question paper until you are told to do so
- write your name and candidate number in the spaces at the top of this page
- read the instructions for each task carefully
- answer both of the tasks
- write at least 150 words for task 1
- write at least 250 words for task 2
- write your answers in the answer booklet
- write clearly in pen or pencil; you may make alterations, but make sure your work is easy to read
At the end of the test, hand in both the question paper and your answer booklet.
What should I remember to do in the writing test, task 1?
Remember, candidates are presented with a situation and required to write a personal response in the form of an informal, semi-formal or formal letter of at least 150 words in the answer booklet provided. The situations they are asked to write about are common, everyday ones such as: writing to a college accommodation officer about problems with accommodation, writing to a new employer about time management problems they are having, writing to a local newspaper about a plan to develop a local airport, writing to a renting agency to sort out problems with the heating system in their house.
You must include all 3 bullet points from the question, in your answer.
Test takers are told what kind of information (in the form of three bullet points) they must include in their response. They may be required to request or give information and/or explain a situation. To do this, they may need to do some of the following: ask for and/or provide general factual information, express needs, wants, likes or dislikes, express opinions or complaints, make requests or make suggestions/recommendations.
You must write in the correct style.
The style of writing that test takers use depends on who they are asked to write to (i.e. the audience) and how well they are supposed to know them. They need to write in a style that is appropriate for their audience and that will help them to achieve their purpose for writing, e.g. writing to a friend (informal) or writing to a manager (semi-formal or formal). Test takers do not need to include any addresses at the head of their letters.
You must write at least 150 words.
Test takers should spend no more than 20 minutes on this task. They are asked to write at least 150 words and will be penalised if their answer is too short. While test takers will not be penalised for writing more than 150 words, they should remember that a longer Task 1 answer may mean that they have less time to spend on Task 2, which contributes twice as much to the writing band score.
You must stay on topic.
Test takers should also note that they will be penalised for irrelevance if the response is off-topic or is not written as full, connected text (e.g. using bullet points in any part of the response, or note form, etc.). They will be severely penalised for plagiarism (i.e. copying from another source).
You must clearly understand the mark scheme.
This task assesses the ability to follow English letter-writing conventions (i.e. what order to put information in, what style to use, how to start and finish a letter), to use language accurately and appropriately and to organise and link information coherently and cohesively.