In the General IELTS writing test, for task 1 you will be asked to write a letter. This may be a formal, semi formal or informal letter. You are expected to write at least 150 words although you will not be penalized for writing less.
To get a band score of 9 in the IELTS writing test, you will need a 9 in each of the four criteria for both task 1 and task 2. Even one band 8 score in any of the criteria will prevent you from getting a band 9.
Before we can begin working on getting a band score of 9 in IELTS writing, we first need to know what the criteria for band 9 is in writing task 1 of the IELTS exam.
Candidates have covered all the bullet points, they have extended them with details that are relevant and appropriate. There is nothing that can be added to the IELTS letter to improve it. However, there is also no information that is off-topic or superfluous. Additionally, the register (how formal or informal) of the task 1 response is appropriate. This means that the candidate has used appropriate language, whether the IELTS letter is formal, semi formal or informal.
Candidates at band 9 know that they don't need to use a lot of linking words to make their writing cohesive. Instead, they use other types of cohesion like pronouns, ellipsis, synonyms and other grammatical structures that create cohesion. As you get into the higher band scores of the IELTS test, examiners expect to see appropriate paragraphing. You should have at least 3 paragraphs in your letter. Another important element in terms of Coherence and cohesion is logical organization of ideas within the paragraphs.
This does not mean you should write every advanced vocabulary word you know. Instead, Band 9 IELTS writing uses words that are appropriate, fit the topic, and show highly-skilled use of collocations and expressions.
One does not expect to find grammatical mistakes in an IELTS band 9 letter. If an error occurs, it is likely an error of speed or a mistake that a native speaker might make.
If you had to pick out keywords from each criterion, they would be fully, natural and wide range. In contrast, the keywords for band 8 are sufficiently, flexibly and skillfully. This is an important distinction between band 8 and band 9; when you understand what is expected of you at each band score, you can prepare for it and begin to expect it of yourself.
There are a wide range of topics that come up in the IELTS General training task 1.
Formal letter examples:
Semi formal letter examples:
Informal IELTS letter examples:
The below letter is an example of a band 9 informal letter to a friend.
Write a letter to your friend to ask him/her to develop a website for your business. In your letter:
How are you? I hope you and John are doing well. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since our last vacation together!
I have been really busy with the new shop and thanks to word of mouth, sales are going great! In fact, I have even decided to have a website created for the store. Would you be interested in creating the site for me?
As you know, my store sells handmade silver jewelry. I have extended the range of products to include other handmade items like ceramic figurines. I want the site to really capture the feeling of the store, which as you probably remember is kind of exotic, with souvenirs from my travels around the world.
Since I update my merchandise regularly, the site will need to reflect that. I have recently bought a very high quality camera and some studio equipment so I am able to photograph the products myself. I just need you to set the site up and upload new photographs as they become available.
Do you think you can do this? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Of course, I don't expect you to work for free; you'll have to charge me what you would charge any client, regardless of our friendship.
I am really excited for this new adventure. I hope to hear from you soon!
Based on the task 1 writing band descriptors, this informal letter to a friend would get a band score of 9 in each criterion.
Task Achievement: covers all bullets points fully; the informal register is correct; nothing should be added or taken out
Coherence and Cohesion: appropriate paragraphing; seamless cohesion that does not attract attention. The organization of information in each paragraph is logical.
Lexical Resource: natural, sophisticated vocabulary (word of mouth, range of products, ceramic figurines, charge any client)
Grammatical Range and Accuracy: a wide range of structures used flexibly and accurately (dependent clauses, relative clauses, modal verbs, correct punctuation)
Take a look at an example of a similar topic but written as a formal letter:
Write a letter to a company to ask about having them develop a website for your business. In your letter:
– Give a brief description of the business
– Explain what you’d like to be there on the website
– Provide some ideas on use of images on the web site.
Dear Mr. Glazer,
I am writing with regard to your services as a website designer. I have recently seen numerous samples of your work and I would like to enquire about utilizing your services for my new website.
I am a jewelry designer and proprietor of a retail business selling my creations. The designs, as well as the store, have an image that has been called “exotic,” by many customers. For this reason, I would like the website to reflect this characterization.
One challenge that I foresee with the site is that it must be updated regularly. This is because I frequently create new designs that must be visible to existing and potential customers. I possess some studio equipment, therefore, I am capable of photographing the items myself. However, I would like you to design the site and then upload new content regularly.
I would like to you to provide me an offer, including prices by email. I am available at the above phone number for any further clarifications you may need.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Based on the task 1 writing band descriptors, this formal letter would get a IELTS band score of 9 in each criterion.
The formal letter model above takes many of the same ideas of the informal version but uses formal constructions and vocabulary to make the letter seem more professional.
Would you be interested in creating the site for me? -> I would like to enquire about utilizing your services for my new website
I want the site to really capture the feeling of the store. -> For this reason, I would like the website to reflect this characterization.
I have recently bought a very high quality camera and some studio equipment so I am able to photograph the products myself. -> I possess some studio equipment, therefore, I am capable of photographing the items myself.
Notice also that the first paragraph of the formal letter contains the purpose of the letter (I would like to enquire about utilizing your services for my new website) while the first paragraph of the informal letter contains mostly pleasantries.
The next model letter is an informal letter asking for information.
Write a letter to your friend who lives in a different country about your plan to work overseas. In your letter explain:
How are you? How are Melody and Emily? I hope everything is going well. I wanted to write you about some plans I have and I was hoping you could help.
Ever since I visited you last fall, I cannot stop thinking about how much I love Greece and how I would like to spend some more time there. So, I have decided to move there for a year! As you know, I have a degree in English so, I thought I could teach English as a foreign language. This experience will be great for my career since international experience is a highly sought qualification. If that is not possible, perhaps I could work for a family as a nanny. You know I love to work with kids so I would be happy in that kind of setting too.
Could you give me some information about how easy it would be for me to get a job there? Also, what are salaries like there in both professions? Would the money be able to cover housing and living expenses? I have read that nannies have irregular hours, sometimes even 7 days a week, but what about teachers? Do they have day or evening hours?
I am hoping to make the move this coming fall so any insights you could give me would be great. I am really excited about this and can’t wait to be closer to you and your family! Talk soon!
Notice in the above IELTS task 1 letter how the bullet points have been organized in the answer. The first paragraph is the opening with pleasantries and the purpose of the letter. The second paragraph covers bullet points 1 and 2 while the third paragraph corresponds to the third bullet. The last paragraph is a friendly closing.
One type of IELTS letter that confuses many students is the semi formal letter. These are letters that may resemble a formal letter but there may be some elements throughout the answer that are informal.
You recently completed a course and you borrowed a book from your teacher which you couldn’t return in time. You would like to return the book now. Write a letter to your teacher and say:
Dear Mr. Rice,
I hope you are well. I am writing to thank you for lending me your copy of Practical English Usage and tell you how helpful it has been. Although our course ended last week, I would like to arrange a date and time to return the book to you.
You referred to this book often during our English classes but I was unable to secure a copy from our local bookstore. So, your offer to lend me the book to study from has been very gracious. You were absolutely right when you said the book covers every grammar point that many grammar books fail to address. I have found many answers to questions I had about English so I feel like this book has been a blessing!
I am so sorry I couldn't return the book to you before our course ended but my roommate accidentally took my backpack on a weekend trip with him and the book was inside the bag!! Imagine my shock! Fortunately, he - and the book- have returned so I would like to give it back to you.
Please let me know what day this week is convenient for me to stop by the school to bring you the book.
Thank you once again!
This IELTS task 1 letter is considered semi formal because it combines a variety of formal and informal elements. Why should it be semi formal? The person you are writing to (teacher) is someone who requires respect and some formality but not as much as someone you don't know.
Below is an example of formal language:
Although our course has ended, I would like to arrange a date and time to return the book to you.
Here is an example of informal language:
I am so sorry I couldn't return the book to you before our course ended
There are also some examples of language that is neither formal nor informal but feel a little more personal. These would not be appropriate in a formal letter.
I hope you are well
So, your offer to lend me the book to study from has been very gracious
I feel like this book has been a blessing
The decision to use the opening "Dear Mr. Rice" is appropriate in a semi formal letter. "Dear Sir" would be too formal but to use the teacher's first name would be too informal.
A separate bullet point is developed in each of the paragraphs. The first paragraph also includes pleasantries and the purpose of the letter. The semi formal letter ends with a warm closing and an appropriate sign off.
Sign up for an essay correction with us and have our team of IELTS experts correct an informal, semi formal or formal letter of your choice.
Take a look at our resource for more general task 1 sample letters.