What Is IELTS General Writing? – An Essential Guide

Jul 24, 2019 | IELTS, IELTS Test, IELTS Writing

Whilst both Academic and General versions of the IELTS test are used for migration, the General test is designed more to assess a candidate’s practical and everyday use of English. Because of these differences, how IELTS General Writing assesses you is very different from its Academic counterpart.  

These differences mean that many non-native, and even native, English speakers often prepare for assessments not on the IELTS General Writing test. 

To help you better understand the IELTS General Writing test, we have put together this article to provide a clear understanding of its structure, significance, and strategies you’ll need to succeed. So, if you’re planning to settle in an English-speaking country and need to pass the IELTS General exam for extra merit on a visa application, read on!

Below, you will find a breakdown of each IELTS General Writing task, some links to model answers we have prepared for IELTS GT writing tasks 1 & 2, and some links to other resources and services that will help you get the score you need! 

IELTS General Writing’s Purpose & Contrasts With Academic Writing

The IELTS General Writing test serves a specific purpose and caters to those looking to emigrate for work or to pursue high-school-level education in English-speaking countries. Unlike the Academic version, which is tailored for students and professionals aiming for higher education or professional registration, the General Writing test focuses on the practical aspects of English usage in everyday life and workplace scenarios.

If you are planning to migrate to countries like the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand for less skilled work opportunities, vocational training or as a family member of a person who is migrating for their profession or university studies–it is the IELTS General Writing test you should be preparing for.

IELTS General Writing Test Format

image of woman writing things in a note pad

The IELTS General Writing test, like the Academic version, comprises two tasks:

General IELTS Writing Task 1 involves writing a letter, which may be formal, semi-formal, or informal, depending on the given scenario. This task assesses the ability to convey information, express needs and opinions, and engage in correspondence relevant to everyday life. This is very different to Academic Task 1–which is all about describing graphs and data. 

General IELTS Writing Task 2 requires writing an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem. Though similar to the Academic version in terms of assessment criteria, the topics are more aligned with general interests and practical issues rather than purely academic ones.

IELTS General Writing Task 1 – Letter Writing

In IELTS General Writing Task 1, your task is to write a letter, usually based on an everyday scenario. The kind of letter which you’ll be asked to write in IELTS GT Writing Task 1 ranges in the formality required depending on the given context.  

For instance, a formal letter might be addressed to a local government official or a company’s customer service team. It will be to a person whose name you are unlikely to know.

Alternatively, a semi-formal letter could be written to someone you know but not on a personal level, like a landlord or a teacher. 

A fully informal text would typically be written if the topic revolves around a letter written to friends or family members, allowing for a more relaxed and personal tone.

3 Key Tips For General IELTS Writing Task 1

Time Management. Just as with other sections of the IELTS exam, time management is the first thing you’ll need in order to do well in IELTS General Writing Task 1. Your time needs to be divided into planning your response, crafting your letter, and revising for any potential errors or improvements. This practice ensures that your Writing Task 1 General response has the best chance of succeeding.

Using The Correct Tone & Language. Because different types of letters in IELTS GT Writing Task 1 require different levels of formality, you need to make sure you use the appropriate tone and language in your response. For formal responses to General Task 1, maintain a professional and respectful tone, avoiding slang or overly casual language. Semi-formal letters allow for a more relaxed tone but still require a degree of formality. Informal letters to friends or family can be casual and personal.

Use high-level vocabulary. This is where even native speakers fall down. The vocabulary in IELTS General Task 1 is marked in the same way as the rest of the test. In real life, we might simplify our language when writing a letter or email so as not to show off to a friend or to make sure a stranger understands us. However, to achieve a high score on this test – you must use the same kind of high-level vocabulary you might use in Task 2. There is no difference in the way the lexical resource is assessed. 

Practice With Different Topics. To make sure you are used to all of the different types of letters you could be faced with in General Writing Task 1, you should practise writing letters for different purposes and recipients to enhance your versatility and readiness for any given task. Exposure to the different scenarios and levels of formality in IELTS General Writing Task 1 will help make sure you don’t get a nasty shock on test day.

5 IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answers

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Semi-Formal Letter To A Manager

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Formal Letter To A Bus Company

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Inviting A Friend To A Vacation

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Recommending A Friend For A Job

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Problems With A Lecture Theatre

Why Is IELTS General Writing Task 1 So Hard?

What makes IELTS General Writing Task 1 particularly challenging is the specific language and vocabulary skills it demands. Most schools and textbooks teach you English as a Foreign Language (EFL). For this task, you need the type of vocabulary taught by English as a Second Language courses (ESL). 

In IELTS general writing task 1, you’re often placed in everyday scenarios requiring more situation-specific language ability. These kinds of conversations are very different from the kinds of interactions you would have as a tourist in an English-speaking country.

For example, you may have a landlord and need to communicate with him about a problem with your home. However, most language courses don’t teach you words like legally binding, structural survey, damp, or drainage problems. It is these kinds of words that will help you get a high band score.

IELTS General Writing Task 2 – Essay Writing

image of person writing essay in a notepad

IELTS General Writing Task 2 is almost identical to the Academic version – just a little less academic.

For example, instead of asking about the benefits of university education, the question may ask about the benefits of home-schooling.

Just like the Academic version, this task is designed to assess your ability to articulate and support your views, engage in critical thinking, and express complex ideas clearly in English – and as such, is marked using the same descriptors as the Academic Writing Task 2. The types of essays you may be asked to write in General Writing Task 2 include:

  •   Opinion Essays: where you are asked to provide your viewpoint on a particular topic.
  •   Discussion Essays: requiring you to discuss multiple viewpoints or aspects of an issue
  •   Problem-Solution Essays: where you identify a problem and suggest potential solutions
  •   Advantages & Disadvantages Essays: discussing the pros and cons of a specific situation or decision

3 Key Tips For IELTS General Writing Task 2 

Understanding & Structuring The Essay. Begin by thoroughly understanding the essay prompt in General Task 2. Identify the type of essay and clearly understand what the question is asking. Structure your essay with a clear introduction, body paragraphs (each focusing on a single main idea), and a concise conclusion. Each part should logically flow into the next, creating a cohesive argument or discussion. 

Use Formal Vocabulary & Language. Despite its less academic nature, IELTS General Writing Task 2 still requires a relatively formal level of vocabulary and language. Avoid slang and overly casual expressions. Instead, use sophisticated and precise vocabulary to articulate your points. This demonstrates your language proficiency and ability to engage with topics maturely and formally, which is the core of what is being assessed in this task. 

Develop Your Arguments With Examples. In General Writing Task 2, it is essential that you not only state your opinions or arguments but also support them with relevant examples or evidence. These examples could be drawn from your observations, readings, or personal experiences. By including those that are relevant to the topic, you effectively illustrate your point further to the examiner.

5 IELTS General Writing Task 2 Model Answers

IELTS General Writing Task 2 Model Answer: Live Performances (Advantages & Disadvantages)

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Computer Games (Discussion) 

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Youth Crime (Problem-Solution)

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Traditional Music (Discussion)

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Model Answer: Is Copying A Human Trait? (Opinion)

Get Expert Help To Ace IELTS General Writing!

Mastering IELTS General Writing involves understanding its unique format, the practical application of language, and the ability to articulate thoughts clearly and effectively. It doesn’t matter whether it’s crafting a well-structured letter in Task 1 or presenting a compelling argument in an essay for Task 2; success in IELTS General Writing hinges on practice, precision, and a deep understanding of the task requirements. 

You can use many of the Model Answers we have linked above to help you as a guide on how you should be laying out responses in IELTS General Writing Task 1 & Task 2.  

However, if you’d like some expert help and a more personalised approach, our IELTS Writing Correction Service offers tailored feedback on your writing, helping you identify areas for improvement and refine your skills.

Or, if you’re more of an interactive learner, then our IELTS Video Courses provide the kind of guidance that can equip you with the tools and knowledge needed to tackle each aspect of the IELTS General Writing test effectively.

Best of all, and especially in the first instance, you can also book 1-1 IELTS Coaching Lessons with one of our expert tutors. Simply visit this page to book a free demo lesson