Letter Writing For IELTS: The Top 10 Tips To Score A Band 7.0

Jul 29, 2019 | IELTS, IELTS Test, IELTS Writing

Letter Writing For IELTS: The Top 10 IELTS Letter Writing Tips To Score A Band 7.0 Or Higher

Are you preparing for IELTS General Writing Task 1 and finding letter writing to be a particularly challenging area? 

Writing a letter might sound deceptively simple, but there are quirks to how this task is marked that could lose you a lot of marks – even native speakers!

Scoring well in the IELTS General Writing Task 1 could significantly improve your overall band score and be the difference between the band score you want and the one you end up with! 

Here at English With An Expert, our experienced IELTS tutor, Andy, has put together a list of the top 10 IELTS letter-writing tips and tricks. This guide is designed to give you the insights and techniques you need to confidently tackle IELTS letter writing tasks and push your band score to new heights!

What is IELTS General Writing Task 1: A Deep Dive into Letter Writing for IELTS 

If you’re looking to master the art of letter writing for IELTS, it’s essential to first understand what the IELTS General Writing Task 1 is. This task assesses your ability to craft letters in response to everyday situations you might encounter in real life, be it personal, semi-formal, or formal contexts.

IELTS General Writing Task 1 begins with instructions on completing the letter within 20 minutes, followed by 2-3 sentences introducing the situation.

For example…

You recently stayed in a large hotel. During your stay, you had some problems with members of staff.

The test writers then give you 3-bullet points telling you what your letter should include. For example…

Write a letter to the hotel manager.

In your letter

  •  Give details of your stay
  •  Describe the problems that you had with staff members
  •  Say what actions you would like the manager to take

After that, the instructions tell you how to begin your letter.

For formal letters, the instructions tell you to begin…

Dear Sir or Madam,

For informal or semi-formal letters, they will tell you to begin…

Dear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .,

You should not literally write Dear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .; instead, insert either the first name or the family name of the recipient (e.g. Dear Mr Hewson).

10 IELTS Letter Writing Tips For Scoring Band 7.0+

image of person writing a letter

Being successful in your IELTS letter writing isn’t just about understanding the task; it’s about mastering specific strategies that can take your response from good to great. 

Understanding the grading criteria is the most crucial first step in learning how you should approach letter writing for IELTS. So, with that in mind, we’ve put our list of IELTS letter-writing tips together based on the official IELTS marking descriptors, ensuring that every area is thoroughly covered.

Our Expert IELTS Letter Writing Tips 

Tip 1: Make sure you write at least 150 words.

Being successful with letter writing for IELTS starts with adhering to the basics, like word count. Writing any less means you failed to develop your response as much as you should, and this will mean you’re going to find it difficult to score a Band 6.0 or above. 

Aiming for at least 150 words means you’ll be better equipped to fully address the bullet points provided, thereby increasing your chances of scoring Band 7.0 or higher in General Task 1.   

Tip 2: Make sure you write on-topic.

Misunderstanding the question and straying off topic or writing a memorised answer for a different question will undoubtedly result in lost marks. 

Our advice when it comes to IELTS Letter Writing is to make sure you thoroughly read and understand the question and the accompanying bullet points to ensure your letter addresses what is actually asked.  

Tip 3: Make sure you answer every bullet point fully!

In IELTS letter writing, meeting all requirements set by the bullet points is essential for Task Achievement. For instance, if the task asks about multiple problems you faced with staff members, failing to discuss more than one issue or more than one staff member means that the question has been only partially answered. 

Part of your time should be allocated to reading back your response once it’s written and then cross-referencing it against all of the bullet points in the question to make sure you have accurately covered all of them.

IELTS Letter Writing Tips For Coherence and Cohesion

Tip 4: Keep an appropriate tone

Maintaining a uniform tone is key in letter writing for IELTS. The IELTS marking criteria don’t like you to mix praise with criticism. For example, if you are writing a letter of complaint, then offering praise or wishing the recipient a wonderful weekend is going to be seen as inappropriate by the examiner. 

Finish the letter in an appropriate way. You shouldn’t finish a formal letter with “Best wishes”. Instead, you should use “Yours sincerely” or a similar phrase; in reverse, an informal letter shouldn’t end with “Yours sincerely” and should instead use a more formal phrase.

Tip 5: Include at least two paragraphs – and make sure every paragraph has at least two sentences.

Another essential IELTS letter writing tip is to include at least two paragraphs and to make sure that each paragraph contains at least two sentences. Proper paragraphing is an important part of the Coherence and Cohesion marking criteria. Neglecting this aspect can impact your IELTS letter’s overall flow and readability.

Remember as well that the examiner assesses how well you have used paragraphs and how well you have linked sentences with these paragraphs.

You should also avoid repeating a word more than once in a sentence. Instead, reference the word a second time or use a pronoun. Repetition of words within a sentence often shows bad cohesion.

IELTS Letter Writing Tips For Lexical Resource

image of person signing a letter

Tip 6: Use the highest level of vocabulary you know.

A variety of vocabulary is essential in letter writing for IELTS. A lot of native speakers lose marks here. Many people simplify their language when writing a letter since they want to make sure they are understood or don’t want to sound pretentious.

However, you need to remember that when it comes to letter writing for IELTS, the examiner marks Lexical Resource in the same way as for Task 2. Scoring a Band 8.0 or higher means using uncommon lexical items.

For example, instead of saying my house roof leaks, write: this property is a Victorian terrace and runoff from a blocked drainpipe next door has leaked through the porch roof.

Tip 7: Variety of vocabulary is essential.

Using the same words repeatedly in your response can mean your chances of obtaining a higher Lexical Resource score are diminished. 

Try to avoid using a word more than three times. Overusing a particular word can make the content sound redundant and monotonous. You can find tips on how to include more synonyms in our video course.

However, it is important that you use different words correctly. Many candidates will end up being marked down when they use words in the wrong context, and finding the balance between a diverse vocabulary and an accurate one is one of the big battles when it comes to IELTS letter writing.  

IELTS Letter Writing Tips For Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Tip 8: Use a wide range of grammar structures.

Achieving a higher-band score when writing a letter-type response in IELTS General Writing Task 1 goes beyond just a varied vocabulary. You need to show the examiner that you have a proficient understanding of varied grammatical structures, which is pivotal in conveying messages coherently and with sophistication.  

You’ll also need to be able to adapt the structures and sentences that you use depending on the question. Letter writing for IELTS can take many different forms, whether it’s a formal letter of complaint, an informal letter to a friend, or a semi-formal letter to an acquaintance; the flexibility to use varied grammar structures allows for apt tone setting, making your IELTS letter writing samples more authentic and impactful.

Tip 9: Keep your sentences to between 11-25 words.

Another of our crucial IELTS letter writing tips is to make sure you are aware of and can work within the optimal sentence length. It’s advised that you keep sentences between 11-25 words, as this helps you keep your letter clear and coherent. Sentences that are too short might seem choppy or underdeveloped, while overly lengthy sentences can become convoluted and challenging for the reader to follow.

It’s also important to consider that when it comes to letter writing for IELTS, your grade depends less on the number of mistakes and more on the ratio of correct to incorrect sentences. For example, you will get a better mark with two 15-word sentences and one mistake than with one 30-word sentence and one mistake.

Tip 10: Use Effective Error Correction Strategies

As with any essay, it’s a good idea to develop a quick error-checking routine for your IELTS letter. When practising IELTS letter writing, you should spend the last two minutes reviewing your work, looking for small grammar or spelling errors that can significantly impact your score. If you have stuck to the advice above and kept sentences between the 11-25 word range, this will also make it easier to follow and proofread.

Preparing for the IELTS exam requires a lot of practice and time management skills. For IELTS letter writing, this is one of the key ones. If you would like to read more about how to prepare, you can visit this page.

Improve IELTS Letter Writing With Our Help

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Generic advice can only take a candidate so far. All of the IELTS letter writing tips above are aimed to help you get on the right path. But, preparing for the IELTS can feel daunting, especially when aiming for higher band scores in IELTS letter writing. 

One of the ways we have helped many candidates in this exact situation is through our IELTS Writing Corrections service. 

All you have to do is submit some of your IELTS letter writing samples to our experienced tutors, and you will receive a graded response. You’ll also be given notes alongside this that help identify your strengths and areas for improvement.

Don’t leave your IELTS preparation to chance. You can purchase our IELTS Writing Corrections here and level up your band score when it comes to letter writing for IELTS. 

A Free IELTS Letter Writing Gift

The link below has 5 IELTS letter writing sample questions that you can use for practising and preparing for IELTS General Task 1.

Click here to download five free IELTS General Task 1 questions.

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