By India blog team

19 March 2021 - 3:29pm

 Now that you have finalised your dates for the IELTS exam, you must be reading up on tips on how to score well in your IELTS writing test.

The IELTS General Training writing task 1 of the IELTS Writing Test requires you to write either a formal or an informal letter on a given subject. There are usually three bullet points provided in the task rubric for you to address in your letter. You are required to use 150 words to frame your letter in 20 minutes. The purpose of this writing task is to assess your functional writing skills.  It is to check whether you are able to write different types of letters such as to apologise, thank, complain, suggest, give information, or ask for information in an appropriate tone, using the appropriate structure and language. Once you have read the question, identified the type of letter you need to write, make sure you address all the three bullets in your writing, and use an appropriate format and language to address the task.

One of the key elements in the assessment is structuring the letter you write. So, make sure you use the ODAC formula to plan and write your letter. ODAC is an acronym for the four elements of effective letter writing: Opening, Details, Action, and Closing. All these four elements must be appropriately used in your letter to achieve a higher IELTS band for this task. Let’s look at each of these elements in detail as well as the language that should be used in each of the sections.

Opening

The first thing you must do when you read the prompt/question given to you is to identify the type, purpose, and context of the letter you have been asked to write.

If you have been asked to write a letter to your manager or your professor, it is a formal letter, and if you have been asked to write to a friend or a family member it is an informal letter.

The next important step is to determine the purpose of writing the letter. Ask yourself what function does this letter requires me to perform? Is it a letter of complaint, apology, invitation or is it asking you to convey or obtain some specific information?

 In a formal letter, the purpose of writing the letter can be clearly signposted in the following ways, “I am writing to inform you about….”, / “In this letter, I wish to raise the issue of….”, /“I would like to invite you to conduct a workshop….”, /“I am writing to apologise…”/ “I regret to inform you….” In an informal letter, the purpose of the letter need not be so direct and formal. It could be a little more casual like “I just want to thank you for…”/, “I wanted to ask if you….” / “I want to share some exciting news with you…”. In both formal and informal letters, the purpose of the letter must be stated in the opening paragraph of the letter

The type of letter you write will also impact the tone of the letter.  Striking the right tone and maintaining it throughout the letter is crucial for achieving a higher band. For example: if you invite your friend to a birthday party by writing “I am writing to invite you to my son’s birthday party”, you are not using the right tone for an informal letter. This will bring down your overall rating for the task. Similarly, if you begin a letter to your manager with “Hi, Harry, I want to take two days off next week to plan my son’s birthday party”, you are not striking the right tone for a formal letter. So, the tone is conveyed by the language you use.

 Details

Generally, in the IELTS General Training writing test,  there are three bullet points provided in the prompt given to you. When you write your letter make sure you address all three bullets. You must read each bullet point very carefully. A single bullet point may require you to do two things. For example, in a letter recommending a friend to do a particular course, the bullet point could be “describe the course and why you think the course is right for him/her”. If you only describe the course but leave out why you are recommending the course for him/her, you will not achieve a higher band. Also look out for plurals: “describe the things you had in your bag” implies that you are expected to describe more than one thing in your bag. If you write only about one thing, it won’t fetch you the desired band.

Each bullet point must have a paragraph to itself. Every paragraph must have only one central topic which should be the first sentence of the paragraph. Then add two or three sentences to support the central idea of your paragraph. In the next couple of sentences, you might need to give specific examples to substantiate your main and supporting ideas. The final sentence of the paragraph is generally a transition sentence that provides a link to the next paragraph.

Action

The last bullet point of the prompt is generally an action-oriented one. It asks you to give suggestions, take some action or give directions. So, in the last paragraph of your letter, you must clearly state what you are going to do next or what you want the reader of the letter to do.

In a formal letter the action points should be framed as “Therefore, I would like to suggest…” “I would like you to ensure that…”, Please let me know whether…”, “I would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter…” For an informal letter, the tone could be slightly more casual like “do let me know if…”, “make sure that you follow my directions”, “let’s see if we can”, “I really would like you to…”, “do get back to me for further details…”, “I really hope you can make it…”.

These action statements are generally followed by a reference to future contact. In a formal letter, you could write “ I look forward to meeting you in person”, “I look forward to hearing from you on this at the earliest”, “We hope that we may continue our association” “I look forward to working with you in the future”….. In an informal letter, the reference to a future contact could be something as familiar as “let’s meet up soon”, “enjoy your event”, “really looking forward to our trip”, “I hope to hear from you soon”, “give my regards to”. But remember that being informal does not mean using SMS language or abbreviations in any part of the letter. That’s a sure-fire way to get you a lower band on the writing task.

Closing

The opening and the closing of the letter must be in consonance with the formal or informal conventions of letter writing, see the table below:

Salutation Complimentary Close Usage
Dear Sir/Dear Madam Yours faithfully Formal
Dear Mr. Sharma/Dear Ms. Shah Yours sincerely Formal
Dear Rajiv/Dear Neha Warm regards, Best regards Informal

Avoid the common mistakes of writing in the IELTS General Training writing test like - Dear Mr. Rajiv i.e. using the title and the first name. You will be marked down if you do not follow the conventions given above with the appropriate salutations and closings for formal and informal letters.

Closing the letter is extremely important. A letter that does not have a conventional closing will not achieve a higher band on the test. A mere “thanking you” is not considered an appropriate closing. It must be followed by a “yours faithfully” or “yours sincerely”.

So do use our ODAC formula to structure your letter and that will surely help you achieve a higher band in your IELTS Writing Test. Don’t forget to practice before the test. Look at some past questions and attempt writing a response. When you write time yourself and then assess your writing. Review if you have addressed the question and responded appropriately.

Good luck and happy writing!

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