Do you need to improve your writing skills to reach a band 5 and higher in the IELTS General Training Writing test? We’re going to identify the Writing skills you need to achieve your goal when you answer Task 1 and Task 2 in the General Training Writing test. We will explain what the questions require you to do and we will tell you what you have to do to reach a band 5 and higher in Task Achievement and Task Response.

These two criteria assess whether or not you have achieved the task and responded to the essay question appropriately.

What do I have to do in IELTS General Training Task 1?

In the first task, you have to write a letter in 20 minutes using a minimum of 150 words. You are told what to write about and the person who you are writing to (Dear Sir or Madam or Dear … ).

The question is structured like this:

  • a situation is presented telling you the background to writing this letter

  • three bullet points covering information to be explained, described or requested

Task 1 example:

You live in a room in college which you share with another student. However, there are many problems with this arrangement and you find it very difficult to work.

Write a letter to the accommodation officer at the college. In the letter,

·  describe the situation

·  explain your problems and why it is difficult to work

·  say what kind of accommodation you would prefer

If you feel you need more help on how to write a letter and what to include, why not check out this blog.

How do I reach a band 5 and higher for Task Achievement in my letter?

The examiner will check your letter to see if you can fully answer the question. To achieve the task, you need to:

  • understand the situation you have been given

  • know who you are writing to

  • use the correct tone

  • present the reason for writing the letter

  • present the three bullet points

  • use a correct letter format.

1. Understand the situation

Read the question carefully and highlight or underline all the information words and the question words, and then write notes to help you understand what you must write about.

Like this:

You live in a room in college which you share with another student. However, there are many problems with this arrangement and you find it very difficult to work.

Write a letter to the accommodation officer at the college. In the letter,

·  describe the situation - why it is difficult to work in my room with this other student

·  explain your problems and why it is difficult to work - he is very noisy, his friends visit all the time, can’t concentrate on my studies

· say what kind of accommodation you would prefer - a single room, not sharing, or accommodation with 2 bedrooms

2. Know who you are writing to

This is an easy step to follow because the instructions will tell you who you are writing to.

In this letter, you are writing to the accommodation officer, it is someone you don’t know, so you should write in a formal way. You are also told to start the letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. Make sure you follow this instruction and start your letter with 'Dear Sir/Madam....'.

3. Use the correct tone

Let’s move on to the next feature in your letter that the examiner is looking for, the tone of your letter. The tone refers to the way in which you write the letter, in a formal or informal style. The instructions in the question will give you a clue.

Dear ...Dear Sir/Madam
Informal or semi-formal: written to a friend, or colleagueFormal: written to someone you do not know
4. Present the reason for writing your letter

Start your letter with the reason why you are writing the letter. This is the purpose of your letter. To reach a higher band score, your letter needs to have a clear purpose.

For example:

  • I am writing to complain about...

  • I am writing to give you some feedback on...

  • The reason I am writing this letter is to invite you to...

Your reason for writing should be written in the first paragraph of your letter. Refer to the situation in the question, but do not copy the words in the question.

5. Present the three bullet points

All three bullet points need to be presented. And remember that some bullet points contain more than one element. So, make sure to watch for ‘and’ and plurals. Look at the notes above to see what you should include in your letter.

6. Use a correct letter format

The final feature to look at in IELTS General Training, Writing Task 1 is the format of your letter. Do not write an email or an essay.

A letter needs to be written using a proper format, including the following:

  1. A greeting (Dear sir/madam, Dear John, Dear Mr. Smith)

  2. The main body (consisting of paragraphs for each bullet point)

  3. A closing (Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully, Best wishes, Kind regards, Love)

The examiner will check your letter to make sure you are writing a letter using the correct format.

What do I have to do in IELTS General Training Task 2?

In Task 2, you must write an essay in 40 minutes using a minimum of 250 words. You are given a statement with some questions on a general topic, like sport, the environment, pollution, transport, or shopping. You are generally asked to do the following in your essay:

  • give your opinion on a topic

  • look at the advantages or disadvantages of something

  • give reasons and suggest solutions for something

  • describe the effects of something

  • present both sides of an issue

You must read the question carefully so that all parts of the question are answered. For example, in the question below, you must do three things to achieve a higher band, showing the examiner that you are addressing all parts of the task.

Task 2 question example:

Shopping is becoming more and more popular as a leisure activity. However, some people feel that this has both positive and negative effects.

Why is shopping so popular?

What effects does its increase in popularity have on individuals and on society?

If you need more help with how to write a Task 2 essay, look at this blog which will go through '7 steps' needed to write a good essay.

How do I reach a band 5 and higher for Task Response in my essay?

The examiner will check your check your essay to see if you can fully answer the question. To fully respond to the task, you need to:

  • answer all parts of the question

  • present a clear position

  • present ideas to support your opinion

  • support your ideas with examples.

1. Answer all parts of the question

In the question above, you were told that there are three parts in this question.

You must a) explain why shopping is popular, b) say how this popularity affects individuals and c) say how this popularity affects the society. If you miss one of these things, you will not get higher than a band 5 as you have only answered part of the question. You must answer all parts of the question prompt to reach a band 6 and higher.

So, take great care to read the question carefully to identify all parts of the question checking for plurals and the use of ‘and'.

If you are asked to present both views and give our own opinion, again, this question has three parts. You need to a) present one opinion, b) present the other opinion and c) present your own opinion

If you are asked to present the advantages and disadvantages of something, or to see if the advantages outweigh the disadvantage, choose one of the following essay structures to present:

More advantages essay structure

  • Present 2 or more advantages

  • Present 1 disadvantage

  • Say why there are more advantages than disadvantages

More disadvantages essay structure

  • Present 2 or more disadvantages

  • Present 1 advantage

  • Say why there are more disadvantages than advantages

2. Present a clear position

You must present a clear position. This simply means you must let the examiner know what you think about the question. Your position must be clear for the complete essay. Don’t change your mind in the conclusion.

For example:

"I strongly believe that shopping as a leisure activity is a positive development for individuals and our society".

"However, many people feel that shopping for leisure is a negative development..."

3. Present ideas to support your opinion

Make sure that your ideas are directly related to the topic you are writing about. For the essay question example, the ideas presented must be about why shopping as a leisure activity is good or bad, for people, and for our society.

You might say that shopping increases the amount of money spent in our economy, which is a good development and that it makes us feel good about ourselves when we buy new things (retail therapy). However, we must look at the other side and see why shopping might be a negative thing. People buy a lot and therefore waste a lot, throwing away things they don’t like any more. People also spend too much money on things that they cannot afford, going into debt. These ideas clearly support your opinion.

4. Support your ideas with examples

When you present an idea, you need to use an example to support this idea. Use examples from your own experience. For example, you can say that shopping is a major leisure activity where you live in ‘Singapore’ with people shopping till midnight every night.

Choose real life examples that relate to you and your experience rather than choosing to present statistics and survey results that the examiner cannot check.

When you are ready, practice writing your tasks

If you understand what each task requires you to do and follow the steps we have outlined in this article, you will soon be on your way to achieving a higher band score in your IELTS Writing test.

Practice writing letters and only allow yourself 20 minutes to write. Then practice answering a Task 2 essay and again time yourself and stop writing at 40 minutes. You can find free IELTS General Training practice materials here.

If you feel you are ready to practice a General Training Writing test, why not try an IELTS Progress Check General Training practice testexternal icon.

By understanding what the General Training Writing tasks are and what you are supposed to do in the test, you will be much better prepared. With practice you will get better!