The IELTS letter
samples in this lesson are both letters of explanation, a common type of letter
in the General Writing exam.
In the lesson, I'm going to show you step-by-step how to plan and write explanation letters. Here’s what we’ll be covering:
All questions for IELTS letters have the same structure. They are made up of 3 parts.
Part 1 – The topic.
Part 2 – The person you must write to.
Part 3 – What you should write about (listed as 3 bullet points).
Here is a sample question for an explanation letter with the 3 parts illustrated.
Understanding this will help you to quickly analyse the question and plan your answer. To help you plan, use the letter structure below.
For a full lesson on planning, including more IELTS letter samples, click here: How To Plan IELTS Letters
The layout of your letter should follow the structure of the question and consist of four paragraphs with a greeting at the beginning and a signoff at the end.
Use this easy to remember 6 part structure.
1) Dear .....
2) Paragraph 1: Purpose – why you are writing
3) Paragraph 2: Write about 1st bullet point
4) Paragraph 3: Write about 2nd bullet point
5) Paragraph 4: Write about 3rd bullet point
All you need to do to create your plan is to add in the details from the question, like this:
Your letter must be written in the appropriate tone and style. There are two options:
It is essential that you are able to identify what type of question you’re required to write. Follow this general:
To learn more about formal and informal letters and see two more IELTS letter samples, click here;
The person we are writing to in this question is a friend so, we will write an informal letter. This leads us on to the opening of the letter – the greeting.
Always start an informal letter with ‘Dear...’ followed by the first
name of the friend, e.g. Dear Ellen,
You probably use ‘Hi...’ and ‘Hello...’ in emails and texts but for letters, ‘Dear...’ is more appropriate, so stick with this.
For a formal letter there are two options for the greeting:
The greeting you use will determine how you sign off your letter.
For an informal letter to a friend, use one of these phrases followed by your first name:
Keep in touch,
For a formal letter, there are two main options. The correct one will depend on who you are addressing:
Always sign off a formal letter with your full name, e.g. Jacky Spear
For our sample
letter, we will use this greeting and signoff:
....I hope to see you soon,
We are now ready to think up some ideas to write about. We have the guidelines of the 3 bullet points to help us so this won’t be difficult.
You only have to write 150 words, so you won’t need many ideas but do make sure that you write about each bullet point and develop each idea fully.
They don't have to be the best ideas you can possibly think of. Go with your first thoughts and don’t waste time trying to think of better ideas. However, they must relate directly to the bullet points.
Note them beside each bullet point on the exam paper, like this:
That’s our planning complete. Once you’ve had some practice, you’ll be able to do this in just a few minutes. Taking time to plan makes writing IELTS letters far quicker and easier than if you don’t do this step. You will also write a better letter and get higher marks.
We're now ready to start writing our letter.
Here’s our plan again with all our notes added in.
We’ve already decided on the greeting so we’ll start with paragraph 1.
In the first paragraph, you must state the reason for writing the letter, that is, its purpose.
Paragraph 1: Purpose – to tell your friend about your trip
Many students make the mistake of missing this purpose sentence out but it's very important. Including it will gain you marks.
It only requires one sentence. For example,
Top vocabulary tip: One of the easiest ways to show the examiner that you know you are writing an informal letter is to use contractions, e.g.
I’m, I’ve, you’ll, we'd, they're
Do not use contractions in formal letters. They are informal language.
In the second paragraph, you write about bullet point 1. Remember to
keep the language informal for this question.
Paragraph 2: give a brief update of your life since last in touch
Got engaged, bought flat
You could write something like this.
The third paragraph should cover the second bullet point.
Paragraph 3: explain why you will be travelling to his/her town
Coach tour of Scotland
Paragraph 4 addresses the third bullet point.
Paragraph 4: say what you plan to do when you visit their town
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Now we just need to add the signoff we decided on earlier and our letter is complete.
Here is the finished letter.
To get some practice writing an explanation letter, write a letter for the question below.
This letter is
to someone you don’t know so must be written in a formal tone and style. Use
the planning structure I showed you above to plan before you start writing.
Here’s a sample letter. Can you identify the language and grammar structures I’ve used to give it an informal tone? Note that it doesn’t contain any contractions.
You'll find more IELTS letter samples in the lessons below.
Want to watch and listen to this lesson?
Click on this video.
Includes many IELTS letter samples.
IELTS General Writing – A summary of the test including important facts, test format & assessment.
Format – The format, the 7 topics, letter
structure, formal & informal, assessment & marking criteria, sample
questions. Essential information you need to know.
Letter Writing Tips – Learn top tips on how to meet the assessment and marking criteria and achieve a high score.
Letter Writing Structure – Find out how to use this easy to learn letter structure to write a high-scoring letter. Includes a model answer.
How To Plan a Letter – Learn a simple 5 step process & 6 part letter structure. Also, help to understand the question & generate ideas.
Formal or Informal – How to decide what type of
letter to write. Sample questions & 2 model letters.
Letter Writing Vocabulary – Learn useful phrases to help you achieve a high score. Also, know how to start & end your letter.
How To Write an Informal Letter – Step-by-step instructions, simple 4 step plan & 6 part letter structure, model letter.
How To Write a Formal Letter – Step-by-step instructions, simple 4 step plan & 6 part letter structure, model letter.
Letter Topics – Learn the 7 most common letter topics & other popular subjects. Includes 20 sample questions.