Improving an IELTS GT Letter

Improving a letter for IELTS General Training Task 1. Learn how to make your IELTS GT letter better for a higher score.

In the IELTS GT writing task 1 test, you must write a letter which is usually either formal or informal (occasionally it is possible to get a semi-formal letter). The aims of the letter are given by IELTS as well as three bullet points which explain the content you must include.

Improving An IELTS GT Letter 

Below you will find a letter task from IELTS and a candidate’s answer. Take a look at both and then post your feedback.

Letter Task Given by IELTS

You ordered a book online for exam preparation. It has been some time since you ordered it and you still have not received your book. Write a letter to the e-commerce company about this.

  • describe your purchase order of the book
  • explain the importance of the book
  • say what you want the company to do for you.

Candidate’s Letter Answer

Look at the letter below which was posted by someone on this site and decide:

  1. Does the letter fully cover all information required?
  2. Is the information organised well into paragraphs?

Dear sir,

I am writing this letter to inform you about my order of a book form your company on 20th march and my order number is Az435677 which i have not received yet.

I am preparing for IAS exam for which i ordered a book General Studies Manual by Manohar Sharma. It is the best book for preparing for this exam.. and I only got it on amazon and was out of stock from other sites.
After checking the delivery time in 5 days i ordered this book because my exam is on 15th April. Its’s already been more than 10 days and i did not received my order yet.This delay impacted my preparation and I left with few days to study. I believe I can not make up for the lost time.

Since you have wasted one week of delivery I request you to refund me for the book and courier charges if I will not get the delivery in 2 days. As it is hard to cover for the gone time but I am a regular customer and this is the first time i had to face this problem so I will wait for 2 more days.

I hope to hear a positive reply.
Your sincerely
Sam Smith

How to Improve the IELTS Letter

To learn what the problems are and to see a model IELTS letter, click below:

Problems with Above Letter

This letter has a number of problems.

  1. Although the task has been completed, it is wordy (too long). It is 211 words. This will not help because it means there is a lack of focus and irrelevant detail. Task 1 is only worth 33% of your marks. Keep your letter within 170 and 190 words – then move on to task 2.
  2. Opening line. For a formal letter, the opening line should be the purpose of the letter. This letter isn’t to inform someone, it is to complain or to express dissatisfaction. Remember, you have paid for something that you haven’t received – you are not happy about this.
  3. Furthermore, your opening line should only contain the main aim, not the details. The letter above puts detail in the opening line that should be in the first body paragraph.
  4. Organisation is a serious problem. There are three prompts and each prompt forms one body paragraph. You need to organise your information into these body paragraphs.
    1. BP1 – the purchase order. Give all details. In the letter above, two sentences of BP2 contained this information. So, the order of the detail was scattered and not organised into one single body paragraph.
    2. BP2 – why the book is important to you. This letter only contains two limited sentences about this.
    3. BP3 – what you want done. This should be written concisely. You want your book immediately or your money back. These are the main options. Of course, you need to word this more politely, but also word it firmly. The letter above was too lengthy and not concise enough in this aspect.
  5. Signing off. In the letter, this was incorrect. If you start with “Dear Sir”, you end with “Yours faithfully. If you start with “Dear Mr Jones”, you end with “Yours sincerely”.

Those are the main issues with this letter.There are minor language issues in the letter which do not concern me. Your English does not need to be perfect for a high score. The main problems are:

  • weak opening line
  • lack of organised information
  • not enough detail in the right place and too much detail in the wrong place
  • incorrect signing off
  Model Letter with Notes

Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter to complain about my order of a book from your company on 1st April which has not arrived.

My order number is AZ435636 and it was for a book entitled “General Studies Manual” by Manohar Sharma. It was the one which came with a CD and was priced at £15.99. The delivery was guaranteed to be only two days but so far I have waited nearly 2 weeks without receiving anything.

This book is essential to my studies in preparing for my IAS exam, which is only 1 week away. It is the only book that explains some of the key aspects of the exam and without it I will struggle to get the grades I need for my future goals.

If your company is unable to deliver the book within the next two days, I would like a full refund including the delivery costs.

I hope to hear from you on receipt of this letter as this situation must be urgently resolved.

Yours faithfully,
Sam Smith

(Words: 173)


  1. Title – IELTS will tell you what title to use in their instructions.
  2. Clear concise opening line.
  3. BP1 – lots of detail about the order
    1. Date of order
    2. Name of book
    3. Order number
    4. Delivery date given
    5. How long I have already waited
  4. BP2 – why the book is important – Make your case
    1. why that book was chosen
    2. why it is special
    3. what happens if you don’t get it
  5. BP3 – what you want to happen – be direct
    1. How long you are prepared to wait for it
    2. What you want to happen if this is not possible
    3. Remember, you have paid for something you didn’t get – keep the right tone for a complaint letter. You do not need to be submissive in requesting that you receive what you have paid for – you need to be direct and state clearly what you want to happen. You are in the right and they are in the wrong.
  6. Sign off appropriately. You do not need to use a title when you sign off, but you must use your full name.
  7. You do not need to write the word count. I have done this to show you the length. In the computer delivered IELTS test, the word count will be shown on the screen.


If you would like a list of useful tips for IELTS GT Letters, click on the following link:

Essential IELTS Letter Writing Tips

I hope you found this lesson useful 🙂

All the best


Answers to Sugar History Reading

Hi guys,

I’ve posted the answers to the reading lesson about A History of Sugar. You can find the answers posted on the original page. Click here: A History of Sugar Reading Exercise

All the best


Model Answer for Spendings Table

Hi guys,

I have posted the model answer with a list of tips for you on the original page. Click here:

All the best


IELTS Table: Spending on Items

A practice table for IELTS writing task 1, academic paper. This is a great table to help you practise organising information into paragraphs and to practise highlighting key features in an overview.

If you are taking GT IELTS, you will be given a letter for writing task 1. See this page:

Take your time to review the table below. You should spend at least 3 mins spotting key features and deciding how to organise information into body paragraphs. You should never spend more than 20 mins writing your report. Please remember this is a report and not an essay.

This table was not created by IELTS Liz. Sourced online.

Model Answer

Click below to reveal the model answer. Please try to write this task on your own before you check the answer.

Click here: Answer & Tips

Model Answer

The table illustrates the percentage of income that was spent on food, electronic equipment, music and videos by both adults and children, divided by gender, in the UK in 1998.

Overall, adults spent less of their whole income on the four items compared to children, who spent most of what money they had. The main item bought by adults was food, which accounted for a quarter of their salary, as opposed to videos (1%). Children spent most of their money on luxury items with music being the main expenditure (39%), whereas food accounted for the lowest of their expenses (10%).

In terms of adult expenditure, there was a significant difference between the money spent by men and women on both food (39% and 14% respectively) and electronic equipment (10% and 1%). Spending on music and videos was 5% or under for both genders.

Girls spent 2% more than boys on music (40%) and also on food (11%), while on videos boys spent 1% more (18%). The item with the biggest disparity between boys and girls was electronic equipment where boys used 18% of their income in contrast to girls who used only 5%.


  1. The introduction is a paraphrase of the information given with the categories listed.
  2. The overview is complete and full. This is the most important paragraph and the examiner will mark you strictly on it.
  3. The overview contains some data because they are totals. This is common with tables, but not common with other types of task 1.
  4. The body paragraphs are logically organised: BP1 = adults BP2 = children
  5. The body shows how detail can be grouped together to avoid too much detail. Too much detail is to be avoided. See the last sentence in BP1 to learn about grouping information together.
  6. The body also highlights differences and similarities in data.
  7. Comparisons are organised and logical without being confusing for the reader. Not all types of task 1 will have comparisons. They are used only when relevant.
  8. The first sentences of the body paragraphs show what is being written about “In terms of adult expenditure…” now we know the paragraph is about adults, not children.
  9. Paraphrasing is used “spend money on / money used / expenditure” and “salary/income/money” and “difference/disparity”.
  10. A range of linking words were used: overall, as opposed to, whereas, in terms of, in contrast to, while
  11. Information is not repeated. For this reason, there is no conclusion. Task 1 is a report, not an essay. The overview can be put at the end instead if you wish.
  12. Word count is around 193 words. You should not usually need to go over 200. Anyone who frequently writes over 200 words for task 1 is not using the right techniques and is putting in too much detail instead of grouping information appropriately.

The key to a good report is that information is easy to read and understand. Language is complex, but information is simply organised and presented so that the reader can follow easily it and grasp the content quickly.
For more free tips, see this page:


All the best


Answers to Procrastination Reading Lesson

Hi guys,

I’ve posted the answers back on the original page for you. Click here:

All the best


Answers for My University Listening Practice

Below are answers with tips for the practice listening lesson about My University. If you have not done this lesson, please click here: My University Listening,before looking at the answers.


  1. 19
    1. Some of you have difficult hearing the difference between 19 and 90. Try this lesson to improve your listening with these types of numbers: Numbers listening video
  2. 1879
    1. The listening recording says “Thomas Holloway founded the college in 1879.” The question was “The college was established in…” The word “established” is a synonym for “founded”.
    2. The preposition “in” in the question means you should listen for a date or a place. As you listen for the synonym keyword, you find it is a date.
  3. 8,000
    1. You do not need to use a comma in the number, but it helps the person marking if you do.
    2. The recording actually says “Today, Royal Holloway is a thriving co-educational community of some 8,000 students…”. The word “some” means “about”. You do not need to write it in your answer.
    1. The question is clearly asking for you to write an adjective “… feels like a peaceful, …… place …”.
    2. The audio says “…. like the campus is enjoying a peaceful, secluded existence right in the heart of the British countryside.”
    3. It is always best to write your answers using capital letters.
    4. The spelling must be correct or the answer will be marked wrong.
  5. 19 MILES
    1. The question asks for a distance “is located … from X”.
    2. The audio says “it is only 19 miles from the centre of London”.
    3. Always check if the question gives the word “miles”. If the word is given in the question, you do not repeat it in the answer.
    4. In this case, if you wrote only 19 without the word “miles”, your answer would be marked wrong.
    1. If you wrote “and” in your answer, it would be marked wrong. The word “and” was written in the question and you do not need to repeat it. This only applies when you are completing sentences as a task because the sentence must be grammatically correct once you have completed it.
    2. You must have “s” with the word “sciences”. If you didn’t write the “s”,  your answer would be marked wrong.
    3. You do not need to write a comma between the words. If you want to write a comma, you can. But it isn’t necessary. Punctuation is not needed in your answers for listening.
    4. Many people struggled with this question because they understand “social sciences”. Examples of social sciences are: anthropology, Geography, Sociology, Psychology, Linguistics, Law etc. Take a look online if you are unsure. This term usually applies to university subjects rather than school subjects.

I hope you enjoyed this listening lesson. I now recommend you go back to the original listening lesson and listen again to the video.

Did you like my university? I, personally, think it is a beautiful building. I actually lived for one year in the main castle building 🙂

All the best


Do I need an overview for an IELTS Diagram?

There is a simple answer to this question. YES!

For IELTS writing task 1 (academic paper), the overview is the most important paragraph. It is the paragraph that contains all the key features to help the reader grasp the main information contained in the diagram.

You need to look at the stages and summarise them into one statement (max two statements). It is important that the examiner finds your overview quickly and easily, so always start with “Overall, …”.

The overview is part of the marking criterion of Task Achievement. See below how it affects your score:

  • Band 5 = no clear overview
  • Band 6 = an overview is presented
  • Band 7 = a clear overview of main trends or stages

You can see how important this overview is. Even when you are given a diagram, you must give details of the main stages in your overview.

To see a model answer for a diagram and other useful tips for writing task 1 academic, click here:

For anyone taking the IELTS GT test, you will be asked to write a letter. Always follow the order of the prompts given. Each prompt will be one paragraph. Add more detail to each paragraph from your imagination to make the letter realistic. Make sure you understand who the letter is to and what the purpose of the letter is. This will help you decide your tone and style. See this page:

All the best


IELTS Essay Questions Jan & Feb 2019

Below is a list of IELTS essay questions reported 2019 (Jan & Feb). These essay questions are not prediction. They are essay questions that IELTS candidates reported in their tests. Topics are often repeated with essay questions reworded and with a different focus.

You should use these essay questions to prepare ideas for topics. Your aim is NOT to memorise an essay. You cannot use memorised sentences or paragraphs in your essay.

IELTS Essay Questions Jan & Feb 2019

  1. People sleep less than before in many countries. Why do people sleep less? What effect does it have on an individually and  on society?
  2. Some people think that government is wasting money on the arts, and that this money could be spent elsewhere. To what extent do you agree with this view?
  3. Many people try to look younger than their age. What are the reasons people do this. Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing?
  4. Some countries spend a lot of money to make bicycle usage easier. Why is this? Is this the best solution to traffic congestion?
  5. Plastic shopping bags contribute to the pollution of land and sea. Some people think they should be banned. Do you agree or disagree?
  6. Some people think that watching sport is a waste of leisure time. Do you agree or disagree?
  7. If a product is sold and people buy it, then advertising is not necessary and can be considered a kind of entertainment. Do you agree or disagree with this?
  8. Economic growth is the only way to end world poverty. However, some people says it leads to environment damage and should be stopped. To what extent do you agree?
  9. Eating too much sugar is harmful for our health. Some people think that it is government responsibility to limit people’s sugar consumption, while others think that it is an individual’s responsibility to limit the amount of sugar they eat. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  10. Nowadays, many people spend less and less time at home.
    What are the causes of this? What are the effects of this on individuals and on society.
  11. Some people believe that children should be given lessons on how to manage money in the school. Do you agree or disagree?
  12. Some people think that a good diet and exercise are not necessary for a health and long life. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  13. Some people say that schools do not do enough to teach young people about health. Do you agree or disagree?

  14. Some people believe that in order for a hobby to be enjoyable, it needs to be difficult in some way. Do you agree or disagree?
  15. Some people say that holding sport competitions can cause problems for the host country. Others disagree. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  16. Some people think that public libraries are no longer important, while others disagree. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  17. The government should make people take responsibility for their actions to the environment. To what extent do you agree?
  18. Some people think watching movies is a waste of time. Do you agree or disagree?
  19. Recently, it is common for people not to know their neighbours. What is the cause of this problem?  What can be done to solve this problem?
  20. Some people believe that the museums and historic sites should be open for free for children under 18. Do you agree or disagree?
  21. Some parents think that advertisements are misleading for children, while advertisers claim that they provide knowledge. Give your opinion.
  22. Films and games can be accessed at any time from mobile devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. Do the advantages of such developments outweigh the disadvantages?
  23. The gap between rich and poor is increasing. What problems does it cause? What solutions can you suggest?
  24. Some people prefer to buy local products, while others prefer international products. What is your opinion of this?
  25. Many people are choosing to find information online rather than in books. Is this development positive or negative?
  26. Some people say that children given pocket money every week will have fewer money problems when they become adults. Do you agree or disagree?
  27. Some people say that family is the most powerful influence in a child’s development. Other’s say that other factors such as ( television friends music etc. ) play a greater role today. Discuss both views and give your opinion
  28. Most people prefer ready to eat ready meals rather than homemade food these days. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
  29. For many people, the reason they work hard is to earn money. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  30. Many people believe that advertising can have negative effects on customers. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  31. Some young people are leaving the countryside to live in cities and towns, leaving only old people in countryside? What problems does this cause? What can be done to solve this problem?
  32. Some people think high-end technology can prevent and cut down the rate of committing crime. Do you agree or disagree?
  33. People should be responsible for the pollution problems caused by transportation, while others think the government should be held accountable. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.
  34. People doing different jobs enjoy different amount of holiday time. Should people have the same amount of holiday time? Give your opinion.
  35. Some people say students of different age groups in school should be put in same class.What is your opinion?
  36. Some people feel that teacher training courses can make anyone a teacher, while others feel an excellent teacher cannot be made by pursuing a course. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  37. Money should be spent on creating new public buildings, such as museums and town halls, rather than renovating existing ones. To what extend do you agree or disagree?
  38. Some people think the money spent in developing technology for space exploration is not justified. There are more beneficial ways to spend this money. To what extend do yo agree or disagree?
  39. Some people think that the best way to learn is from a newspaper. Others think that the best way to learn is through media.
    Discuss each views and your opinion.
  40. Some people said that with the help of parenting and child development courses parents can improve the life of children.
    To what extent do you agree or disagree?
  41. Today people are living longer so they should have to work longer. Do you agree or disagree?
  42. Many people think that we have to focus on the extinction of certain animal species, while others think that we should pay attention to the problem of human beings. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.
  43. Some people think that a high salary is important when choosing a company to work for, while others think that a good working atmosphere is more important. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  44. Lots of people are throwing away food. What are the reasons for this and how can food wastage be reduced?
  45. Sometimes people think that young people should be encouraged to leave their family at certain age, while others think that it’s better for them to remain with their families. What is your view?
  46. Employers should focus on personal qualities over qualifications and experience when choosing someone for a job. To what extent do you agree with this?
  47. An increasing number of people are buying what they need online. What are the advantages and disadvantages.

Topics Review

Below you will find the list of topics relating to the questions above. You can see that some topics appear more than once in the IELTS writing task 2 test. This means topics can be repeated, but the essay question is phrased differently. 

  1. People x 3
  2. Art
  3. Transport
  4. Buildings 
  5. Environment x 3
  6. Sport x 2
  7. Advertising x 2
  8. World Issues & Society x 3
  9. Food x 3
  10. Society x 3
  11. Health x 2
  12. Money & Business x 3
  13. Leisure Time x 2
  14. Reading & Books
  15. Media x 3
  16. Tourism 
  17. Technology x 2
  18. Work x 5
  19. Crime
  20. Education x 2
  21. Space 
  22. Family x 2
  23. Animals

If you want to learn exactly how to write an IELTS essay, please get my Advanced Writing Task 2 Lessons. They are aimed at achieving an higher band score and explaining what the IELTS requirements are. 

Click here:

All the best



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