Writing Task 1 General Training Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

We have already looked at how to write a letter giving suggestions and making a complaint. In this free lesson we are going to study how to approach a letter in which you have to make a request.

Here is an IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 prompt (instruction):

You stayed at your friend’s house when you participated in a conference in a different city. You left a file with important documents in your friend’s house. Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:
  • Thank your friend for letting you stay
  • Explain that you left an important file and where it can be found
  • Request that your friend to return it

 
Begin your letter as follows: ‘Dear……,

​Before you write anything you need to break the question down and plan your response. In the test this should take you around 5 minutes. The more time you spend planning the better you will write.

Understand the Prompt

It’s very important we understand what the task is asking us. Check with the questions below.

Choose an answer for each question or statement below

1. What is the function of the letter you must write?
A) Thanking your friend for letting you stay.
B) Discussing the content of the file.
C) Requesting your friend returns the file.
2. You MUST describe what the documents in the file are.
A) Yes
B) No
C) Maybe
3. How formal should the letter be?
A) Informal
B) Semi-formal
C) Formal
4. How many paragraphs should the letter have?
A) One body paragraph containing all three points in the prompt.
B) Two body paragraphs. The first paragraph includes two points from the prompt.
C) Three body paragraphs. Each paragraph about one point from the prompt.


Think of Details

​If you were going to write this letter, what details would you have to invent? Think about these questions first then open the boxes to see our hints. 
1. Who would you write the letter to?

​The prompt tells you to start ‘Dear……,’. You must think of the name of your friend. 
2. Where in the house did you leave the file?

​In the room you stayed in? under the sofa? Behind the toilet? (the last option is probably not appropriate!)
3. How should the friend return your file?

By post? By courier? Should your friend bring it to you next time they come to visit?
4. If it costs money to get the file back to you, how will you reimburse your friend?

​By bank transfer? Give cash next time you meet?


Think about the Tone

​Tone, or the level of formality, is very important in letter writing as it effects the grammar and words which you can use. Can you answer the questions below?
1. How formal should this letter be? What clues are there in a prompt?

This letter should be informal because the prompt asks you to write to a friend.
2. How will you start and finish your letter?

​Now we know the letter is informal, how will this affect the salutation and sign off?
 
The salutation should be ‘Dear + first name’. For example, ‘Dear Sally,’. Don’t use Mr. or Mrs. with a family name as this is much too formal.
 
To end the letter, you could use one of these informal sign off expressions – regards, my warmest regards, take care or​ see you soon.
3. Should you use contractions (shortened words/phrases)?

The letter is informal so contractions such as shouldn’t or won’t are acceptable. Contractions may be used in informal writing but not in formal writing.


Timing in the Test

Organizing your time in the test is important. Remember that you have 20 minutes for this task, so we recommend:

5 minutes – analyze the prompt and plan your letter.
10 minutes – write your letter.
5 minutes – check for mistakes. Pay attention to spelling ad grammar


​Our Example Letter

Below is our response to the general writing task. Unfortunately the sentences for each paragraph are in the wrong order! Can you arrange the sentences into the correct order?

Order the sentences in the paragraphs

Paragraph 1
Dear Silvia,
1. It was lovely to spend some quality time with you after so long and I got a great night’s sleep before my presentation at the conference.
2. Thank you so much for letting me stay with you last weekend.

First sentence:

Second sentence:

Paragraph 2
1. I am concerned that my manager will be angry if he finds out the documents have gone missing.
2. Unfortunately, I left a file containing lots of important documents in the room I slept in.
3. I think it may have fallen between the side of the bed and the bedside table.
4. I don’t want any problems at work, so would you please be able to return the file to me as soon as possible.

First sentence:

Second sentence:
Third sentence:
Fourth sentence:

Paragraph 3
1. Let me know how much it costs and I will transfer the money to you straight away.
2. Please send it next day delivery and make sure it is recorded delivery as well, just in case there are any problems.
3. I think the best way to return the file is to send it with a courier company such as DHL.

First sentence:

Second sentence:
Third sentence:

Thank you for your help.

See you again soon,

Tom


So the complete letter looks like…

​Dear Silvia,

Thank you so much for letting me stay with you last weekend. It was lovely to spend some quality time with you after so long and I got a great night’s sleep before my presentation at the conference. 

Unfortunately, I left a file containing lots of important documents in the room I slept in. I think it may have fallen between the side of the bed and the bedside table. I am concerned that my manager will be angry if he finds out the documents have gone missing. I don’t want any problems at work, so would you please be able to return the file to me as soon as possible.

I think the best way to return the file is to send it with a courier company such as DHL. Please send it next day delivery and make sure it is recorded delivery as well, just in case there are any problems. Let me know how much it costs and I will transfer the money to you straight away.

Thank you for your help.
See you again soon,
Tom


Final Writing Exercise

​Complete the following GT task 1 and post it in the comments section below to get some free feedback from Sam and Tom
You would like to stay at a friend’s house for a short time as you are visiting his/her city and don’t want to stay in a hotel. Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:
 
  • Request to stay at your friend’s house
  • Explain why you would like to stay
  • offer your friend some kind of remuneration for letting you stay.

 
Begin your letter as follows: ‘Dear……,

We hope you enjoyed this lesson, thanks for joining us!

To learn more, check out our Letter Writing | Functional Language lesson.

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