Hi, I’m Justin. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you can learn how to answer task one of the IELTS general writing exam. In the general IELTS writing exam, task one involves writing a letter. Usually, you have to do three things in your letter. You have 20 minutes and you need to write at least 150 words. In this lesson, you’ll see how to plan and write an effective general task 1 IELTS answer. You’ll learn simple strategies you can use to write a better answer and improve your IELTS writing score.
Let’s start by looking at a sample question: Your neighbour has been making a lot of noise recently. This has been causing you problems, and you want to ask them to stop. Write a letter to your neighbour. In your letter: – ask for an explanation for the noise – explain the problems this has caused for you – say what will happen if the problem is not solved Pause the video if you want more time to look at the question. Let’s begin by looking at what you need to think about before you write. Planning for IELTS general task one answers is easier than for other IELTS writing tasks. All general task one questions have the same structure. This means that your answer can have the same structure every time.
The question asks you to do three things. Each point can go in its own paragraph. So, your answer will have three short paragraphs, like this: Then, you need a short introduction. For this question, you can just write a single sentence to explain why you’re writing, like this: I am writing to complain about the noise levels coming from your apartment in recent weeks. The introduction might be different in other tasks. For example, if you’re writing to a friend, you’d write something much simpler. There is one more thing you need to think about when planning: tone. When we say ‘tone’, we mean how formal or informal your letter should be. Task one of the general IELTS writing exam is the only place where tone is clearly mentioned in the scoring scheme.
You need to write in an appropriate tone, and your tone needs to be consistent. What tone do you think you need here? Should your letter be formal, neutral, or informal? Probably, your letter will be somewhere between neutral and formal. You’re writing to your neighbour, so you don’t need to be incredibly formal, but you’re also writing to complain, which adds formality. In our experience, one of the most common mistakes with task one answers is not getting the tone right. Either candidates choose an inappropriate level of formality, or they mix different levels in the same answer. Both of these mistakes will hurt your score. So, before you write anything, think about how formal your letter should be. Now, you have a plan; let’s write our first paragraph! Look at the beginning of a letter: Dear Emily, How’s it going? I’m actually writing because I have some issues with noise coming from your apartment. I would like to demand an explanation for the noise levels.
I mean, what on earth are you doing that’s so noisy? I can hardly have a conversation with someone sitting next to me, because it’s so loud. Please inform me what is occurring. Pause the video if you want more time to look at the answer. Think about whether this is good, or whether it needs some work. There’s a problem with this beginning. Do you know what it is? The problem is tone. As you heard before, it’s a common mistake to mix formal and informal language. Here, you can see very formal sentences, like: I would like to demand an explanation for the noise levels. You can also see more informal language, like: I mean, what on earth are you doing that’s so noisy? The start of the letter also mixes different levels of formality. Writing how’s it going? is a more informal way to start a letter or an email, but if you’re writing to complain, you would almost certainly need to use a more neutral or formal tone.
To get a high score in the general IELTS writing exam, you need to write in a consistent tone. If you want to practice, think about how you could improve the answer you saw before. You can pause the video, and start again when you’re ready. Let’s see how you could improve this answer: Pause the video if you need more time to read. You can see that we’ve got rid of some of the more informal language, like how’s it going? This is also better because it’s consistent without being too formal.
Our original answer included very formal language, like Please inform me what is occurring. You don’t get more points for being more formal; you get a high score by writing in an appropriate and consistent tone. Next, let’s continue by thinking about use of language in your answer. Task one of the general IELTS writing exam is the simplest of all the IELTS writing tasks. This is an advantage, but it also means you need to think carefully about using a wide range of language. Let’s look at this by adding another paragraph to our model answer: This situation is having a bad effect on my entire family. I have been unable to sleep, because of the loud noises even late at night. My son complains that he cannot do his homework. Even our dog has been behaving oddly; she is not eating well and has no energy. This is a good paragraph, and the use of language is already good. However, to get higher scores, you would need to use a wider range of language.
Let’s do two things here. First, look at the five underlined words and phrases. Can you change these words and phrases to make them more detailed and more specific? Think about it—you’ll see some possible answers in a minute. Your second job is to take two sentences and combine them into a more complex sentence. There’s more than one way you could do this, so find an idea which makes sense to you. Think about your answers now. Pause the video if you need more time. Ready? Let’s look: You can see that you don’t need to make big changes. A lot of students think that you need to use a lot of very academic language to get high scores in IELTS. You don’t. To get high scores—even band 9—you need to use a range of language with flexibility and precision. That might include academic language in some cases, but for a letter, that wouldn’t be appropriate. Collocations are very important for your IELTS vocabulary score.
Using collocations like sleep properly, noise levels, lose your appetite, or focus on your homework will boost your vocabulary score. For grammar, we simply connected two sentences with the conjunction while. This adds variety to the sentence structures, which will also help your score. At this point, you need to write one more paragraph. Here, you’re going to see how you can connect your ideas more effectively. There’s a common problem we see with IELTS writing in our students. Students often plan each paragraph separately. Then, they write each paragraph as a separate unit, and the paragraphs don’t have much connection to each other. This will hurt your score; 25 per cent of your score is for coherence and cohesion.
To get a higher score for coherence and cohesion, your writing needs to have a clear progression. That means it needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Let’s look at a final paragraph which doesn’t handle this well: I must ask you to reduce the amount of noise you make, and try to keep quiet during the evening when we are at home. If you continue making noise at these levels, I will have no choice but to make a noise complaint to the police and/or to the city council. Regards, Samira Pause the video if you want more time to read the paragraph.
This is not bad, but it doesn’t include any links or references to the other points you’ve made in the letter. It also lacks a concluding phrase, which could provide a strong, clear end to your letter. Let’s see how you could improve this: Can you see what’s changed? Pause the video to read. There are four changes. First, we made a reference to the first paragraph, then we added a reference to the second paragraph. We also avoided repetition by adding a reference to ‘this situation’, instead of talking about noise levels again. Finally, we added a concluding phrase. And you’ve finished! Practice these steps and ideas and you should be able to get a high score in task one of the general IELTS exam.
Here’s a question for you: what do you find most difficult in task one of the general IELTS writing exam? Please let us know in the comments. You can see the full text of the model answer on our website: Oxford Online English dot com. Look for a link in the video description if you’re watching on YouTube. Thanks for watching! See you next time! .
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