Top Tips for IELTS

Band score 8.0 IELTS letter

How do you write a band score 8.0 IELTS letter ? This lesson is designed to give you a few tips. The main idea is to do the simple things really well and not to be too concerned about “showing off” and trying to use language that you may not get right. Here’s the major tip

letters are simple: use simple language accurately and don’t forget about coherence and cohesion

The letter question

You arranged to visit a friend in England but an important event at home now means that you must change the dates of the visit.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter

Explain the important event

Apologise for the situation

Suggest a new arrangement

The model letter

Dear Peter

It was a shame that we missed each other on Skype, so I decided to write a letter to you instead. There’s some good and bad news I need to tell you.

The good news is that my cousin Ravindra has finally managed to persuade Shilpa to marry him. As you know they’ve been going out together for over 5 years now and the family, especially Auntie Geetha, had begun to despair that they would ever tie the knot. I’m sure that you can imagine the celebrations being planned for the reception.

The bad news is that the the wedding is just when I was due to come and visit you in England. I do apologise for this but I’m sure that you’ll understand that I can’t miss my cousin’s big day.

I’d still love to visit you in England, if that’s still possible. It’s not just that I’m dying to see you again, but I’m also longing to see the dreaming spires of Oxford you’ve told me about so often. Would some time in November suit you? If not, just let me know when is best for you.

All the best

Amy

Understand the question – Apologising to a friend about a visit

You arranged to visit a friend in England but an important event at home now means that you must change the dates of the visit.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter

Explain the important event

Apologise for the situation

Suggest a new arrangement

You should see immediately that there are 3 different points you need to cover in your letter. You should also think about these points in your answer:

Register – informal

You should see that this is a letter to  a  friend and this means you want some less formal language. Here are my tips:

avoid idioms unless you are 100% sure that you have then correct: idioms are tricky to get right and you will lose by using them wrongly

try everyday informal language such as common phrasal verbs: think of the language you speak – informal letters should read a bit like speech

The situation – vocabulary

The question allows you to choose your own situation. This is your chance to show off your language. Here are my tips:

choose a situation you know accurate/detailed language for: the language does not need to be complex, only appropriate – think detail – plan your vocabulary

Functions: explain, apologise and suggest

Almost all IELTS letter questions ask you to use functional language (i.e. refusing/accepting/apologising etc). Here you have three functions – explaining, apologising and suggesting. Here are my tips:

choose your function language carefully and make it appropriate to the formality: for example, you should know plenty of ways of saying sorry and should. Spend a little time thinking about which phrase is best for an informal letter to a friend –  examiners will notice details like this – this will help your task achievement/response score.

Coherence

Just like in essays, you want to think about how to plan your letter and make sure each paragraph links together to make a whole. My tips here are:

think carefully how you begin each paragraph and sentence: the beginnings of sentences and paragraphs are where we normally link out writing. Think about how you can do this. Avoid phrases like “moreover” – we simply don’t use them in letters.

See my notes for my band score 8.0 IELTS letter

You will find notes below, but as you read it try and notice how simple the language is. I don’t try and show off (much), I concentrate on getting the small things right:

Register

I keep it informal with language such as

good and bad news: too simple? Not really, this is the way we talk to friends and write to them too.

I’m sure that you’ll understand: Note how I use contractions throughout – small detail like this matter.

As you know: I address my friend Peter by using you. This is another feature of informal letters. i’m writing to him in the same way as I would speak to him.

 I’m dying to see you again/I’d love: There’s a few phrases like this in the letter. These are what I call weak idioms. This is the sort of language a band 8.0 candidate probably knows but forgets to use!

 just let me know when is best for you: Note the just and let me know – put together they are great, simple as they are.

Situation vocabulary

I don’t try and show off much here. We don’t use very strong idioms that much when we write. I just use simple language accurately. That is your goal. Try:

managed to persuade Shilpa to marry him: there are other idioms here (get hitched etc), but you don’t necessarily need them

they’ve been going out together: here’s a common phrasal verb used accurately and precisely

they would ever tie the knot: this is the one strong idiom I use. It’s not a bad idea to restrict yourself to one or two like these at most. use more and your letter will sound false. We simply don’t use them that much writing.

the reception: if you didn’t know, the reception is the special name we use for the party after a wedding

 the wedding is just when I was due: See – I’m showing that I know the difference between marriage and wedding. A simple thing done well.

Function language

I keep this simple too. When we write to friends we don’t need to apologise very strongly (normally) and we keep our suggestions informal too:

 I do apologise for this: the do here is very stylish – something a (good!) examiner should notice.

Would some time in November suit you?: note how I use a simple question form – just as I would when speaking to a friend.

Coherence and cohesion

I say it myself, but this is a wonderfully coherent letter. Here is how I managed it:

good news bad news: They’re in my introduction and I use them to start my main body paragraphs. Note that this is the same technique you should use in a well-written essay.

As you know they’ve been going out: here the they neatly links in with the Ravindra and Shilpa in the previous sentence. A simple thing done well.

 I do apologise for this: Again, the this is great for linking the ideas in two sentences together. Note how it comes right at the start of the sentence.

 If not, just let me know when is best for you:  See how that if not links with what same before and is at the start of a sentence.

Just count the times I use and and but. These are the connectors we use most in letters.

Practice writing the letter yourself

More model letters and advice can be found here

   

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3 Responses to Band score 8.0 IELTS letter

  1. Rohit April 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    Thanks for checking the letter and showing my mistakes.

    It looks like you have prepared this lesson specifically for me. I am sure many others will get an idea for how to jump on a higher band score like 8.0.

    Do you have any lesson just like the above you mentioned in Situation Vocabulary?

    Thanks again for this wonderful help!

  2. sanjaya July 12, 2016 at 5:02 pm #

    Is it correct using question marks in the letter as well as in the essays. I have been asked not to use questions marks. Please reply with the correct usage of the symbols.

    • Dominic Cole September 11, 2016 at 9:58 am #

      Yes. you should put question marks in letters if you have a direct question.

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