This is a quick lesson on task achievement and understanding IELTS letters questions. The idea is that there are certain points examiners will look for in your letters to see how well you have answered the question. These are:
To get these right you need to focus clearly on the question before you write.
How IELTS letter questions work
The questions look like this.
One of your colleagues is leaving for a new job, your manager has asked you to arrange a leaving party for him.
Write a letter to your manager and
Suggest a suitable day and time for the party
Recommend a place
Discuss about the food and entertainment options available
You should start your letter
The part in blue is an introductory statement that tells you what has happened and why you have decided to write a letter. Focusing on the spat is key to help you understand the purpose of the letter.
The part in red gives you the content of the letter – 3 points you must include
The part in green shows you how to start the letter and is a clue to how formal/informal it should be.
The 3 keys to task achievement in IELTS letters
This is more or less the same as for other parts of IELTS writing. There are certain points you need to cover in your answer. If you want to score well in task achievement it’s important to develop all the points.
Identifying the content from the question
This is quite easy to see as the question sets out the points you need to cover in separate bullet points.
If you look at this example you’ll see highlighted in red the three items you need to cover in your letter. You need to mention and develop all these three points.
You are planning to visit another country to get work experience. You would like a friend who lives in that country to help you find a suitable placement.
Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:
explain you are looking for work experience
say what type of work you are looking for
ask your friend to help find a position
Purpose is why you are writing the letter. Think about what has happened to make you write the letter, who you are writing to and what you hope to achieve.
Identifying purpose from the question
This can sometime be harder to see and is easier to get wrong. The purpose of the letter is a combination of the reason why you are writing (often some event) and what you hope to achieve as a result of the letter. To find the purpose of the letter you need to look in two places
- the introductory statement – where you are told what has happened
- the contents instructions – where you are told what to write
Look at the example below to see how this works.
In this example the purpose of the letter is to make a request to change course.You see this partly in the contents instructions but also in the introductory statement. The introductory statement will set out the reason why you are writing the letter. Here it is that you want to change course and you want to ask your tutor permission.
You are studying at university. You want to change the course you are on and ask your tutor if this possible.
Write a letter to your tutor. In your letter
ask permission to change course
explain why you want to change your course
say what new course you would like to study
This can be a tricky one to get right as it involves more use of language. The general idea is that the tone of the letter is a combination of how formal/informal your writing is and how friendly you are.
Identifying tone from the question
You find the tone of the letter by thinking about your relationship to the person you’re writing to. In general terms, the closer the relationship the less formal the letter. It looks something like this
a friend = less formal
someone you don’t know well = more formal
someone in a position of power = more formal
You should also note how you start the letter. The instructions tell you how to start
Dear Sir or Madam = more formal
Dear = a more personal letter that may be less formal
In this example you are going to want a more formal tone. You are writing to someone you don’t know well and who is in a senior position. You should also note that the instructions tell you to start “Dear Sir or Madam”.
You have just returned from holiday. You are unhappy with the quality of the hotel you stayed in and want to complain to the travel agency that arranged the holiday.
Write a letter to the manager of the travel agency. In your letter
say where stayed
state why the hotel was inadequate
say what you would like the travel agency to do
Begin your letter
Dear Sir of Madam