IELTS Writing: General vs Academic test

ieltslettersA guide to general and academic writing in IELTS.

Updated: Oct 1st 2021

In this post I want to look at the main differences between IELTS general training and IELTS academic training for the writing part of the exam. Writing task 2 is the same,  but for writing task 1 it is very different.

What are the main differences?

You will have 60 minutes in total to write for task 1 and task 2, which is the same for both the general training and academic training. Writing task 2 is the same for the general training and academic training, an essay of 250 words or over.

The essay topics in writing task 2 are slightly easier for the general training. However, there is a big difference in writing task 1 for the general and academic training.

For academic training, in writing task 1 you need to write a report based on just one of the following:

  • a bar graph
  • a pie chart
  • a line graph
  • a map
  • a process diagram
  • a table

For general training, in writing task 1 you need to write a letter on one of the following:

  • a letter to a friend
  • a letter to your boss
  • a letter to a company
  • a letter of application
  • a letter of complaint
  • a letter to a teacher
  • a letter of apology

The above letters could be about complaints, arrangements, making an invitation, explaining something, an apology, a newsletter style, a resignation letter , a request for information or a letter to an ex teacher or professor.

There are 3 types of letter in the general writing task 1 exam.

  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Semi formal

However, don’t worry too much about the semi formal style. Just stick to either formal or informal. The semi formal style is a letter to a friend but the situation could be about a work setting or a business setting. In my opinion, if you are writing to a friend it can always be informal, this is a much simpler approach.

What is the format for Writing task 1 general?

You will always be presented with a situation and 3 points to write about. You must write about the 3 points in the letter. Failure to write about these points will lose you marks and can lower your band score.

Key things to consider:

  • Do not write an address on the letter
  • Write over 150 words
  • Be careful of spelling and punctuation
  • Be sure to read the instructions so you know which style to use.
  • Spend a few minutes planning your letter
  • If the letter is to ‘a friend’ it will always be informal
  • Write about 45 to 55 words for each of the points.

Here are 2 Examples , the first one has to be written in an informal style, the second one will need to be formal.

ielts general writing task

What structure should I use?

It is very important to structure the letter with paragraphs. Do not write one big central paragraph or you will lose marks. Here is a common 7 step structure to use for most letters.

ielts general letter structure

What about the grammar and the technique for writing a formal or informal letter?

Click here for a lesson on writing an informal letter in IELTS general, there is an analysis and model answer included.

Click here for a lesson on writing a formal letter in IELTS general, analysis and model answer included.

If you need further help or need writing corrections, take a look at our writing correction service here.

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