Online IELTS classroom 10.7

Letter writing exercise

We’ve just done some lessons using an academic task, so let’s move on to a general IELTS task. To make the next few lessons useful for both general and academic students, we’ll be working on writing skills as well as exam technique.

The task

Here’s the task that we’ll use. It comes from Cambridge IELTS 14 (the General Training version).

Begin your letter as follows: Dear Sir or Madam,

Writing skills

Let’s think about the writing skills that we can practise as we do this task:

  1. As usual, we will aim to write in a clear, coherent way.

  2. We must think about how we cover the requirements of the task (task achievement).

  3. We must organise our answer, with logical paragraphing.

  4. We will need to express relevant ideas using good vocabulary and paraphrasing.

  5. We must extend or develop these ideas.

  6. And of course, we’ll aim for a high level of accuracy and precision.

Make your purpose clear

When writing a letter or an email, or when giving a talk or presentation in English, it’s always a good idea to begin by making your purpose clear. Tell the reader or listener what you are aiming to do.

I’m going to write this part of the letter, so that we can quickly move to our first main paragraph. Here’s how I would begin:


Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing with regard to the advertisement that you placed in ‘Australian Life’ magazine for a live-in childminder.


Quick analysis:

  • First, we know that this is going to be a formal letter because we are told to begin it with “Dear Sir or Madam”. This is why I used the formal phrase “I am writing with regard to”. An informal version would be “I’m writing to you about”.

  • I’ve used a good verb-noun collocation: to place an advertisement.

  • I invented the name of the magazine ‘Australian Life’.

  • I used paraphrasing at the end of my sentence:
    - someone to live with a family = a live-in… (“live-in” is an adjective)
    - look after their child = childminder

The first paragraph

We’re going to write a separate paragraph for each of the bullet points that the task gives us. We’ll write two sentences per paragraph, giving us six sentences in total.

‘Sentence pairs’

We’ve done this exercise before, and it’s a great way to improve your writing skills. Just to remind you, here’s the method that we’ll use when writing our two-sentence paragraphs:

  1. Introduce an idea in the first sentence.

  2. Extend that idea in the second sentence, but explaining it in detail or by giving an example.

So, for the first bullet point, we need to:

  1. say why we want the job

  2. explain in more detail

Note: Another approach would be to give two reasons why we want the job. However, we’re not going to write the paragraph in this way. We’re going to practise extending one idea.


Write your two-sentence paragraph for the first bullet point using the ‘sentence pairs’ method above.