IELTS Letter

If you are familiar with IELTS, then you know that in IELTS general writing task 1, you need to write a letter. This task presents various challenges, but the first thing you should know is that you must write at least 150 words and that you should do this in approximately 20 minutes.

In this article, I will explain some of the finer details and why you should think carefully about how many words you intend to write.

IELTS Task 1 Letter Length

It is stated in the IELTS exam and also on information disseminated by the IELTS organisers that you must write at least 150 words for IELTS general writing task 1. This part of the test asks you to produce a letter, which should be written according to the information provided in the question prompt.

IELTS writing correction

But how many words should you aim to write in your letter? Well, certainly you must not write less than 150 words. This is because letters that are too short will not fulfil all the criteria required in the question prompt. Thus, you would surely lose marks for writing a very short letter.

You should instead aim to write more than 150 words, with a target range of perhaps 160-190 words. This would allow you sufficient space to address all of the points given in the question prompt, developing your ideas logically.

You might be wondering why I have suggested an upper limit, as logically a letter of 200 or 300 words would contain more information and thus earn an even higher score, but actually it is more complicated than that.

If you wrote a letter that was, for example, 280 words long, there is a good chance that it would take you more than 20 minutes to write. If this happened, you would not have enough time to spend on task 2, which is worth more points. This could be disastrous because you would be unable to complete that second essay.

In addition, essays and letters that very long tend to be filled with more errors because the rate of mistakes to words written will always be the same. A letter that is 50% longer will most likely have 50% more errors in it, and each of these could count as a deduction against your final score.

As such, you should aim to write at least 150 words but not go too far and write an overly long letter. Also, don’t waste time counting your words. This can take up valuable minutes that would be better spent writing or planning or editing. Also, please note that your greeting and sign-off are both included in the overall word count.


What is the problem with writing IELTS letters that are too short?

  1. They will not show off your vocabulary.
  2. They will not include a proper greeting.
  3. They will not fully address the question.

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