I run an IELTS writing correction service and so I regularly help IELTS candidates by marking their essays and letters. Recently, one of them asked me a question: “how many types of writing task 1 in IELTS?” I decided to write this short article in case others had the same question.

In order to answer properly, I will break it into the two different types of IELTS writing exam: academic and general.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Let’s start with IELTS academic. Here, you are asked to describe a kind of visual data. There are 6 or 7 kinds of data that you could be asked to write about:

As you can see, I have listed 7 kinds of visual data that you may be asked to describe in IELTS writing task 1. Actually, the seventh one listed is a combination of the others, so this might not exactly count, depending on how you interpret it.

Anyway, there are at least 6 types and I have listed them in approximately the order or frequency with which they occur (according to reports from IELTS candidates). Line graphs are the most common type and maps are the least common. I put the “mix” type last, but it probably comes in the middle somewhere.

IELTS General Writing Task 1

In IELTS general writing, you must write a letter in response to a prompt. This is a bit harder to classify because these don’t always fit neatly into categories. In my recent book, How to Write Letters for IELTS, I explored various types of prompt and divided them in two ways.

From my book.

The first way to look at them is tone:

The other is related to what the letter requires you to write about, and this is harder to classify, but here are 12 common types:

  • Thank-you letters
  • Letters of apology
  • Letters of complaint
  • Invitation letters
  • Providing feedback/suggestions
  • Giving advice
  • Requesting more information
  • Resigning or leaving a job/position
  • Dealing with landlords
  • Request for help (asking for or responding to)
  • Giving a recommendation
  • Basic legal matters

That is a long list and honestly it is hard to classify some of these. There are definitely cases where you might need to do a mixture of the above things, such as thanking someone and then giving them advice, or complaining and then giving a recommendation.

Thus, it is impossible to say how many types of task 1 question there are for the general writing test, but the basic answer is… a lot! Just be prepared to respond directly and use the correct tone.