When it comes to IELTS academic writing, it is quite possible that you could be asked to write a letter of complaint. Today, I’m going to show you a sample letter that is about writing to an English training school.

The Letter Prompt

For every IELTS letter, you will be given a prompt. This contains all the information you need in order to write your letter. Here is the one we shall use today:

You recently attended a series of English lessons in a language school. However, you were unhappy with the teaching quality.

Write a letter to the director of the school. In your letter:

  • explain why you chose to study English at the school
  • describe the problems you had with the lessons
  • suggest how the classes could be improved

The premise is quite simple:

  1. You have been a student at a language school.
  2. You were learning English there.
  3. The quality of teaching was not good enough.

Thus, you need to write a letter of complaint about this. The ideas in the bullet points are things that you need to incorporate into your letter. As you can see, they more or less prompt you to give details.

Note: You can mention some other things, but don’t write too much and try to stay on topic and don’t write anything inappropriate.

My guide to IELTS letters can be purchased here.

Preparing to Write your Letter

In order to answer this letter prompt, you need to know how to write a letter of complaint. I have a guide here.

First of all, you need to understand that this letter should be formal. That means you should use formal language and refer to the recipient respectfully. Even though you are complaining, you should still be polite. That means you should not use:

  • Slang
  • Contractions
  • Overly friendly language
  • Abbreviations
  • Informal greetings

In terms of the specific letter, you also need to make sure that your ideas are appropriate. That might seem obvious, but people sometimes forget what the topic really is. For example, they might forget the word “English” and then write about a maths school! It sounds silly, but it’s easy to make mistakes given the stress of an exam.

You also need to think about language, of course. Pick the right vocabulary and grammar. It should be appropriate to the topic and the level of formality. This specific letter is about education. You can thus use some words and phrases you know related to this topic.

Sample Band 9 Answer

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to complain about the quality of lessons that I experienced recently in your school, where I was enrolled from August 2020 to July 2021.

I chose to attend your training school because I had heard from several of my friends that it was an affordable and reputable establishment, and indeed in the beginning it seemed quite worthwhile. However, over the time I was a student there I witnessed standards sliding and eventually decided to leave because the teaching quality became so poor.

It seemed to me that you had struggled to maintain a talented pool of staff during the Covid pandemic and this was evident as, one by one, your best teachers left and were replaced by ones with poor skills. These new teachers were not good at lesson planning and some of them did not even speak English very well. They were often impatient, disorganised, and appeared reluctant to come to the classroom each day.

I hope that one day you are able to find better teachers to replace the ones you lost and regain your reputation as a high-quality language school. You have already lost several eager students and you will continue to lose more unless you adapt and improve.


David Wills

Notes on the Answer

This is a good essay for several reasons:

  1. It completely answers the prompt.
  2. The vocabulary and grammar are correct.
  3. The ideas are developed.
  4. Its paragraphs are logical.
  5. The tone is right.

Notice that I began “Dear Sir or Madam.” This is suitable for a formal situation where you don’t know the person you’re writing to. I’ve also signed off with “Sincerely” and my full name.

I have given realistic details, including dates. My complaints were sensible and clearly explained. It is not good enough to simply state something. You need to explain yourself, and you can include examples if necessary.

My language was appropriate. Notice the descriptive and topic-specific language I used:

  • enrolled
  • an affordable and reputable establishment
  • I witnessed standards sliding
  • struggled to maintain a talented pool of staff
  • this was evident
  • lesson planning
  • disorganised
  • regain your reputation

These words and phrases are great because they present clear ideas. They also fall into the misunderstood “uncommon vocabulary” category because they are indeed not common, but they are not the sort of random and obscure words that many think the examiners want to see.