Last week, one of the students on my IELTS writing correction service sent me a task 1 prompt that I found quite interesting. It is about leaving a part-time course due to having a full-time job. When I wrote my own sample band 9 answer, I found that it was worth sharing with everyone, so I will post it here today.
This is a task 1 question from IELTS general writing. As such, it is an instruction about writing a letter. The instructions look like this:
You have a full-time job and are also doing a part-time evening course. You now find that you cannot continue the course.
Write a letter to the course tutor. In your letter
– describe the situation
– explain why you cannot continue at this time
– say what action you would like to take
Write at least 150 words
You can see that the task is not terribly difficult, except that there are a few challenges:
- You must use your imagination re: the job and the course
- Giving an overview of the situation may require in-depth description
- Talking about the action is hard because there is perhaps not much to say
How to Structure your Letter
To give a good answer, your letter must have a basic structure. This is more flexible than for a task 2 essay, which requires an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
For a letter, I usually try to have a short paragraph that introduces the issue and says why I am writing. Then I will have another one or two paragraphs addressing the main points, and finally there will be a paragraph that draws everything together. There may also be a very short paragraph at the end that wishes someone luck or something like that, but it depends on the context.
This is my structure for my sample letter below:
- Overview of purpose of letter (I am writing to inform you…)
- Describe situation
- Develop that further – more explanation and reasons
- Talk about the future
- Wish them the best
You can see that my structure basically corresponds to the instructions in the task. This is not always necessary and sometimes it is more sensible to use your own system than to follow the bullet points; however, in this case I felt that they proceeded logically.
An important part is my introduction. This tells the reader what the letter will be about. All the important information will be condensed into this, and it will be expanded upon later. This is an advanced writing technique.
Sample Band 9 Answer
Here is my answer.
Dear Mr. Carter,
I am writing to inform you of my intention to withdraw from your creative writing course. It is with great reluctance that I have made this choice, and I would like to explain why I must do it.
For the past year, I have been working long hours at my regular job as a copywriter. I began your creative writing course because I was bored with the dull tasks assigned to me by my boss and I hoped to gain the skills needed to move into writing fiction. Alas, although I have learned a lot on your course, I have no choice but to withdraw.
I had not anticipated just how difficult it would be to juggle a full-time job and a part-time course. I work from nine in the morning to six in the evening, and then I am in your classes from seven ‘til nine. This means that when I get home, I am utterly exhausted and unable to do any sort of writing, creative or otherwise. It is just not sustainable.
I hope that next year I may be able to enrol once again in your fascinating classes. I might be able to find a new job in the winter that would allow me to work shorter hours, giving me a better chance to appreciate your evening lessons. If so, I will sign up again next year.
Until then, I wish you all the best.
You can see that this essay is written in a quite formal tone, yet it is frank and honest. The division of information into short paragraphs is important, as I explained in a previous section.
I have given information about my situation but it’s important to note that I have not said things that the teacher would necessarily know. I have written it in such a way that the teacher can read and understand my perspective without being forced to read obvious things he already knows.
I have used my language very carefully. Perhaps it looks simple to you… but the important thing with language is accuracy and appropriacy. Look at this phrase:
It is with great reluctance that I ….
This is an excellent phrase for breaking bad news or telling something that they won’t want to hear. It is quite formal and so you could use it for official situations like this.
One of the most important things about this essay is that I have changed tenses and modal forms often where appropriate. What seems like simple writing is actually very advanced. Look at this:
I had not anticipated just how difficult it would be to juggle a full-time job and a part-time course. I work from nine in the morning to six in the evening, and then I am in your classes from seven ‘til nine.
It starts by looking into the past from a time in the past (past perfect tense) for explaining why I had taken this course, and then switches to present simple for my current work troubles. Compare that with:
I might be able to find a new job in the winter that would allow me to work shorter hours, giving me a better chance to appreciate your evening lessons. If so, I will sign up again next year.
Now you can see that I have picked careful language (I might, that would, if so, I will) that show my possible intentions for the future. They lack the certainty of previous paragraphs, where I was justifying my choices.