Structuring Your IELTS Letter (Part 1)

In IELTS General Training Writing Task 1, test takers are presented with a situation and asked to write a letter in a personal, semi-formal, or formal style. You may be asked to request for or give information and/or explain a situation. The situation is normally a common, everyday one that is easy to relate to.

A wide range of writing skills is assessed, including your ability to write an appropriate response, organise ideas and use a range of vocabulary and grammar accurately. In this blog series, you will learn about an easy way to structure your IELTS letter – the ODAC formula. The acronym stands for Opening, Details, Action, and Closing. 


It may be stating the obvious, but you should ideally begin by indicating the purpose of writing if it is a formal or semi-formal letter you have been asked to write. It might be a good idea to learn a few functional phrases that will help you do this. Here are a couple of examples:

  • I am writing with regard to
  • I am writing to let you know that

A personal letter, on the other hand, does not always need to have the purpose stated in the very first sentence. Instead, you could begin in a casual manner – for instance, express your feelings or ask about the recipient’s well-being – and then mention the reason for writing.  


Test takers are told what sort of information they must include in their response. This is usually presented in the form of three bullet points, which need to be covered sufficiently in order for your response to receive a high band score. Remember, a single bullet point may sometimes require you to do two things (e.g. explain where and when you left the item). Now that you’re aware of this possibility, do look out for the use of ‘and’ and plural forms. Leaving out any part of the bulleted list will automatically invite a penalty, lowering your score on the Task Achievement criterion. A good way of ensuring that you produce a fully developed response is to see that there is a paragraph written around each bullet point.   

Do read the next part in this series to know more about the rest of the ODAC formula.