IELTS Letter Topics 2020 Archive

IELTS Letter Topics 2020 Archive

Hey! The following IELTS general training task one questions were reported to have appeared in the real exam this year. I have edited the tasks to be as close as possible to the real questions. However, I want to make it very clear that these are only reproductions.

It is highly unlikely that you will get one of these questions in your exam and even if you do, you should check the bullets as they may differ form those here. Use my IELTS letter topics 2020 archive as an extra source of practice, but stick to the Cambridge books for any work that you wish to be assessed by our marking service.

IELTS Letter Topics 2020: Informal Letters

I was surprised at the range of informal letters in 2020. The informal letters in the Cambridge Books often focus only on writing to a friend for help finding a job. However, there were a far wider range of questions last year than usual and some topics that I had never seen before!

A woman stands in front of a whiteboard next to a set of traffic lights that are used as a metaphor to show how IELTS essays are organised
Did you know that EVERY IELTS letter can be organised in the same way? Click here to find out how!

Also, notice how two questions have almost the same initial instructions (your friend is visiting your town) but the bullets are very different. This is why it is important to read the bullets carefully!

Last month, you travelled to another city. You told a friend who lives in the city that you would meet them, but you did not. Write a letter to this friend. In your letter


  • apologise for not meeting him/her
  • explain why you did not contact him/her earlier
  • suggest a time and place to meet in the future

Your friend is about to move into a new house. Write a letter to this friend. In your letter


  • offer to help him/her to move
  • explain how exactly you can help
  • ask him/her some questions about the new house

You are getting married later this year. You want to invite your friend to the wedding. Write a letter to this friend. In your letter


  • tell your friend that you are getting married
  • tell them when and where the wedding will take place
  • ask them to help you prepare for the wedding in some way

You are starting a new business and need to build a website. You have a friend who works for an IT company who you want to help you. Write a letter to this friend. In your letter


  • describe your new business 
  • ask your friend to help you build the website
  • say how you will thank your friend for his/her help

You recently borrowed something from a friend. Unfortunately, the item has become damaged. Write a letter to this friend. In your letter


  • remind your friend that you borrowed something from him/her
  • explain how the item became damaged
  • suggest how you can resolve the issue of the damaged item

An English-speaking friend has written to ask you for help in arranging accommodation in your town / city when they visit next month. Write a letter to this friend. In your letter


  • give details of some accommodation you think is suitable for him/her
  • suggest what your friend should bring with them
  • recommend some places for him/her to visit on the trip

An English-speaking friend would like to visit your town / city and has written to you to ask for some advice. Write a letter to this friend. In your letter


  • say when the best time to visit your town/city is
  • tell your friend what the most interesting places are
  • suggest where they can find cheap accommodation

Want to listen to two former examiners explain how you can make sure you fully address prompts that ask you to write a Formal and Semi-formal letter? You can! Just click on the player below:

IELTS Letter Topics 2020: Semi-formal Letters

2020 saw the usual range of recipients of semi-formal letters (neighbours, colleagues and bosses) but there were also some interesting questions such a the one about writing to a community college. If you don’t know what the difference is between a “formal” and “semi-formal” letter, then I strongly recommend that you watch my free video lesson, which clearly explains how the formality of your letter will affect the tone.

Three sets of clothes sit on a yellow background. A suit to illustrate formal letters, jeans and a t-shirt to present informal letters, and a suit jacket and jeans to represent semi-formal
Learn the difference in this video lesson!

Writing a mixed tone letter is one of the most common errors that I saw as an examiner and will also result in a very low Task Achievement score.

You drive to work, but have recently had a problem parking your car at the office.

Write a letter to your manager. In your letter


  • describe the problem with the parking
  • explain how this is affecting you
  • suggest what should be done about the problem

You have been invited to give a talk at a local community college in America about your home country. Write a letter to the secretary of the college. In your letter


  • accept the invitation and offer a possible date for the talk
  • summarise what information you will include in the talk
  • say what equipment you will need the college to arrange for you to give the talk

You work for an international company and need to take some time off work to celebrate a family event. Write a letter to your manager. In your letter


  • give details of the family event and why it is important you attend
  • say how much time you will need away from the office
  • suggest how your work could be covered while you are away

A neighbour recently invited you to a special party. You intended to go, but at the last minute were unable to attend. Write a letter to your neighbour. In your letter


  • apologise for not going to the party
  • explain why you didn’t go
  • suggest a way to make up for missing the party

You recently gave a successful presentation at work. You borrowed a book from a colleague, which helped prepare for the presentation. Write a letter to your colleague. In your letter


  • say what the presentation was about
  • explain why the presentation was important
  • describe how the book helped you prepare for the presentation

You recently completed a course. You borrowed a book from your teacher while on the course but were unable to return it to him/her before the course ended. You would like to return the book now. Write a letter to your teacher. In your letter


  • say what the book was and explain why it was helpful for you
  • explain why you didn’t return the book before the end of the course
  • suggest a way that you can return the book

IELTS Letter Topics 2020: Formal Letters

When I think of classic IELTS formal letters, I think of letters of complaint and letters of enquiry (i.e. those where you are writing to ask for information). Last year, though, some questions asked you to recognise good service – this is not a topic I have seen very often, so it is definitely one that I recommend you practice before you sit your test in 2021.

You recently visited a local restaurant with your family and had a very good meal. Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. In your letter


  • explain where the restaurant is
  • describe what you ate in the restaurant
  • say why you would recommend the restaurant to others

You read in a newspaper that a company is going to renovate some school buildings in your local area that are in a poor condition. You would like to offer your help. Write a letter to the charity paying for the renovation. In your letter


  • explain why you want to help with the renovations
  • suggest what you can do to help
  • say when you are available to start work

You live close to a restaurant and have recently been disturbed by the noise coming from the restaurant in the evenings. Write a letter to owner of the restaurant. In your letter


  • explain why you find the noise disturbing
  • suggest a way to solve the problem
  • explain what you will do if the problem is not solved

You have recently accepted a job in an English-speaking country. When you move to the new country, your children will need to attend school. Write a letter to the headteacher of your children’s new school. In your letter


  • explain that you are moving from another country
  • describe your children and their educational needs
  • ask for some information about the school

You recently went on a trip and thought that the tour guide was particularly helpful. Now you would like to show him/ her your appreciation. Write a letter to the manager of the tour company. In your letter


  • describe the tour
  • explain why you liked the tour guide
  • say what you would like the manager to do to reward the tour guide

You recently travelled by plane. While you were at the airport, a member of staff helped you with a problem, and now you would like to show him/her your appreciation. Write a letter to the manager of the airport. In your letter


  • explain what the problem was
  • say how the member of staff helped you
  • say what you would like the manager to do to reward the member of staff

I hope that you find these questions useful. Remember that I teach how to answer every question in my 12-hour General Training Task 1 course. It explains how to approach each type of letter and includes useful language structures to help make your letters sound 100% natural (which really is the key to a high score).

Learn how to tackle every type of IELTS letter in my 12-hour video course

Plus, the lessons are based on my experience as an examiner with IDP, and are really FUN so you will be motivated to learn! Just click here to watch the first three lessons for free, and start your journey to a high IELTS score 🚀

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