IELTS Writing Task 1 – Writing a formal letter

In the IELTS Writing paper Task 1 you may be asked to write a formal letter to someone you do not know well. This means that your language should be more formal and polite (e.g. avoid contractions such as ‘I’d‘ or ‘can’t‘ and try to increase the use of modal verbs, like ‘could’ and ‘would’).

Have a look at this task, then check out our advice on how to answer the question and finally our sample answer.


You should spend no more than 20 minutes on this task.

You borrowed some books from your school or college library. Unfortunately, you have to go away to visit a sick relative and cannot return the books in time.

Write a letter to the library. Explain what has happened and tell them what you want to do about it.

You should write at least 150 words.

You DO NOT need to write your own address.

Begin your letter as follows: Dear………,

You should write at least 150 words.

Advice on how to complete this task

Before you write

First, work out if the letter should be formal, neutral or informal. In this case you are writing to the library so it will be a formal letter.

Make note of the things you have to mention in the letter and decide what you want the library to do.

Writing Plan

A formal letter should have a clear structure.

  • Opening: explain who you are and your purpose for writing
  • Body: provide the necessary information
  • Closing: make any action point clear – what do you want the reader to do?

Remember to open and close the letter appropriately.

If you know the name of the person you are writing to (e.g. John Smith) then begin with Dear Mr Smith and end the letter with Yours sincerely.

If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to then open the letter with Dear Sir/Madam and end the letter with Yours faithfully.

You do not have to use your real name or information in the answer. You are free to choose any personal information you wish.

Sample answer

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Alan West and I am a student at the University of London. My student ID is 584337. I recently borrowed two books from the library, Introduction to Economics and Economics 101. I am writing to inform you that, unfortunately, I will not be able to return them by the due date of 15th May.

I just received an email to say my grandmother is sick and I am planning to return home to visit her. I will be leaving later this afternoon and will be returning on 20th May.

Since I will not be able to return the books I would like to know if it is possible for the loan to be extended for one week. Can you change the due date to 22nd May? That way I can return the books without receiving a late fine.

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully,


(150 words)

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