IETLS Writing Task 1- Letter of complaint

IETLS Writing Task 1- Letter of complaint

Part of your IELTS writing exam, if you are sitting for general, involves writing a formal or informal letter. This article covers:

  • essential information about the exam
  • what a formal letter is
  • explaining the IELTS complaint letter task
  • exam tips
  • common phrases for this task
  • IELTS sample question
  • Model response
  • Practice questions

Essential information about Task 1 letter writing:

  • With the task 1 (general paper), candidates are asked to respond to a given problem with a letter requesting information or explaining a situation.
  • You are expected to write about 150 words in 20 minutes
  • You have to address the points given as these are scored under Task Achievement
  • Each point doesn't have to be equally explored but all must be addressed
  • Write your letter in the same order as the bullet points

The components of a formal letter:

  • Tone and register are crucial- this depends on who you are writing to, if for example you are writing to a friend instead of the owner of a company, your language would differ between the two
  • Address the problem and don't deviate
  • You will need to use proper salutations such as 'kind regards, sincerely, best wishes', and the right mode of address 'dear sir/madame'
  • You will need to use a good level of vocabulary and grammatical structures like collocations
  • You will need a mix of sentence structures with simple, compound and complex sentence structures

The complaint letter:

In this post I will be showing you how to write a complaint letter. This is a common letter type in the IELTS exam.

See my IELTS homepage for other articles explaining and showing you how to answer the other informal letter types.

A complaint letter falls into the formal category because of its very nature. If you are making a complaint, there needs to be a level of formality so that the issue can be taken seriously. Imagine trying to make a complaint but treating it casually, it's not likely to be taken seriously. This is why a complaint letter needs formal language, so its reaction and response can be appropriately matched.

IELTS Task 1 exam tip:

  • When you are given a question, try and imagine the situation. What would be reasonable and likely to come up? These should form your main ideas.
  • Underline the key words in the question to help focus on the ideas within the question.
  • Plan your letter in three paragraphs, with each paragraph addressing one of the points in the question. There isn't likely to be more than three points in the question.
  • Proofread your response to see how it aligns with the question. If there are missing parts then perhaps you haven't addressed all the points in the question.

Common phrases for complaint letter writing:

Reason for writing

  • I am writing to complain about
  • I am writing in regards to
  • I am writing to express dissatisfaction with
  • I am contacting you to express concern with

Introducing the complaint

  • My initial experience with your product was satisfactory but unfortunately this ceased to the case when using it for the second and times thereafter...
  • Our initial part of the trip went well, I am afraid to say this did not continue throughout our trip, and my family experienced discomfort and a lack of care from your colleagues...
  • We have been neighbours for ten years and have enjoyed living besides one another for this duration. I am however disappointed with recent events and the lack of regard for how loud your music is late into the evening...

You may notice here that before the complaint is introduced, there is a small fraction in which the person addresses something positive and makes an effort to create balance.


because it is a formal letter, and politeness is a factor. If you're unsure about this, consider how you would complain to a friend, you're not likely to be formal because of the relationship. Contrastingly, you make more of an effort with your manners with a stranger, especially when making a complaint- at least if you want the complaint to be taken seriously.

Negative consequences

  • It is with regret that
  • I am afraid to say that
  • Unfortunately
  • Despite

Requesting action

  • I suggest that you
  • I would like to request that
  • To resolve the problem, I request/ask that
  • I would be grateful if you could
  • If you were to
  • In order to resolve this issue

Ending the letter (different to signing off)

  • I look forward to hearing from you
  • I look forward to your reply and solutions in solving this problem
  • I look forward to receiving your explanation
  • I anticipate your response in due course
  • I kindly await your response and suggested solutions

Complain letter: Question sample

You recently took a trip with a taxi company. The driver behaved in an unacceptable way and you had a lot of problems. You complained to the company but no-one has replied to your complaint.

Write a letter to the taxi company. In your letter

  • say why you are writing and how you feel
  • explain what happened
  • tell them what you would like them to do

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the poor service I have received from your taxi company. It was distressing to experience the quality of your service, and the stress that has ensued with my subsequent complaint.

A week from last Monday, (12th September), I took one of your taxis to go to an important business meeting. I had booked well-ahead of time to avoid any potential problems. Although the driver said he had been to the address before, we ended up at the wrong address. Not only this, but he seemed to take a longer, and quite obscure route. Consequently, I was very late for my appointment and had to then bear the brunt of this from my clients, and my employer.

When I complained about his mistake, the driver became irate and shouted at me. I refused to pay the fare because of how much of a disaster the journey had transpired to be. The driver's fury increased and he began to threaten me. It was at this point I felt unsafe and left the taxi. Not only was I shaken up from his behaviour, but my meeting had been sabotaged and I was highly stressed from this. Since then, I have not heard from your company at all and I have not received any letter of apology for the driver's behaviour. As a representative of your company, he should behave in a polite and civil manner; particularly because it was the driver's mistake.

I would like to receive a formal apology and advise that you train your staff to conduct their business in a polite manner to customers. I await an apology from your employee's behaviour towards me.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Jacobs

Practice questions:

Below are some sample questions for Task 1. Use these to practice writing Task 1.

  1. You bought a microwave but when you got home, you discovered it didn't work. You have called customer service but the matter has not been dealt with yet.

Write a letter to the company and in your letter;

  • introduce yourself
  • explain the problem
  • state what action you would like from the company

2. Your next-door neighbour often listens to loud music at night. Due to the loud music, you often struggle to sleep and experience frequent headaches.

Write a letter to your building manager. In your letter;

  • describe the situation
  • explain the problems its causing you
  • offer at least one solution

3. You used a city-bike for hire and docked it as instructed. When you checked the app, you were charged for an extra two hours though the bike had been docked.

Write a letter to the company and in your letter;

  • introduce yourself
  • explain the problem
  • state what action you would like from the problem

If you would like any of your practice letters marked, feel free to send them to the team at

We will read through your work and provide thorough feedback, and return this to you within 48 hours.

You can use the three listed above here, or any other IELTS writing task 1 samples you find.