General vs. Academic Writing: Task 1 Differences

General vs. Academic Writing: Task 1 Differences

The IELTS exam in its entirety has quite a few layers and it has the propensity to feel muddled when learning how the test works and what is required of you. This article clarifies any clouded understanding concerning the writing test between General and Academic for task 1.

This article explores the differences between Task 1 specifically, with model answers and check questions to ensure you feel as clear as possible on both questions after reading.

Make sure to read related articles on Academic Task 1 and Phrases for Letter Writing.

General Training writing

  • Task 1- informal letter, minimum of 150 words. Aim between 150-200.
  • Task 2- task response to a given prompt

Academic writing

  • Task 1- information transfer task of factual (data) content, minimum of 150 words. Aim between 150-200.
  • Task 2- task response to a given prompt

What is a General Training writing Task 1 example?

The GT writing exam task 1 are always some sort of letter. They are largely informal but range between informal, semi-informal and formal. Read what is in bold first and note down if it is I, S-I, or F.

As revision of these different styles, let's go over these letter types and ask ourselves what level of formality they are.

  1. A letter to your close friend discussing a recent trip you took- because you are writing to your close friend, this would suggest an informal letter.
  2. A letter of complaint to your local council regarding local litter- because you are writing to a position of authority and you do not know to whom exactly the letter is being sent to, this is a formal letter.
  3. A letter of resignation to your workplace- because you are stating your resignation to a professional body, this would require a formal letter.
  4. A letter to your friend inviting them to your holiday home for the summer- because you are writing to your friend this would be informal, however, as you are offering an invitation this creates a balance of informal and semi-formal.
  5. A letter requesting time off from work- because you are requesting something in this case time off, and you are trying to appeal to the reader, this is a formal letter.
  6. A letter of complaint to your next door neighbour- because you are writing to your neighbour this suggests a level of informality, but because you are making a complaint this ultimately results in a semi-informal letter.

The best thing to do when getting your question on exam day, is to ask yourself;

  • What's the purpose?
  • Who am I writing to?
  • How would you start and end the letter? (i.e. if you would start with 'Hey', or on a first name basis it is an informal letter, but if you would start with 'Dear Sir/Madam' it is a formal letter, and if it is 'Dear Mr Smith/Mrs Smith', it is semi-formal)

Let's use this task example for a model answer:

You have seen a job advertised in the newspaper. You want to apply for the job. Write a letter to the manager of the company. In your letter:

• provide information about yourself

• give details of your previous work experience

• say why the company should consider you for the job

*the good thing about this letter type is that you are likely to have written one yourself before. If you have physical or online copies of this, go back and have a look. Do you think you successfully wrote a formal letter? Is there anything you would change? Can you spot any errors?

Model response

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to apply for the position of Office Manager that was advertised in an online post on The Guardian on Monday 3rd June. I have five years of office experience and an additional three years experience in an administration capacity. I have recently moved from the outskirts of London to inner- London and I am looking for a chance to further develop my career and enhance my professional skill-set.

My previous experience includes five years with Venture-1 Company in their head office, and another three years at the main branch of Corporate Supplies Ltd, where I was responsible for the day-to-day activities related to financial planning, billing and record keeping. At Venture-1 Company, I was involved in personnel recruitment, as part of the human resources team, and I had overall responsibility for physical distribution. My Curriculum Vitae and application form are attached which contain further information on detail on my professional background.

One of my main strengths is flexibility and adaptability, and these are key assets in a rapidly changing work environment. I have excellent communication skills, and enjoy collaborative execution as part of a dynamic team. I have a strong work ethic and give my utmost to my colleagues, team and company as a whole. I am confident I would be an asset to your workplace. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours faithfully,



This response fits within the upper bands, likely to sit in an 8 or 9. The TR (task response) is fully addressed. Coherence and cohesion is strong as the ideas are well-connected and paragraphs are well-managed. The lexical range is developed as there is a wide range of vocabulary and appropriate word choice. The grammatical range and accuracy is maturely developed as the response is devoid of errors or slips.

Visit this link to familiarise yourself with writing assessment criteria task 2. I would print this if you can and have it visibly up in your personal space. Familiarising yourself well with the mark scheme is a wise choice as it means you are aware of what it is you exactly need to do.

What is an Academic writing Task 1 example?

Consumer spending on Travel

Model response

The bar chart outlines the top ten countries which procured the highest travel expenditure in 2014, and it also compares how much these countries spent on travel in the same year. The data was collected from UNWTO. Overall, China stood at the top of the list with the highest spending while contrastingly, Taiwan proclaimed the tenth position with the least spent.

As the diagram suggests, China spent almost 110 billion US dollar in 2014 for travel while the US and Germany with its nearly 85 billion spending, attained the second position in this list. The UK spent roughly 55 billion, less than half of China, for travel and the UK's spending for travel was more than double than that of Singapore. The travel spending by South Korea and Hong Kong reached the same numerical value, each spending 20 billion USD in 2014. India's spending was just over 15 billion while Malaysia and Taiwan stood at the bottom two positions with around 10-12 billion spending for the same.


The differences between Task 1 for the Academic test and the General Training test are distinctly different. The GT test involves letter writing, and the Academic test involves summarising visual data. Both tests are 20 minutes long and require a minimum of 150 words. Be careful not to leap too far over this as the word count is there for a reason; it is part of the challenge. Whilst not writing under the word count is also important. Strike a healthy balance.

Read the sibling articles for Task 2, and individual articles on Task 1 for both papers that cover a multitude of examples and model responses.

Thank you for reading. Please don't hesitate to get in touch for any one-to-one help with your IELTS preparation.