Informal letter

You may be asked to write an informal letter to a friend or family member.  Often the question will ask you to describe or explain something or may ask your opinion about a suggestion of plan.  The actual question will give you some ideas and will tell you what you should include in your letter. Make sure you address all points in the question.

Remember, it is important to show you can write in an informal style.

Example of opening:

Hi Sue,


Dear Mum,

Example of ending:



Your lovely daughter,

Tips for Top Learners

  • Try to keep to the required number of words!
  • Make sure you follow all instructions carefully
  • In the Core syllabus, aim for around 135 words
  • In the Extended syllabus, aim for around 185 words

Using lots of adjectives and adverbs

When writing, remember to answer the question. To improve your writing you should use your imagination as much as possible. You can do this by using more adjectives and adverbs

For example:

We had a holiday and the hotel was good.

This can be improved as in the sentence below:

We had a fantastic holiday and the beautiful, comfortable room was excellent.


In the Extended exam you will be awarded up to 9 marks for the content of your writing, which is how relevant your writing is and how you have developed your ideas, and 9 marks for the language, which will be the style and grammatical accuracy.

In the Core exam you will be awarded up to 5 marks for the content of your writing and 5 marks for the language you use.

Formal letter

Remember these points when writing a formal letter in this exam:

  • You don’t need to write the address or date, unless you have been specifically asked to.
  • A formal letter is the type you write to someone you have never met before, or a business letter or to someone you have no personal relationship with.
  • When you begin a formal letter with ‘Dear Madam’ or ‘Dear Sir’, ‘Dear Editor,’ it should end with ‘Yours faithfully’.
  • When you begin a formal letter with a name such as ‘Dear Mr Smith,’ it should end with ‘Yours sincerely’.
  • A formal letter will usually contain at least two paragraphs and will use formal language with no abbreviations or colloquial language.

Writing style

If you are asked to write an article or narrative, or give a simple description, or write something persuasive, it is important to read the question carefully and express yourself effectively.  You need to show that you can vary your style of writing according to the topic or task.

Writing a summary

In exercise 5 you have to write a Summary for a text. To score maximum marks, remember:

  • Write a single paragraph if the question requires it.
  • Highlight or underline the key points in the question that you must answer, as your question will direct you to a single topic or aspects in the text. Answer the question!
  • Make brief notes with key points before you write your answer.

Keep to the topic

In Questions 6 and 7 you could be asked to write an article for a newspaper, school magazine or magazine giving your opinion on an issue.

You are usually given a list of ideas to help you which may be varying opinions but you don’t have to use these in your answer. In fact it’s best and you will get more marks if you can use ideas of your own and not copy sentences from the question. Remember to keep to the topic and answer the question!

You must show the examiner that you can use the English language for the specific purpose in each question and organise your ideas in a logical way, using a variety of linking and sequencing words.

Organise your ideas

I know you’re all rushed when doing the writing part of the exams but try to write brief notes, putting your ideas in a logical order.  Always check and re-read your words looking for any repetition (don’t keep repeating things), spelling errors, grammar accuracy, and punctuation.


  • Subject/ verb agreements
  • Correct verb tenses
  • Have you omitted articles (a/an/the)
  • Correct prepositions
  • Singular or plural, countable or uncountable nouns