IELTS General Writing Task I – Letter of Complaint

A complaint letter is a formal (or semi-formal) letter that needs to be well balanced. You are seeking a definite outcome while not being rude. Question: You have bought a new laptop but when you got it home you found it had some problems. You returned the laptop and spoke to the store representative a […]

A complaint letter is a formal (or semi-formal) letter that needs to be well balanced. You are seeking a definite outcome while not being rude.


You have bought a new laptop but when you got it home you found it had some problems. You returned the laptop and spoke to the store representative a week ago but the laptop has still not been repaired.

Write a letter to the store. 

In your letter:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain the situation
  • Say what action you would like the store to take

Let’s look at how we can approach this letter.

Key Points about this particular topic:

  1. The letter is about a laptop, don’t change that. Don’t write about a faulty tablet or desktop. It sounds obvious, but errors of this type are surprisingly frequent. An error of this kind would bring into question the test-taker’s ability to read and follow instructions and will impact task achievement scores.
  2. A week has passed between when you returned the laptop and now when you are writing the letter.
  3. Address all three points given in the question. If you do not, you will lose marks for Task Achievement, and it will reduce your overall band score.
  4. Whenever asked to introduce yourself, state your name and your address if necessary. 


“My name is Adam Smith and I live at 131, Chesterton Avenue.” 

“I am Adam Smith of 131, Chesterton Avenue.”

Stating the address is critical in some letters, especially some letters of complaints. For example, if you are writing to your landlord you might want to state the address if he operates multiple rental units. In case of writing to a company for a refund, stating the address or some other indicator is logical, the customer care cannot know you by name but might be able to figure out by name and address or name and customer ID.As usual, the details to support the points are up to you. For example, the exact nature of problems with the laptop, the details of the conversation with the representative, are all left to you. So fill in the necessary details.

General Strategies for a complaint letter

Write between 150 – 200 words only. Do not go below 150 and try not to go above 200

You must also get the appropriate tone to match the purpose of the letter and the person you are writing to. A letter of complaint will be a formal or semi-formal letter (formal in this case) and so you will use different language and phrases than if you were writing to a good friend.

Getting the tone right is important. A formal letter written in an informal tone would mean you are off-topic and it will affect your score for Task Achievement.

You don’t necessarily have to write the same amount on each point but you should write your letter in the same order as the bullet points. You obviously can’t introduce yourself in as many words as would need to outline your grievance. Also, you can’t talk about the problem first and then introduce yourself. 

IELTS General Writing Task I –Letter of Complaint
Sample Band 8 Answer:

Dear Sir / Madam,

My name is Arun Mehta and I am writing to you regarding a faulty Lenovo laptop that I bought at your Indiranagar store on the 5th of January. 

The store manager, Mr. Vijay, helped me pick out this particular model (T1346) based on my needs. When the laptop was unboxed and started in the shop it appeared to work fine, but trouble started as soon as I began using it at home. The body heats up within 15 minutes of operation. The part below the CD-ROM in particular is impossible to even touch. In addition to this, there is a need for an external Wi-Fi adapter to connect to high speed networks. This requirement was not made known to me prior to purchase.

I left the laptop with the store technician the following day and Mr. Vijay assured me of a speedy resolution within 48 hours. However, it has been a week now and when I called the helpline yesterday, I was informed that the technician isn’t sure about how long it will take to sort the issue.

I am sure you will agree that such a long delay is not acceptable. Therefore, I request that I be given a full refund or store credit so that I can buy another laptop. 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Arun Mehta

Let us analyze the response

The introduction

My name is Arun Mehta ………………….. the 5th of January. 

addresses the very first point about introducing yourself. It is a formal letter, so you need to get to the point right away. The introduction mentions your name and the problem. It also adds the store details and date of purchase to provide a clear reference. 

Note the use of “I am writing to you regarding a faulty Lenovo laptop”, If you had instead written “I am writing to you about a purchase I made” you would need an additional sentence to say what the item was and that it was faulty or not working.

The first body paragraph

The store manager, Mr. Vijay……………………. prior to purchase.

details the situation and addresses the “explain the situation” part of the task. The letter includes the model number and the details of the interaction. It mentions that due process was followed and the laptop was unboxed and checked at the store itself. It clarifies the problem and adds an extra piece of inconvenience. 

The second body paragraph

I left the laptop…….  sort the issue.

mentions what you did and what happened after. It is detailed and provides cause for you to write this letter.

The last paragraph is a call for action. 

I am sure you will agree ………………………………… I can buy another laptop. 

The tone is polite but the action expected is clearly outlined. In the spirit of being reasonable you have even agreed to accept store credit. 

How does the letter fare on all the evaluation parameters?

The letter meets all the requirements of the task. The three points have been covered, each point has been detailed with appropriate and relevant information, and the tone is consistent throughout the letter.

Paragraphing has been used to organise ideas logically

There is a good range of vocabulary present 

For example 

pick out 


but trouble started as soon as I began using it at home- use of synonyms to avoid repetition 



speedy resolution

store technician

store credit

A few words of caution

Negative online reviews and complaints are often angry and even vicious; they are the exact opposite of what IELTS examiners are looking for in your complaint letter.

The aim is not to shame or criticize but rather to urge the concerned party to rectify something that went wrong. This requires a formal but polite tone. Don’t use threatening language.

Don’t be overly demanding as it can sound rude and affect your score. “I would like a refund” or “I would like to request a refund” is way better than “Please refund the amount immediately”, the ‘please’ doesn’t really soften the rudeness.

The IELTS Academic Writing Task I is the easier part of the writing section. Although it accounts for only 33% of your writing score as opposed to the essay task that carries 66%, getting a good score on Task I, substantially reduces the pressure of scoring high on Task II. Know more about the IELTS complaint letter here

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