Exercise 5 is a letter writing task. This is almost always an informal letter. (We’ll detail formal letters here as well, just in case!)


These are usually to your friends or family, usually asking you to detail a recent event you took part in and they didn’t.

w17_qp22. An email and letter will be the same, it’s just that your method of transmission is different!
  • You must be familiar with the format of an informal letter: salutation (Dear/Dearest..), introduction, body (maybe two paragraphs), conclusion, signature (With Love/Yours Truly..)
    The salutation and signature are simple. What about the others? Let’s take a look.
  • Introduction:
    • Start with a warm, friendly opening. Ditch the boring ‘How are you doing?‘. Go for these:
      • It was good to hear from you.
      • Sorry for not replying sooner. I have been very busy.
      • I’m so sorry for taking so long to reply. I have been revising for my
      • Congratulations on your award! It’s been an hectic week over here. So sorry I couldn’t write to you earlier. (This is a good opening, because it tells the examiner that you know this person well).
    • Tell them why you’re writing the letter. This will be specified in the question paper itself. Keep it very short. In the example above, you could say: I’ve been dying to tell you about this circus that came to town last Friday!!
  • Body: This is the actual content of your letter. Provide more details about the topic. Use lots of adjectives and verbs and really relay your thoughts and emotions. Use the prompts and pictures in the question. You can write it in two paragraphs to organise your ideas.In the example above, you could write:
    Nobody knew about the circus arriving. But the moment they opened the entrance, all the villagers started flocking in.  Steve and I begged  for mom and dad to take us there! It was magnificent, in every sense of the word! There were talking parrots, tigers jumping through fire hoops (Steve ran away scared when he saw the Tiger!), an elephant that could predict your weight,  a fortune teller and all sorts of things you see in the circuses in movies!
    Mom was fascinated by the ‘Guess the Price’ tent and spent a lot of money on it but didn’t guess a single one right. Dad and I went to every single tent. My favourite  was this magic show! The magician literally turned a rat into a rabbit! I have no idea how.  It was truly magical! We stayed there till dusk and then very reluctantly went back. The circus clearly had won the hearts of all villagers!
  • Conclusion: The conclusion has to wrap up the letter. For example, I really wish you were there! You would have loved it! Give my regards to Margret and Aunt Marie! Reply soon!


  • Take care of spelling, punctuation and grammar. It’s a writing task after all.
  • Don’t use abbreviations and slang such as ‘u’ and ‘OMG’! This is an international exam, not an actual email to your friend!
  • Keep the tone very light and warm. An informal letter should be informal.
  • Writing a paragraph for each bullet point (given in the question) can be a good method of keeping the letter organised.
  • Give personal anecdotes. Add details that tell the examiner you really know each other. In my sample answer above, I used the names Steve, Margaret and Aunt Marie without giving any explanation for who they exactly are, because my friend knows who they are!
  • Try using time phrases. Eg: shortly after that/later/that afternoon/after dinner etc.
  • Keep to the word limit. It should be at least 150 words and shouldn’t exceed 200 words. However, I remember my teacher telling me it was alright if I wrote 10-15 words in excess. Any more than that, they would deduct marks.



These will be written to somebody in a position of authority, usually to your school principal, the manager of a company etc. I’ll give a very brief idea of how to write one.

  • Salutations and Signatures: use either of this format
    • Dear Sir or Madam……. Yours faithfully
    • Dear Ms Weasley………….Yours sincerely
  • Introduction: Dive straight into the point. Why are you writing? To appreciate, complain, suggest, request or disagree? What are you writing in regards with? A new project, a newspaper advertisement, an article or an event? Mention it. That’s your introduction.
  • Body: This can be divided into two paragraphs
    • Details of situation: give previous history of event or your background or experience. Say what happened exactly if you are making a complaint, or focus directly on the text you are arguing with. This section should include specific data such as names, dates, facts and details.
    • Further development: Give further support to your claim or request. Summarise the current situation and why you should be given consideration. Persuade the reader.
  • Conclusion: Say what you wish to happen next. Suggest, firmly but politely, what may happen if you do not receive a response to a complaint. Wrap up by once again, stating your request/complaint/suggestion and politely say something along the lines of ‘I hope you will consider this and take action as soon as possible’.



  • Use formal vocabulary only. Instead of ‘can’t wait for your reply’ say ‘I hope you will consider the above suggestion and take prompt action‘.
  • Don’t use contractions like can’t, won’t, don’t, we’re etc. Use their full forms. Contractions are informal.
  • Don’t use exclamation marks.
  • Your tone should be serious and respectful.
  • Keep to the word limit.



Time Management

For the core paper 1, take about 20 minutes to attempt this question.

For the extended paper 2, spend about 30 minutes.




Notes submitted by Lintha

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41 thoughts on “Writing: Exercise 5 (Letter writing)

  1. How we can use punctuation in closing and opening part of the formal letters? Either It’s necessary to punctuate these parts or not?


    1. It is always important to use appropriate punctuation in English.
      You would start a formal letter like this:

      Dear ,

      The first line, starting with ‘Dear’, is the salutation. You should start with a capital letter, write who the letter is addressed to, including capital letters for any names or proper nouns, and ending the salutation with a comma.

      The body of your letter should also follow all the normal grammar and punctuation rules.

      At the end, you may sign off with ‘yours faithfully’ or ‘yours sincerely’ (yours faithfully if you know the name of the person you are addressing this letter to, yours sincerely if you do not)

      You would write it like this:

      Yours faithfully,

      Note the capital letter and the comma after yours faithfully.

      I hope this answered your question!


  2. Hi.. I am an IGCSE teacher guiding children to write the exams in Feb2020/21 batch. As this is the first batch for me, I want to make sure that I give proper directions to them to ace the exam. I feel they need more practice in writing part. Do you have any inputs for them .
    Also , how is the speaking exam graded for 0510 ?


    1. Hi Sobha!
      Thank you for reaching out.
      If you haven’t already, I would strongly recommend investing in a Cambridge International Examinations Endorsed Textbook, like the one in this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cambridge-English-Language-Teachers-International/dp/1108566693/ref=pd_lpo_14_t_1/260-4689206-7885720?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1108566693&pd_rd_r=146baf84-c0b7-4efa-b225-828a448da32e&pd_rd_w=dSWl4&pd_rd_wg=eTeIv&pf_rd_p=7b8e3b03-1439-4489-abd4-4a138cf4eca6&pf_rd_r=2A3P0CAJRCBWJXEDV4CK&psc=1&refRID=2A3P0CAJRCBWJXEDV4CK

      A proper textbook that is tailored to the syllabus is amazing, and it is the guidance that we received from such a textbook that made such a big difference.
      Our website is purely a compilation of revision notes, and should not be used as the first point of learning.
      One thing that really helped my friends and me when preparing for our ESL exam was being given specific formats and useful keywords for each style of writing. Our teacher also had us practise numerous past papers under timed conditions.
      As a student, this is what we found most helpful.
      We hope your first batch of students do really well, and we wish you the best of luck!
      Thank you,
      The IGCSE AID Team


    1. idk if u still need this info but here’s an example:
      Dear Anna,
      Thank you for your last letter, sorry for not replying sooner, I’ve been busy with my Biology project. In your letter, you asked about my culture so I’m writing this letter to answer your questions.

      now remember that this is just an example so u can change the vocab but it should make the same point


    1. No, I am afraid not.
      Avoid going over 10 to 15 words above the mentioned word limit. Any words after that will simply be struck from your answer and not considered. One of the challenges of this exercise is learning to properly structure your work and write concisely enough that you do not exceed the word limit.


  3. Thank you soo much for this concise information.
    Tomorrow’s the exam, I hope an informal letter will come.
    Once again THANK YOU!!


    1. What do you recommend on the area of studying past questions do you think that questions are repeated.Please do reply very soon


      1. Yes! Practising past papers is the single most important thing you can do to ace the IGCSE exams. As you’re solving them with the help of the marking scheme, you will realise that many questions repeat over the years or at least follow a similar pattern of questioning. Once you have done a couple of papers, you’ll start answering much better.
        Practice past papers! I cannot stress this enough.


          1. Yup, that’s correct. An email is essentially just an electronic letter, so they follow the same rules as a printed/ handwritten letter!


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