Specific text type skills

By 'specific skills', I wish to define the kind of approach required for each text type, and the kind of language expected. These can be seen as 'transfer goals' - the term used in the IB's unit plan templates to refer to skills and concepts which may be transferred valuably to situations outside the classroom. In other words, the Really Useful Teaching Points.

To illustrate, students will very probably not have to write a set of instructions in English in their future lives. However, they will certainly have to handle tasks which require similar careful analysis of a process and methodical explanation of key steps - so the skill of careful and methodical thinking is what they are really learning.

Considering transfer goals is a very useful way to define exactly what we aim to teach. This is particularly valuable in the teaching of writing, since we should be clear about what transferable skills of organisation and expression may be learnt from the practice of each of the text types. That is what this page sets out to present...

The core text type list

Here are the text types required for Paper 1 Writing exams, listed alphabetically. Click on each text type in the list in order to jump to the relevant entry. Each entry contains the specific transfer goals, or target skills, which I suggest for each text type.

Article (newspaper, magazine)


Brochure, leaflet, pamphlet

Diary (private) / journal

Email / informal letter  ... formal letter



News report

Opinion column / letter to the editor

Personal statement / cover letter


Report (official)


Set of instructions, guidelines

Social media posting / online forums

Speech, presentation, debate

Target skills for text types

Note that the list has been re-organised in order to suggest an ascending rank order of difficulty - easiest first, most challenging last. This is intended to indicate a possible sequence by which the text types could be introduced in the course. This progression of difficulty has been further indicated by three groups comprised of types of roughly similar difficulty.

All of the entries are designed to complete the stem 'An ability to...', which would form an appropriate entry in the 'transfer goals' section of IB unit plan templates.

Group 1 - simple & direct

The common feature of this group of text types is that they are 'everyday' - most students will have some experience of actually writing them (apart from the news report, of course). They also mainly involve the student using personal experience, and their own usual thinking procedures, so they can be seen as 'natural' forms of expression. Which is not to say that the students necessarily handle them as well as they could...

E-mail / informal letter 

establish a personal relationship with the reader through writing

be entertaining and express emotions

tell anecdotes clearly, arousing interest

use informal, colloquial language which remains easily understandable

Social media posting / online forums 

express opinions concisely yet clearly

respond succinctly to other points of views

use colloquial language - but use it clearly


develop a personal 'voice' expressing experiences and opinions

engage the audience with stimulating points of view

explore opinions and arguments using critical thinking

express points of view clearly and cogently

Set of instructions, guidelines 

analyse systems and processes in order to extract key points

organise and explain key points methodically and with focused purpose

express ideas clearly and concisely

adapt explanations appropriately to the target audience

News report 

analyse an event in order to extract key information

express key information concisely and clearly

organise the sequence of explanation in order to communicate clearly and efficiently

select information appropriately to suit the target audience

Diary (private) / journal 

recount events and select details effectively, with relevance and focus

reflect on personal experience and develop insight

 express emotions with appropriate language, carefully and precisely

Group 2 - difficulty variable, according to task

The text types in this group are probably reasonably familiar to the students, in that they are common typical writing tasks in language classes. For instance, the students are likely to have experience of writing a talk, or classroom presentation. However, such experience may well have been at a simple level, with little thought for sophisticated elements of the text type. Such sophistication needs to be developed for Diploma level students.

In addition, these text types can be made more accessible or more challenging by varying the precise requirements of the task. For instance, a 'review' can be set as a simple expression of opinion - or as a complex assessment, having studied the approach and style of professional reviews. Accordingly, these text types could be placed in either Group 1 above, or Group 3 below, according to the approach taken.

Speech, talk, presentation 

choose a clear approach to, or 'angle' on, the topic or issue

organise explanation and argument to form a lucid and convincing case

link ideas together effectively and explicitly

engage the audience through direct address and rhetorical effects

Brochure, leaflet, pamphlet 

focus coherently on a selected subject area

analyse an audience's likely interests and responses

choose and develop a persuasive approach

organise ideas methodically, and express them in appropriate language

Personal statement / cover letter 

focus the text very carefully on the precise requirements of context and audience

express ideas in clear and interesting ways

use language concisely yet precisely


analyse and extract the key elements of a subject area

identify an approach to, or 'angle' on, the subject area

engage the audience with an interesting introduction

combine clear explanation and/or argument with vivid supporting detail

organise the sequence of ideas clearly and methodically

express ideas lucidly in language appropriate to both subject and audience


analyse key elements of the subject of the review

identify an interesting and stimulating approach to, or 'angle' on, the subject

engage the audience with an interesting introduction

support subjective opinions with objective evidence

organise the sequence of ideas clearly and methodically

express ideas lucidly in language appropriate to both subject and audience

Group 3 - intrinsically challenging

The text types in this group are considered 'intrinsically challenging' because they involve one or more of the following complexities:

  • complicated conventional forms and format (e.g. formal letter, official report)

  • carefully planned and developed ideas, linked clearly and effectively, for specific purpose (e.g. essay, proposal)

  • specific use of language, largely formal and/or sophisticated (e.g. essay, interview)

In order to handle these text types effectively, students need to be exposed to suitable models, which they should analyse and reflect on in some depth.

Formal letter 

establish an impersonal but businesslike relationship with the reader through writing

focus consistently on the purpose of the letter

express ideas clearly, and relate them efficiently to the purpose of the letter

use formal language economically and with precision

Opinion column / letter to the editor 

express ideas concisely (letter to the editor); or vividly (opinion column)

choose a clear approach to, or 'angle' on, a specific topic or issue

organise explanation and argument to form a lucid and convincing case


identify the central issue(s) to be discussed

decide on a consistent approach e.g. analysing objectively or arguing a case

define significant terms as the basis for the argument

organise a methodical structure of argument

use counter-argument for rebuttal purposes

select an appropriate register, and express it in consistently-chosen language

Official report 

decide what the target audience needs to know, and why

present explanations methodically, in a logical sequence

use structure and cohesive devices to present the ideas clearly

handle, as appropriate, formal and impersonal language


decide on key concepts, and distinguish which are more or less acceptable

present ideas persuasively, bearing in mind the target audience's likely attitudes

develop explanations methodically, in a logical sequence

use structure and cohesive devices to present the ideas clearly

handle, as appropriate, formal and impersonal language

Interview (embedded) 

choose as significant key ideas drawn from the interview

describe context and explain background

insert quotations effectively to support a lucid flow of ideas

combine direct language for explanation with colloquial language in the quotations

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