Skip a Line and Use a Pencil

Keep the Examiner Happy lossy


When marking someone’s IELTS Writing it is very frustrating when you see one big block of text. What I mean by this is a full essay that has just one paragraph.

Did the student mean to write one paragraph? Probably not. However, it is impossible for the examiner to know where one paragraph ends and the other starts if you don’t make it very clear to them.

Simply using an indent is normally not good enough because under exam conditions, people don’t think about making neat indents; they just write as quickly as possible.

If you don’t skip a line, then three things could happen:

  1. You will receive a Band 5 or below for Coherence and Cohesion because you have not demonstrated any knowledge of paragraphing.
  2. You will also lower your mark for Coherence because an essay with no paragraphs is very difficult to understand.
  3. You will make the examiner’s job more difficult than it needs to be and this is probably not a very good idea.

I used to work in a law firm before I became a teacher and one of the partners would regularly delete emails without reading them if they didn’t have clear paragraphs. He would do this even if the email was from an important client. He used to say ‘If they don’t have enough respect for me to simply hit the space bar on their keyboard, then they don’t deserve my time.’

You can avoid this by simply skipping a line or two between paragraphs. Two would be better, for reasons I will explain below.


If you look at the video below of me writing an essay under exam conditions you will notice that I did a lot of ediiting i.e. deleting and changing what I wrote.

I advise all of my students to read each sentence after they write it and then read each paragraph after they write it and then finally review everything at the end. If you do this you will avoid so many mistakes, but you will also have to do lots of editing.

First of all, if you have skipped two lines in between your paragraphs, you will have lots of room to edit. Don’t worry about running out of paper, you can ask for more.

Secondly, it is much easier to simply use a pencil and eraser. If you are running out of time then feel free to draw a line through the parts you want to delete, but an eraser is much better.

Those two tips above will help you enormously on exam day.

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  1. Yvee says

    Hello Mr. Chris, I just want to clarify regarding how you started your introduction. I thought and learned from my previous review center that you should begin your essay with what they call a “hook” that is generally related to the main topic, like for this instance, education. This has to be followed by a detailed background statement, a thesis and finally, an outline in which I believe where you have started your essay. Maybe because it is just your approach or that we can all have our own, different style and structure in writing. Kindly enlighten me, however, this site is really of great help. Thank you very much.

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