Legible handwriting big worry for exam students

  • 39% worry their handwriting will be unreadable, compared to 37 worrying about a mind blank
  • Two thirds (64%) of teachers say poor writing has prevented them giving the marks a student deserved

Today’s students are more worried about their handwriting when it comes to exams than having a mind blank in the exam room, the BICâ Revision Report 2014 reveals.

Commissioned to mark the start of the dreaded exam season, the report by BIC, the UK’s leading stationery brand*, reveals that students are more than twice as likely to panic about the legibility of their answers than worrying about needing the loo in the exam hall (16%).   39% concede their handwriting suffered when rushed in the exam room, while one in ten worry their marks will suffer because examiners won’t be able to read their writing.

Of the teachers and lecturers quizzed, 61% say they have noticed a deterioration in the quality of handwriting amongst students in the last five years, while nine in ten (89%) say they have witnessed an increase in the use of tech amongst students in the same period.  Experiencing first-hand how poor quality handwriting can impact on exam results, nearly two thirds (64%) admit illegible writing has prevented them from awarding the full marks a student deserved and over a third (35%) said they’d seen emoticons used in exam answers.

Educationalist and ex-teacher, Tony Sewell, commented:  “Clarity of handwriting isn’t just important in ensuring exam questions are answered in a clear manner, but is a critical part of the learning process.  The fluid motion of writing and rewriting notes helps to instil the data in the mind more efficiently than the process of typing, making it an effective revision tool which aides information recall.”

Over three quarters (82%) of teachers say they are concerned students are losing traditional skills, such as handwriting and mental arithmetic, due to over-reliance on technology, with over half (54%) rating handwriting as important as good manners.

As one of the first generations to have grown up immersed in technology from a young age, 89% of students now say they revise using laptops and computers, with 20% using a tablet device.  Over half (52%) deemed the traditional method of note-taking with a pen and paper outdated.

Handwriting expert, Margaret White, said: “Lack of practice – when you aren’t using a pen and paper to take notes on a regular basis – means it’s easy to slip into bad writing habits, such as gripping the pen too tightly or applying too much pressure on the paper.  This can make writing uncomfortable, not to mention inefficient, so it’s unsurprising nearly half of students tell us they suffer from aching hands or pins and needles in their arms after lengthy exams.  15% even report getting blisters.”

While two thirds of students use technology for research, it seems the lure of the internet is enough to distract most; 85% say they get distracted when using online resources.  Social media proved the most popular diversion, causing 58% to down tools.

A sneaky 32% say they prefer using laptops or computers for revision as it allows them to fool parents that they are revising when, in fact, they are using the internet for leisure.  Female students were more likely to be tempted away from their work by indulging in internet shopping (34%) or instant messaging friends (34%), while 28% of male pupils ditch revision in favour of checking out the footie results.

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