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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 October 2005, 23:13 GMT
Today's teenagers 'more literate'
Students reading
Teenagers are more literate now than 10 years ago, research suggests
Teenagers are more literate than they were 10 years ago, one of the largest studies of exam papers suggests.

They use better punctuation, more complicated sentences and are better spellers, according to the Cambridge Assessment exam group.

A study of GCSE papers from 1994 and 2004 suggests candidates have a wider vocabulary, but do use more slang.

Despite improving grades, employers' groups still say school leavers lack adequate skills, including literacy.

But the Cambridge researchers believe they have identified a long-term trend towards improved writing, which has not yet filtered through to the jobs market.

Quite frankly, the students have got better
Dr Ron McLone

Dr Ron McLone - head of Cambridge Assessment, which carried out the research - said the 2004 students whose results were studied were likely to be in sixth forms going on to university.

He said he was pleased with the results of the study, which also indicated improvements in the standard of the lower grades and a closing of the gender gap.

"Quite frankly, the students have got better," he said.

"[There is] a realisation that if you want to progress in life you need to be able to write." Shifting standards

The study, 'Variation in Aspects of Writing in 16+ Examinations between 1980 and 2004', shows that standards of written English have improved since the same team published a similar study in 1996.

In 1996, samples of 1994 GCSE examinations were considered and found to be of lower quality than equivalent selections of the 1980 English Language O-Level examination.

The researchers say the positive findings this year reflect initiatives like the National Literacy Strategy and a change of values in society.

An Ofsted report into English standards, published in October, said many children were still leaving primary school without basic skills in reading and writing.

Earlier in the year a Commons education select committee report said a 17% failure rate in reading tests for 11-year-olds was "unacceptably high".

Education experts give their views on the findings

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