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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 16:32 GMT
'Fatal floors' in exam scripts
school computer room
Computers: common in schools and homes - but not exam rooms
The increased use of word processors by secondary school students is having a negative impact on their written exam scripts, examiners have said.

Reports produced by the OCR exam board said "the e-age" had made it more important than ever that candidates were able to express themselves clearly.

But poor handwriting, spelling and punctuation, with over-reliance on computer spell-checkers, "attracted the usual cries of woe" from examiners.

This may have been infectious. The published OCR report for information and communication technology praised the "rigor" of grade awarding and moderation.


At AS-level and A-level, the chief examiner for history said it was "probably ineffective to try to persuade candidates of the need to write accurately in order to gain a higher mark".

student writing
The inaccurate use of the apostrophe is so widespread as to be almost universal
OCR report
"There is no reason why candidates should spell incorrectly words that are fundamental to a topic and which have been met frequently during the study of the course.

"Standards of handwriting, possibly as a result of general use of the word processor, were seen to be declining."

Having to read every word could prove "very taxing" for examiners encountering "Parliment", "Puritain" or "Puritin", "phamplets", "vergin", "delt, "contempory" and the very common confusion of were/where and there/their.

"Some candidates wrote words as they believed they were pronounced, as 'thief' for 'fief' and 'thought' for 'fought'.

"The inaccurate use of the apostrophe is so widespread as to be almost universal."

The examiners for GCSE English noted "the misspelling of common vocabulary (miss bee haived, perlight, traphic lights)" and "the near total omission of the apostrophe".


The quality of language in advanced level critical thinking was also criticised.

"Key terms continued to be misspelled and misused, the most common being 'arguement', 'concluesion', 'credable', 'relivance', 'biast', and 'counterdiction'."

"Collaboration" was confused with "corroboration", "loose" with "lose" and "intermediate" with "intermittent".

"Colloquialisms were more prevalent, typically '(R) must of chucked them out' and '(W) didn't have time for all this hassle'.

"The language of text messaging continues to intrude, as in '(O) would want his reputation 2 B kept'."

'Horrible possibility'

Examiners of English literature coursework complained that "too many" centres were late submitting the marks they had awarded students, and many mark-sheets were unclear or incorrect.

When they called in the samples of coursework for moderation - checking that schools had awarded the correct marks - there was often a delay of 10 days or more.

"An even more surprising number" did not secure candidates' work, simply submitting "a loose pile of paper".

The tabloid press may like to see this improvement as evidence of grade inflation
Report on business studies
The OCR report said this "must open the door to the horrible possibility of work becoming lost, or single sheets dropping out of a candidate's essay".

There was however "some pleasing vigilance" in schools about possible plagiarism - described as "a small problem".

But there was "a surprising amount of evidence" candidates had been "over-reliant upon spellcheckers rather than common-sense".

This produced such oddities as "the character's fatal floor".

The examiners' reports also contained many positive comments.

In business studies, for example, a greater percentage gained an A grade at A-level than before - described as "a very pleasing development".

"Whilst the tabloid press may like to see this improvement as evidence of grade inflation, closer inspection shows this is not the case.

"Rather, it is due to increasingly effective teaching in centres up and down the land."

Pupils 'struggling' with spelling
19 Jan 04 |  Education
Teacher applicants 'can't spell'
11 Mar 03 |  Education

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