WA Exam Markers Say Unreadable Handwriting Impacts Students’ Valuable Score

Unreadable handwriting continues to be a key gripe for WA exam markers. As per the ATAR examiner’s report released by the School Curriculum and Standards Authority, WA exam markers warn Year 12 students that they may have missed out on valuable marks in the final exams due to illegible answers and unreadable handwriting.

Experts claim that the factors responsible for poor handwriting standards include computer-based learning and the schools declining “pen licence” awards for mastering the cursive language. 

The Literature exam report reveals that markers slow down the coherence response to decipher writing letter-by-letter. Literature markers also state that they find difficulty reading students’ writing.

“Students whose handwriting is poor or difficult to read need to be assisted to improve it so that their examination responses can be read with ease,” the report said.

It is the student’s responsibility to write well-formed and legible writings. Their teachers must assist the students to improve their responses so that they would not cause any problems in the exams and the examination response can be easily readable. 

Hayley Huxtable, an occupational therapist at the iThrive clinic in WestLeederville, said that 13 years ago when she started working, she had seen that kids’ handwriting skills had worsened. 

“Children are expected to spend their time more behind desks rather than climbing, running, and jumping for developing gross motor skills. Technology has fuelled this problem”, she said.

One of the major factors influencing it is indeed that schools have become reliant on technology. Rather than handwritten assignments, students are given typing assignments and notes on laptops and iPads. This results in a decrease in the writing hand’s stamina to write a three hours exam.

Recent studies show that a lot of kids have been diagnosed with motor dysgraphia. These kids have brilliant and creative ideas but they struggle to get them down on the page because handwriting really holds them back. They suffer due to bad writing despite their creativity.

As ATAR is largely handwritten so students generally struggle in this aspect. SCSA has been provided with reports  to say these students are going to be severely disadvantaged. 

Schools still have a strong focus to teach cursive handwriting with an aim that children would earn their “pen licence” by around year 3 or 4, Ms. Huxtable said. However, others have dropped cursive handwriting entirely.

A few children diagnosed recently for motor dysgraphia said that they have never been taught how to write cursive. 

Chris Dove, from Dove Occupational Therapy in Claremont, said children were not practising their writing as much as in the past because they had access to iPads or laptops from around Year 4. 

“If you’re doing less practice, obviously you’re going to be less proficient,” he said.

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