Why do students still write exam papers in pen?

Young people are now facing less need for handwriting in the modern workplace, in longhand form anyway. So, do they need add keyboards and computers to the GCSE exams?

Children no longer write much using a pen as tablets, phones and computers have become second nature to the millennial generation. In most schools, students will still write in notepads and exercise books but they will also scribble away for up to three hours in exams (we all remember the associated aches and pains that came from this!). It is true that in most careers, our bosses would not insist that we write lengthy documents by hand and we can all agree that a handwritten CV wouldn’t get us very far either.

In Finland, schools have already phased out cursive handwriting lessons and implemented keyboard skills classes instead. The Finnish government argues that this is more important for job prospects than the ability to write clearly and quickly by hand.

There is also an argument that poor handwriting can cost marks in exams too, with electronic scanning and marking it can become difficult for examiners to see faint or squashed writing in answers. Even Cambridge University has recently considered ending their 800-year tradition on handwritten examinations and has contemplated allowing laptops in to the exam arena, the final decision is yet to be seen though.

There has been some research done at Edinburgh University on this subject, they asked 70 people to take part in an exam with their choice of pen and paper or typing to give their answers. The essays were marked, and then converted in to the opposite format. They were marked again and the scores compared with the original to see if the format made any difference. The results showed that it did not; the marks were roughly the same whether they were typed or handwritten.

There is of course one major issue with this – the supply of laptops and internet access to large numbers of students at exam times. Five years ago, this would have been a bigger issue than today, with schools often opting for tablet learning – it would be easier in some cases to give keyboards to use for exam time. Power can also be a problem, after all nobody wants their laptop to die in the middle of an exam.

Whilst there are some issues facing a technology-based exam hall, it seems there is more possibility now than there has been in the recent past. Is it time to shift the exam hall in to a digital world and not let it be left behind by the rest of the school environment?

What are your views on this matter? Would your school think about removing handwritten exams? Let us know in the comments section below.