Students' unreadable handwriting could mean laptops in exams

Examiners are struggling to decipher their illegible scribbling.
Examiners are struggling to decipher their illegible scribbling. Photo credit: Getty

The UK's Cambridge University is considering abolishing compulsory handwriting in exams, after complaints from exam markers that students' handwriting is unreadable.

Instead, students would be allowed to type out their answers using computers.

A Cambridge University spokesperson says the review of exam writing requirements was "prompted by students raising concerns that they rarely handwrite during their studies".

"As part of this, a consultation is being conducted among students on whether computers should be allowed in exams," the spokesperson said.

"The consultation is on-going and will be used to inform future decision-making on the issue."

Cambridge history faculty senior lecturer Dr Sarah Pearsall told The Daily Telegraph that handwriting was becoming a lost art.

"Fifteen or 20 years ago students routinely have written by hand several hours a day - but now they write virtually nothing by hand except exams," she said.

"As a faculty we have been concerned for years about the declining handwriting problem. There has definitely been a downward trend. It is difficult for both the students and the examiners as it is harder and harder to read these scripts."

Dr Pearsall says some students' writing is so illegible they were forced to return over summer to read their answers out loud.

It's a problem that many universities around the world are facing. Many say the shift to typing is inevitable, and it's more important to focus on clear English instead.

"Handwriting is very significantly in decline. We have to accept the reality - this is the way the vast majority of students have been brought up," University of Buckingham vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon told The Daily Telegraph.

"Some of our finest wordsmiths in England today write using laptops, and I'm afraid that we have to fight to preserve what is really important, such as the use of great English, great sentence structure."