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U.K.’s Cambridge University may scrap handwritten exams

The London News.Net - Monday 11th September, 2017

LONDON, U.K. - U.K.’s prestigious Cambridge University might soon end the age-old practice of handwritten exams as academics have suggested that the growing reliance on laptops has led to students’ writing becoming increasingly illegible.  

The over 800-year-old tradition of handwritten exams could also see its end as students have increasingly chosen to use laptops to take down lecture notes.

According to reports, Cambridge University recently launched a consultation on the topic as part of its “digital education strategy.” 

Earlier this year, reports stated that the University piloted an exam typing scheme in the History and Classics faculties.

According to Dr Sarah Pearsall, a senior lecturer at Cambridge’s History Faculty who was involved with the pilot earlier this year, handwriting is becoming a “lost art” among the current generation of students.

She was quoted as saying in a report in The Telegraph, “Fifteen or twenty years ago students routinely have written by hand several hours a day — but now they write virtually nothing by hand except exams. 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.”

Pearsall pointed out that an increasing number of scripts are having to be transcribed centrally.

This means that students with illegible writing have been forced to come back to their college during the summer holidays to read their answers aloud in the presence of two university administrators.

Pearsall explained that it is “extraordinarily commendable” that the University is considering reforms to its examination practises.

The movie has, however, not received unanimous support.

Some, who are opposing the move, have voiced fears that the “handwritten word (could) become a matter of nostalgia.”

In a statement, Tracey Trussell, a handwriting expert at the British Institute of Graphologists, urged Cambridge to “make sure that students continue to write by hand, particularly in lectures.”

She said, “Certainly with social media, iPads, and all the rest of it, people do clearly use keyboards much more than they would hand write. It’s vital that people continue to write by hand.”

Others meanwhile are concerned that schools could follow Cambridge’s example by moving away from handwriting.

According to a spokesman for Cambridge University, the review of exam procedures was “prompted by students raising concerns that they rarely handwrite during their studies.”

The spokesperson was further quoted as saying, “As part of this, a consultation is being conducted among students on whether computers should be allowed in exams. The consultation is ongoing and will be used to inform future decision-making on the issue.”

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