Writing Properly


Will you be marked down for poor handwriting/sentence structure in exams?

2 years ago


172 Replies




Jameson Kassulke

172 Answers

Idarus A Profile Picture
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yes, in an English test you will

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Julia Collins

Unfortunately the answer is absolutely yes to this! It’s as important to work on your handwriting as it is your spelling and grammar.

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Poor handwriting only matters if the examiner cannot read your handwriting. I would advise taking your time with your handwriting if you have been told it's difficult to read! If it's really illegible, there may be an opportunity for you to apply for a scribe, as when an examiner cannot read your answer, they cannot mark it appropriately and may give you a 0.

Sentence structure is important, as it allows you to show the examiner your fluency. It also helps them properly understand your answer. The most important part is the larger questions - whether in English, History, or even science - where SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) actually contribute towards your mark. So yes, in some questions, poor sentence structure can cause you to lose marks. If you are still unsure, I would read the specification and mark schemes of your papers for more clarity.

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Jason Hector

no, my aim is to have a high level of improving children hand writing and sentence structure.

Rachel Daniels

You won’t necessarily be marked down. However, if an examiner cannot understand or read your writing, you will only be marked on what they can read. It’s definitely within your best interests to make your writing as clear as you can!

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It depends on the criteria of the exam, but it’s always a god idea to try to write with as much neatness and accuracy as possible. Not only will it cover all bases, but it’s also a good habit to get into!

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Sarah F Profile Picture
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Yes, you will. Exams, including GCSE, require a certain standard of written English. Approx 20 marks could be withheld should there be concerns in this area. Spelling, punctuation and grammar must be of a high standard to achieve the highest potential grading.

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Charlotte Jebson

Everybody has different handwriting styles so there is no specific format you need to follow in exams. The important thing is that it is clear enough for the examiner to read, as you will get marked down if the examiner cannot read a large proportion of your work. If you can't understand you're own writing it is unlikely the marker will, so just make sure it is eligible. Sentence structure is important in making your work clear and free-flowing. It is a great thing to experiment with different sentence structures, however, if the majority of your sentences are difficult to read and don't make sense, you may get marked down.

Cal Telfer


Good question - it depends on the situation. As an examiner for IBDP Language and Literature, I can tell you the official and human response.

Firstly, please remember, both GCSE and, more so, IBDP, are reward marked. This means we give you points for what you get right, not penalise or mark you down for what you get wrong.

If handwriting is poor on an exam answer sheet, examiners are required to attempt to read the sentence twice, determine what it could mean and mark accordingly. If we cannot read it at all, we just move on. If you have attempted to use a complex word but have misspelled it, we still reward you for trying to use that word (as long as it is used correctly and in context).

Poor sentence structure is a different issue from difficult to read handwriting. You need to communicate your ideas clearly and coherently. A cohesive (well structured) sentence is vital - if I cannot decode your word order, word choice or if the sentence is incredibly long, it will affect my understanding of your idea or point. Again, I emphasise, you will not be marked down, but you won't get any marks awarded to you for that sentence.

If you do have trouble with handwriting or sentence structure, it may be worth looking into dyslexia testing. If you are found to have dyslexia you can get extra time in exams. There is the opportunity to type your exams instead of writing which solves the handwriting issue. You may also get a scribe (a person who will type what you say). Check with your school for more details.

The easy answer to it all is write as often as you can, maybe just 15 minutes a day. And read good writing (quality news sites for example) widely and regularly to experience good sentence structure and you will learn almost by osmosis!

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You might lose marks in the SPAG [spelling punctuation and grammar] marks section if your sentence structure is very poor. Most student scripts I have marked have problems with writing longer, more developed sentences and stick to basic, short ones - they wouldn't necessarily lose marks for that, but overall they might get a lower grade as their answer isn't as developed enough! I'm not sure about whether or not you can lose marks for messy handwriting.

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When answering questions in exams, the way in which you present your answers must be clear. You must ensure that the person marking your exam paper can read all of your answers clearly because if they cannot, they will not understand what you are trying to show them and as a result you will not be able to get all of the marks. Sentence structure is crucial to success in exams! It is important that you have the correct Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation (SPaG) especially with written answers so the examiner knows you have all of the basic skills to be able to be able to answer the more challenging questions. If you do not have the correct sentence structure, your answers will not make sense and as a result you will not be able to achieve high marks for your responses.

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Assya B Profile Picture
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Examiners do not punish poor handwriting, the only thing students need to take into consideration is that anything that examiners cannot read will not be marked and therefore not count. Bad handwriting won't affect their mark at all--illegible handwriting will stop them from accessing marks, regardless of what they write.

As for sentence structure, it is a marked aspect of the English Language exams (usually under Assessment Objective 6, which assessed a student's overall technical accuracy, which includes their grammar and sentence structures.) In English Literature, students will receive a mark out of 4 on certain questions for technical accuracy, but poor sentence structure could still affect their overall mark as Level 4 in most mark schemes (the Level students need to hit if they wish to achieve a Grade 4 or above) is defined by the keyword "clear"--if a student's response lacks clarity, it is unlikely to pass.

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Daisy D

Hi Jameson, you will not be marked down for poor hand writing but it does need to be legible. So as long as your hand writing can be read, you will be fine. If not, this may be something you might want to spend some time practicing. Sentence structure will be taken in to account by the examiner as this will show that you can structure your work clearly use a variety or punctuation and create a certain effect in creative/personal writing.

Patricia Grey

The role of the examiner is to positively award marks and to look for opportunities in a student's work to give marks. Therefore, you run a risk of missing out on marks for SPG and the use of various types of sentence structure in your writing. Clarity in writing is important as examiners are reading through hundreds of scripts. Focus on forming your letters carefully and ensure that you have a range of varied sentence structures in your work to earn the high marks. So clarity and a range of sentence types is key!

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I do not believe that you will lose points for poor or bad handwriting, though if an examiner is not able to read your writing because it is ineligible, they will probably not award you any points for what you have written.

Poor sentence structure could cause you to write an ambiguous answer, which could lead to an examiner misunderstanding what you mean, which could result in you receiving fewer marks than you could have obtained for a clearer answer.

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