Assessment of writing skills

Slow handwriting

The writing tests in Exact take the form of timed writing (both handwriting and typing) to dictation. A poor score in the Exact handwriting component is, ipso facto, clear evidence of slow writing speed, indicating that the student may be entitled to appropriate access arrangements. A satisfactory score in the Exact typing component is, ipso facto, good evidence of adequate typing skills such that the student would be able to use a word processor in examinations if this was thought appropriate and applied for.

A below average handwriting to dictation standard score can be used as evidence for 25% extra time. This might indicate that the physical act of writing is slow for a candidate. The writing to dictation cannot, however, provide evidence of underlying processing issues when considering what to write, or organising thoughts into coherent writing. For this, an assessment of ‘free writing’ will be required, and assessors should have such an assessment in their battery of tests and assessments. Unlike free writing, writing to dictation does not require the student to think of the words to write, nor to monitor what is being written to ensure fidelity to the intended meaning. In fact, free writing confounds the two component processes of thinking and writing.

Difficulty in expressing meaning

If the student experiences difficulty in thinking what to say and what words to use to express their meaning, this may be reflected in slow writing. Where a student has problems in generating the words to express their ideas, this will not be measured by the dictation tests in Exact, but could be a valid reason for requesting access arrangements. Therefore, when assessing these students for access arrangements, in addition to using the Exact tests of handwriting and typing to dictation, it is recommended that a free writing task be employed (for further information on assessing free writing, consult the Patoss website: or the Patoss guide Assessing the need for Access Arrangements during Examinations: A Practical Guide).