The Influence of Presentation Upon Examination Marks

Hughes, J. and Akbar, S. (2010). The Influence of Presentation Upon Examination Marks. In: Higher Education Academy 11th Annual Conference of Information and Computer Sciences, Aug 2010, Durham.


An investigation was made into how the appearance of answer scripts provided in a computing-related assessment can affect the grades that students are then awarded, in particular comparing typed and traditional handwritten formats. The comparison was made using the answers to an Information Technology examination taken by first year computing undergraduate students. Each student completed the Information Technology exam using a PC and basic text editor to type their answers. Original typed scripts were then transcribed into a handwritten version and a grammatically-correct and spell-checked version. All three versions were marked by independent assessors. In an adaptation of the methodology adopted by Russelland Tao (2004b), each assessor was assigned one presentation format only.
Analysis of the marks awarded indicated that the original typed answers were rated significantly more highly than handwritten versions of the same answers. This may be because the assessors were more comfortable marking an answer produced in a word processed format, since they were specialists in the computing field.However, the set of “perfected” typed answers (spelling and grammatical mistakes had been removed)surprisingly were awarded lower grades than the original typed answers that did contain spelling and grammatical mistakes. Possible explanations for this are considered, for example, grammatically-correct scripts may have indicated a high level of professionalism to the assessors and hence raised their expectations of in-depth answers. Variation between marks awarded by assessors was higher than expected.

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