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May 17, 2005

The Brits can't spel

I think we've all shared a few laughs at our education establishment and our standardized testing dominion -- like when an MIT professor discovered that the scoring of the writing portion of the SAT was strongly correlated with the length of the essay, and that factual errors were not counted against the student.

It turns out that it's not only dim-witted Americans who pay tribute to mediocrity. The Brits are having a cow about a standardized English test given to 14-year-olds that does not penalize the students for spelling errors. (Via

Examiners marking an English test taken by 600,000 14-year-olds have been told not to deduct marks for incorrect spelling on the main writing paper, worth nearly a third of the overall marks.

The rule, issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, means that pupils could spell every word wrongly in the most significant piece of writing that they are required to do and yet still receive full marks.
Some "traditionalists" think this is wrong, the yahoos.
The revelation of the "spelling free-for-all" in the hour-long paper has angered traditionalists who say that children should be penalised for poor spelling.

Nick Seaton, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "Spelling and grammar are essential to good English and important in other subjects. The exam watchdog should be ensuring that proper marks are given for these. Not judging spelling on such an important paper sends the message to teacher and pupils that it does not matter, and that is certainly what employers are finding."
What's worse is that you can detect a whiff of anti-American thinking here if you look carefully at the words that were spelled wrong last year:
In last year's test, pupils gained an average of two marks for spelling. Typical spelling mistakes included beautfull, basicly, rember, favorite and occationally.
Well, I say BOLLOCKS to all that, or maybe I should spell it BOLLUX.