Students who are eager to gain maximum marks for essays should consider switching off their PCs and turning to the pen.
The potential advantage in rejecting new technology has been revealed by Brent Bridgeman and Peter Cooper, of the Educational Testing Service at Princeton, New Jersey. They analysed the scores for 3,470 examinees who wrote 30-minute essays in both formats and found that markers awarded higher scores to the handwritten essays - irrespective of the writer's race or gender.
Differences between scores for handwritten and word-processed essays were smallest for the most experienced computer users, but even examinees who reported using a word-processor more than twice a week had higher scores on their handwritten essays than on their word-processed essays.
The researchers, who scrutinised papers written for the Graduate Management Admissions Test, believe that the difference occurs because examiners mark word-processed essays more accurately. But they also believe that more allowances are made for any mistakes in handwritten text.