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Should your SAT essay be written in cursive?

There's been a lot of talk about the new SAT essay question, which asks test-takers to plan and hand write an essay in just 25-minutes.  Amidst all the heavy discourse, here's a lighter fun fact that was published in the Washington Post:

Of the 1.5 million students who have answered the SAT's new handwritten essay, only 15% submitted their essay in cursive.

As a group, the cursive writers had a slightly higher average score than the printers.  Is this because the SAT readers prefer cursive?  Not necessarily.  According to the article, studies have shown that students who write in cursive tend to be better at expressing their thoughts and can do so more quickly. 

Still, in an age of keyboards and text messages, many educators feel that time spent teaching penmanship should be very low on the list of educational priorities.John_hancock  Others argue that the related cognitive skills are worth 15 minutes a day, and site the historical value and intimacy of handwritten communication as further argument for continuing to teach handwriting.

How about you?  Do you write in cursive?  block print?  Do any of your teachers require you to submit your work in cursive or print, or do they prefer your papers to be typed?  Do you think that being able to write in cursive is of any value in the digital age?

Read the full article "The Handwriting Is on the Wall, by Margaret Webb Pressler, and let us know what you think. 

Posted by Allison Cobb in SAT Info | Permalink


Learning to write and read in cursive should be required of all students. Elementary schools should not only teach letter formation but follow up with fluency expectations and neat formatting of papers. Many fourth and fifth grade teachers do not follow up with cursive expectations, and by the time students reach middle school-- cursive is rarely used. Worse yet, many students do not form printed letters correctly.

Students often enter middle-school ripping paper out of binders, not indenting paragraphs, leaving spaces between paragraphs, printing sentences in which you can not differentiate capital from lowercase letters, and sometimes not spacing between words. It is common among students to view sloppy, rushed handwriting with very little THINKING applied to writing content. Seventh-grade teachers should not have to stop and go back to retrain. Allowing students to turn in low-level papers with low-level thinking is not leading students down the path to scholarly success.

The topic of cursive can lead to heated discussions in a faculty lounge. When I hear the following comments I shudder and wonder why handwriting is given such short shrift: "I just want them to write so I can read it." "I have messy handwriting so I can't expect my students to write in cursive." "I have to pick my battles."

Poor handwriting may hamper academic success and often it is not noticed as being a contributing factor. Research on handwriting indicates that handwriting is not given enough notice in the curriculum. When are curriculum designers going to wake up and view the current research? Perhaps including handwriting among state standards in ALL subject areas would help: "Students will write legibly and fluently in both cursive and manuscript--submitting carefully written assignments using correct formatting style as determined by the local school district."

Posted by: Cathy | Dec 19, 2008 6:31:27 AM

Learning cursive handwriting is very important and it shows that you are much neater with your study.

Posted by: Kareem Barnett | Aug 31, 2008 11:20:33 AM

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