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Grading redux: Spelling and grammar

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7 Responses

  1. tim zinnecker says:

    I graded approx. 140 exams last semester. I’m guessing that close to 25% misspelled my last name in the bluebooks, notwithstanding the fact that my name appeared on the exam itself.

  2. Kaimi says:

    Wow – that really takes the cake, Mr. Zinecker.

  3. asdf says:

    I myself place a very high value on perfect spelling and grammar, and I personally used to spend hours and hours combing through my documents to guarantee that my documents were free of absolutely any spelling or grammatical errors before I submitted them to a professor or a client. So,

    Superfluous comma.

    it’s frustrating me to no end to read a paper that was apparently thrown together without, as I admonished the students plenty of times in class,

    Could this interjected clause be more, as Ms. Hildebrand often admonished her students, awkward?

    the student paying meticulous attention to eradicate any spelling errors or incorrect grammar

    “… thrown together without meticulous attention to spelling and grammar”

    Or are there bonus points for convoluted sentence constructions, so long as the spelling and grammar are perfect?

    in their final papers. How have you handled this?

    “… to read a paper … in their final papers” is akward.

    “eradicate from” not “eradicate in”.

    Sorry, I had too many professors like Jim.

  4. Jason says:

    asdf makes a good point. Were I grading in-class exams, I don’t think I’d count spelling and grammar at all unless it was just unreadable. I’d expect coherence, so organization of the answer might count for something, but the other things are often just typographical mistakes, and we all make plenty of those, especially under time pressure.

    Also, what about foreign-born students whose command of English may not be quite as good? At my school, I know that LLM students who are non-native English speakers are supposed to make a notation saying as much on their exam, but I don’t know what the rules are for the professors grading those exams.

  5. I don’t factor spelling into my grade for in-class exams. Students don’t have time to run spell check, and I don’t think that spelling matters at all in a timed exam. Likewise for most grammatical errors.

    As for organization, this goes to the clarity of thought, and I do factor that into my grade. If a student’s answer is unclear or awkward or poorly expressed, I also factor that into the grade, as I believe it goes to quality of thought.

    On papers, however, spelling and grammar matter, as the student has time to ensure that the final product is proofread. But in a timed exam, students are too busy rushing to complete the answers to have be thinking about fixing spelling and grammar.

    I don’t think that spelling and grammar are relevant to a timed in-class exam. The timed in-class exam is a very imperfect metric, as speed becomes a major factor, and in real life, judges or partners don’t ask attorneys to write out their answers in three hours in a bluebook. At best, an in-class exam can reflect the quality of a student’s thought process and provide a window into the student’s analytical abilities. That’s what I look for when I grade in-class exams.

  6. I gather much of it is not a deduction in the sense that there are points reserved for it on a cut-sheet. There is a subjective element to grading exams and I am sure most professors are influenced by bad writing.

    I tend to agree with the school of thought that on a timed exam there should not be any points deducted for spelling errors unless it deals with a legal concept that no law student should be misspelling, e.g., “moot” spelled “mute,” or “cite” spelled “site” or “sight” (A3G exempt).

  7. Jim says:

    Touche’, asdf. The email in the original post was dashed off to a friend. On the other hand, my students have had months to write and polish their final papers. I agree that spelling and grammatical errors are generally immaterial to in-class exams.

    For the record, my email was written from noting obvious typos (“suite” instead of suit, or “akward” instead of awkward) and citation errors, rather than sentence structure.

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