Handwriting to dictation

There are a limited number of tests available for assessing the speed of handwriting, and the most widely used of these, which includes standardised norms, is an assessment of free writing. However, these tests include such a large and variable element of thinking time that they cannot offer a reliable measure of actual writing speed. We have therefore designed a handwriting to dictation test which eliminates thinking time and is a pure measure of handwriting speed and legibility. Inevitably, the handwriting speed for a dictated piece is very different from the speed obtained from free writing, and the two should not be confused. Both types of test may be required to fully assess a student’s handwriting difficulties.

In the handwriting to dictation test a passage is dictated by the computer and the student has to write the dictated text by hand. A total of seven minutes is allowed for the passage, which is approximately 200 words in length. The passage is dictated in chunks of around four to six words, followed by a pause. The student has to press the ‘page down’ key to hear the next chunk or can press the ‘control’ key to hear that chunk repeated. In order to avoid confounding spelling skills with writing speed, the passage has been designed to impose minimal demands on spelling skills in the early paragraphs.

The results for this test show the speed of handwriting in words per minute (see Section 3.1.1), and the number of words handwritten (see Section 3.1.7). The number of handwritten words is estimated by the program based on the number of words dictated. Our research has shown that in 95% of cases the computer estimation of the number of words is sufficiently close to the actual number of words that it makes no appreciable difference to the standard score. However, in about 5% of cases, there may be substantial divergence between the computer estimation of the number of words and the actual count. This may arise because the student has been listening to the story and not writing.

Administrators should therefore always carry out a visual inspection of the handwritten work and, where anomalies are suspected, the actual count should be entered into the computer to replace the estimated count (see Section 3.1.5 for an explanation of how to do this).

In addition, if desired, the administrator can count up the number of misspelled or illegible words and enter these into the computer, and the program will calculate these measures as percentages of the total number of words typed or handwritten (see Section 3.1.4). See Section 3.1.5 for an explanation of how to do this. However, it should be stressed that this is not intended to be a test of spelling and hence most students make few errors. In the standardisation sample, about 70% of students made fewer than 5% spelling errors in either passage.

If desired, the student’s handwritten production can be scanned into a computer and the image loaded into Exact via Testwise (see help site for instructions on how to do this) in which case it will be displayed on the handwriting to dictation section of the PDF Report (see Section 3.1.7). This facility is optional, and if an image is not available the page will remain blank.