Typing to dictation

Since it is a requirement by the examining authorities that students should be proficient on a keyboard in order to be allowed to use a word processor in examinations, we have included a typing to dictation test which can be compared with the handwriting to dictation score.

In the typing to dictation test a passage is dictated by the computer and the student has to type the dictated text using the computer keyboard. 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 typing speed, the passage has been designed to impose minimal demands on spelling skills in the early paragraphs.

The typed dictation is often of interest because it clearly demonstrates spelling difficulties and problems with auditory memory, both of which may suggest dyslexia (for an example, see the case study presented in Section 4.1).

The results for this test show the speed of typing in words per minute (see Section 3.1.1), and the number of words typed (see Section 3.1.4). The number of typed words is calculated by the program, which treats a string of characters separated by spaces as ‘words’ and counts up accordingly. 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 neglected to put spaces between several words.

Administrators should therefore always carry out a visual inspection of the typed piece 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 (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.