OK, we're understanding people, we really are. But the Guardian has published a piece that puts forth the idea students are so unused to writing by hand that it stresses them out to do so on exams.
From the Guardian:
For the moment it seems that the pen and paper are here to stay, but examiners are aware of the strain written tests place upon students. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, English tutor at Oxford University, says: "Inevitably, anxiety is sometimes voiced that students are now so used to typing they can't cope with a three-hour handwritten exam."
Students use keyboards almost exclusively for classwork, then are required to use pens and/or pencils on written essays during exam times. Apparently, that makes their hands hurt and slows down their ability to answer questions.
Writer Rebecca Ratcliffe says:
In the run-up to my undergraduate exams, I was advised by tutors to practice speedy handwriting. Some even claimed that candidates can't write as much these days as their counterparts did in previous years, though no data is available to prove this.
UK school officials have suggested doing away with handwritten portions of tests, while some schools have given students the options of using laptops (although few students seem to take that choice, according to the Guardian).
Yes, writer's cramp is real. We've all experienced it. Usually, it's a result of practicing the 'death grip,' either from bad penmanship habits or from using a cheap ballpoint that doesn't write smoothly.
And yes, writing by hand does require a bit of a different mental process than keyboarding. Research has consistently shown the two activities engage different areas of the brain.
(Oh, and there may also be a link between good handwriting and better grades.)
But has it really gotten to the point where it's simply too much to pick up a pen for a few hours of test-taking?
Instead of abandoning a fundamental form of communication – one that is going to persist in one form or another until the end of time – there might be some better solutions. Such as encouraging students to handwrite some work throughout the school year. Or teaching them how to write properly in the first place. Or even just using ergonomic pens.
They're students, after all. Writing is a basic part of education.