Slow Writers and Hard-to-Read Handwriting: Tips for your Teen

Slow Writers and Hard-to-Read Handwriting: Tips for your Teen

When it comes to written subjects, a couple of common concerns might seem tricky to change. One is watching your child write slowly and you may be worried they are just not writing quickly enough! Another issue might poor handwriting, or handwriting that you worry looks like it’s written in cryptic code!

And as much as you tell your child, “Write neatly,” or “Speed up a bit!” these are skills that are quite ingrained- especially when your teen is weeks away from sitting exams. So is there anything that can be done or any support which can be put in place?

Well, the answer is ‘yes…hopefully.’ First of all, if you child has severely illegible handwriting, or has been identified with a slow processing issue, then it is likely the teachers will already have organised your child’s access arrangements, which can mean extra time, use of a laptop or a scribe. Access arrangements are something that you, as a parent, will be aware of by now- if your child has been provided with them.

If your child hasn’t any access arrangements, then there are some things that you could try to address slow or messy handwriting, even at this late stage.


Planning answers first can be a great way of getting words to paper more quickly. By planning, students give themselves a sense of direction and are able to see some logic and flow with where their answer is going, as they write it. This, in turn, prevents ‘stalling time,’ which is why some students slow down to write. A quick plan, even if it takes a couple of minutes from the exam time, can really help some students to get their longer answers written down more quickly. (Oh, and another advantage to this is, if your teen runs out of time, an examiner might be able to squeeze a mark or two out from an idea they saw in the plan- you never know!) Our revision courses can guide students with the best ways to make short and effective plans.

Secondly, it sounds dull, but practising writing quickly is another method your teen could try. As they are finishing their final stages of revision, they could keep reminding themselves to write at speed- giving themselves the opportunity to practise upping their pen’s pace! Practice papers are an important part of the process, and that’s why teachers- as well as revision specialists, such as ourselves- will strongly recommend doing them.

Finally- for writing speed- when it comes to longer essay questions, students should have in mind a paragraph or essay structure. This will help their writing to flow out more naturally onto the page, and therefore help them to formulate their thoughts and words to the page more quickly. English teachers, for example, often suggest a structure something along the lines of ‘PEE,’ which stands for (make a) Point, (provide) Evidence and then Explain.

When it comes to handwriting, it can be tricky to force a change, but a first rule of thumb might be to remind your teen that writing illegibly will ultimately lose them marks. Therefore they are going to need to slow down a bit to make sure the examiner can read what’s been written! If this still doesn’t seem to be sinking in, another tip could be to suggest your child writes in a different style- italics, for example. By changing their style at this late stage, they suddenly become more conscious of their handwriting skill and might, therefore, remember to make it resemble something that can be read! The easier the examiners find it to read, the more likely your child will be understood with written clarity- and therefore awarded deserving marks!


This weekend we are offering support in English, Physics and Modern Studies last few places remaining – click here to find out more.