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What’s the problem with accuracy?

One of my GCSE students has recently completed a series of ‘mock’ exams at school. He is a bright lad at a private school but he struggles with English. The mock results gave him grades 8 and 9 in his sciences and geography but 5 in English Language. I asked him why he finds the English so much more difficult.

He replied, “They don’t seem to care about the spelling and grammar in the science subjects but in English they want accuracy.”

It’s true.

In some subjects, only 4 marks can be lost for ‘accuracy’ in a single answer, but in English as many as 16 marks are in jeopardy. Isn’t accuracy – accuracy?

In the Year 6 KS2 SATs, marks are lost if a candidate forgetfully ‘circles’ a correct answer when the instruction asked for an ‘underline’, but not when they spell ‘becuase’ incorrectly in the SPaG paper – apparently spelling mistakes are only penalised in the spelling test itself.

The incorrect use of your/you’re, aloud/allowed, lose/loose, there/their and to/too drives me crazy on social media and I work on these (and others) quite a lot with my students. And not just young students! It worries me that by 15/16 years old, we still have not corrected these errors in our otherwise competent students.

Other ‘pet hates’ include ‘should of’, and the misplaced apostrophe ‘s’. Don’t get me started on that!

Pronunciation is often the key. The issue with to/too is a case in point. Coming from Yorkshire I have an accent that produces ‘to’, as ‘tŭ’ (a short vowel), but here in Norfolk it is frequently pronounced ‘too’. Most students don’t seem to understand the difference, mainly because their teachers use the same local accent. 

I say to my students, “So do you say, ‘I’m going too school?’ They reply “Well – yes” with a puzzled frown.

I explain it. “I’m going the park. You can come too.”  

Accent causes other issues. Somehow the word ‘margarine’ came up recently.  I said I preferred ‘bŭtter’. I got a smile and ‘Oh you mean ‘bătter’!

Oh well.


I hope no-one finds an error in this blog!

Richard Ashelford
Richard has been a private tutor of English language, literature and Business Studies for over 15 years. After completing an Initial Teaching course and an English Language course at the Open University, he began to tutor seriously. Says Richard, "It’s been a massive learning curve and my own learning seems never-ending. In 2020, I completed the QT Tier 1 Course and I am an active member of the Community. After my first short blog, I was inspired and encouraged by the QT Team to write more. And blog writing is becoming another new skill! I hope my readers think so ..."

1 Comment

  1. Ludo Millar
    6 January 2021 @ 12:26 pm

    It’ll come in handy one day! Accents are fascinating


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