University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is dropping the spelling portion of its spelling and grammar test to “make the exam more relevant” to today’s spell check-using students.
The new exam will consist of two-thirds grammar questions and one-third word choice questions. It will be lengthened to 50 minutes to give students more time to complete the word choice portion of the exam.
There’s a lot of reaction to this on my Facebook wall, as well as in the comments below. “While we’re at it, let’s stop teaching adding, subtracting, and those godawful multiplication tables, writes John Keahey. “We have calculators on our phones and computers, right?”
* Technology renders journalism school’s spelling test obsolete
* “Spelling, of course, still matters,” writes UNC editing professor
* McIntyre: There are more important skills to be tested on than spelling
UPDATE: Here’s the journalism school’s memo (slightly edited) about the test:
From: Roush, Chris
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2012 12:38 PM
Subject: Story for JOMC website on spelling and grammar exam
The School of Journalism and Mass Communication will change its 37-year-old spelling and grammar exam beginning this fall semester, but one thing is not changing – students will still have to pass the exam to graduate from the School.
The spelling portion of the exam is being replaced by a word usage portion beginning in the fall semester. The grammar portion will remain.
In addition, the time to take the test will expand to 50 minutes from the current 40 minutes. Faculty and staff at the School believe the longer time is warranted because it takes more time to review a sentence for correct word usage than it takes to review a list of four words to determine which one is misspelled.
The exam will be offered during the 2012-13 academic year in Newswriting classes, as well as through Student Records. After 2012-13, the exam will only be available through Student Records.
“We updated our curriculum in 2009, and updating the exam is a natural extension of those changes,” said Chris Roush, senior associate dean. “Word usage is a much more important skill to have given the widespread use of spell check on most computers.”
The exam was first given at the School in 1975 – of the 68 students who took it, 25 passed, or 37 percent – and was featured on the NBC nightly news on Feb. 1, 1975.
The School added a one-hour grammar class to its curriculum three years ago. Currently, approximately 70 percent of students pass the exam the first or second time they take the exam.
The passing grade remains at 70.