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Why Is My Writing Score So Low?

Why Is My Writing Score So Low?

Written by Zur Hanis Hamim  

I often hear a similar question from my students, “Why is my writing score so low?” Well, there are few reasons why a student gets a low score on a writing task, especially for the essay writing section. Some common issues faced by students include:

Failing to complete or address the topic of the task


Apparently, many students who failed to either complete or address the topic tend to misunderstand the essay question. This occurs when students read the question too quickly or fail to grasp the keyword of the question. Take, for example, students must write an opinion essay based on this question “Discuss the factors to be considered in choosing a university course.” One of the difficulties experienced by students, particularly first-year students, is understanding the standards expected in essays at the tertiary level. A hasty student might not notice the multiple tasks that needs to be completed or identify the focus of the question correctly. They simply state or describe the factors that they must consider when applying to certain university courses.


Usually, students are expected to do a bit of explanation on the various sides or points and talk over them in a more detailed manner. Instead, students should consider the following breakdowns as they write the essay: 

  1. Think and state relevant factors or issues related to the topic. Consider stating how a particular factor would influence the future decision-making process, effects, etc.
  2. State the pros and cons.
  3. Support statements with details. 
  4. Draw conclusions and/or state opinion.


Keep in mind that some of the words in the question provide crucial instructions for answering an essay question. Pay attention to the verb that has been used and accomplish what is needed of you. Ignoring these important keywords leads to underdeveloped paragraphs and eventually causes students to get lower scores. 

Technical error (grammatical error)

Students always have problems constructing error-free sentences. Here are some typical errors that students always do while writing:  

  • Subject-verb agreement 

In English, the subject of our sentences must agree in person and in number with the verbs/nouns that is used.

  • Fragments

  • Run-ons and Comma Splice

A run-on sentence occurs when two complete sentences are fused together. The situation is somehow similar to comma splice errors, except that there is no comma placed between the two sentences. Run-on sentences can be corrected in the same manner as we do for comma splice errors: by using a full stop, a semi-colon, or coordinating conjunction.

  • Parallelism

Parallelism is an important element in English writing, especially when you are listing and comparing and contrasting items or ideas. If you are writing a list and the first item in your list is a noun, write all the following items as nouns also. If the first item is an -ing word, make all the others -ing words; if it is an adverb clause, make all the others adverb clauses. This is a way to make the sentence look grammatically balanced as it improves coherence and consistency.

Essay writing is undoubtedly a daunting task for many students. Make sure to identify your weak areas and brush up on the basic principles of writing, grammar and spelling. Do not feel discouraged if your initial writing is not great. As Katherine Mansfield, a New Zealand-born English master of short stories, once said, "But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all."



Date of Input: 13/10/2021 | Updated: 13/10/2021 | hasniah


Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science
Universiti Putra Malaysia
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Selangor Darul Ehsan