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  • Writer's pictureAnqi Teng

3 Reasons Why Students Struggle in High School English

Writing is an integral part of schooling, staying with students for over 13 years of their lives. They need writing skills for English, History, Geography and even long response questions in Science.

That's why it is extra frustrating for a student when their writing skills are dragging their marks down. I will be breaking down, based on my 7 years of English teaching, the top 3 reasons why student receive poor marks in high school writing.

Reason One: Grammar

Grammar is the secret requirement for all writing exercises - and rightly so! When words are not arranged in their appropriate order, meaning becomes distorted. Without the ability to construct clear sentences that actually make sense, students are stuck with low marks because their ideas cannot be conveyed to the markers and teachers.

Schools currently adopt the idea that students will learn grammar naturally as they communicate with others and read books. However there are 2 main issues with this:

Firstly, students do not read nearly as much anymore, and why should they? Information has become visual, YouTube is a better learning tool than textbooks and the world is often just too fast for reading. In a world where information is handed to us on a platter, there is often no need to read for grammatical construction.

Secondly, people do not speak with correct grammar. If anything, speaking with others is a sure fire way to learn incorrect grammar! Spoken grammar is filled with bad habits. Written grammar must be precise and considered.

Therefore, grammar must be taught and learnt systematically to guarantee its accuracy of use.

Reason Two: Casual Versus Formal Writing Voice

Another major issue that causes a lot of lost marks is the selection of incorrect writing voice. Many students who were strong in creative writing as a primary schooler may be in for a shock when they write their first high school essay.

Creative writing can be casual. Writing creatives don't require mastery of specialised language, the use of third person language or formal exposition. Students will easily score high marks in creative writing once they start using basic techniques such as metaphors and imagery.

On the other hand, essays are formal. They require tighter sentences, accurate language use and a wide vocabulary of specialised language. This language is not so easily found in casual reading and students often need to look for formal text forms or specifically undertake training to write formally effectively. Descriptive language filled with adjectives and adverbs actually will lead to poor essay outcomes.

Reason Three: Good vocabulary range, limited vocabulary understanding

Many students have a good grasp of synonyms and antonyms by the time they are in high school. Having a broad vocabulary range is not just important for sounding sophisticated, it allows students to accurately express their viewpoints.

However in high school, difficult vocabulary is not as important as precise vocabulary. Students who choose complicated words over accurate words will find themselves receiving low marks. The best way to work on this is to relearn simple vocabulary and focus on relearning their nuances - the fine differences between synonyms. It seems counterintuitive to go back to the basics but this is a crucial part in improving writing skills in a high school context.

Hopefully this list helped in pointing you in the right direction for high school English improvement.

If you have any further questions, feel free to send them to

See you at our next post!

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