There was a blog post in the Guardian this week which claimed that humanities students now have problems completing handwritten examinations because they are not used to handwriting for long stretches.
I can sympathise with this. As the survivor of 11 O-Levels, 3 A-Levels, a bachelor's degree in Sociology and International Relations and chartered management accountancy examinations, I still have mine. I have spent literally days in exam halls. For example, when I sat my final exams for my degree, I had to sit eight exams in just over one week. As each paper was three hours long, that meant 24 hours of furious essay-writing, culminating with two in one day - and a Saturday, to boot. Back then I did not use a fountain pen, but instead the good old Bic Cristal. This, I feel, is the reason why I now loathe them, because if I have to write for a long spell even today, I get some discomfort from my writer's bump, the callous over the distal phalanx of my right-hand middle finger.
This is also one reason why I prefer steno pencils or pencils with rounded profiles such as the Chung Hwa 6903 kindly sent to me for review by Matthias of the Bleistift parish. (It will appear soon, honest.) The standard hexagonal pencil tends to dig in a bit to my writer's bump, making a long writing session moderately uncomfortable. It is also one reason why I decided to use fountain pens when I decided my handwriting had deteriorated too far after years of neglect.
When I studied for my accountancy exams, the training college I attended insisted that students submit their homework assignments in handwritten form. They could easily have accepted computer-based work, to save themselves the trouble of having to decipher the students' scrawls. However, they required us to hand-write our work as a training programme for the exams which loomed at the end of the course. This was eminently sensible. The three-hour timed essay under examination conditions is a stern test of the student's knowledge, and also their physical stamina. It takes time to build up sufficient strength to hold a pen to paper and keep going for that long.
So the students of today have my sympathy, as the proud owner of that particular T-shirt. As computer-based assessment becomes more common, the problem will, I suppose, be replaced with students suffering WRULDs instead. The writer's bump will likely die out along with its owners.