Posted by: John Colby | Sunday May 25 2008

Opacity in reports

I’m currently preparing for a speaking engagement in mid June. It requires trawling through various examiners reports for GCSEs to discover relevant figures. What is striking me is why these reports cannot be more transparent in terms of both language and layout. They’re certainly not written for the people who count – those taking the exams or their parents. Or even for the teachers. Opacity rules, it seems.




  1. Who writes the reports?
    I must say, I’ve often found that for the person writing the report (this goes for almost any report), writing up is a big chore and is not often done with the end user in mind. To add to matters, there seems to be a mistaken notion that “serious report” and “clear writing” are incompatible. Like, if it’s too easy to understand, you can’t have worked hard enough or put in enough. Result: reports that are at best unclear, and at worst have no meaning at all.

    People should understand that anything they put “out there” is *for* someone, and ask themselves what that someone is going to want to read. I for one would be grateful if they did so more often.

  2. These reports are written as the final part of the examinations process and are the justification for the marks/grades awarded. They’re still opaque!

    Maybe they’re designed that way.

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