Natural Readability

How can you predict how well your personal statement will come across?

First and foremost, re-reading it yourself is the most important thing you can do before moving on. Personal reflection on your own work is a very important skill that you will be developing throughout university and your career. 

You will then want to ask a parent or teacher to review it for you. As adept as you may be at writing, a fresh pair of eyes that are more experienced than your own will help reveal overlooked errors as well as providing an important third party view of your work.

However as you look to the immediate future you need to be able to review your writing as you go rather than constantly waiting on others’ feedback.Once you have a good draft in your hands you may want to consider our personal statement review service before typing up your final copy and submitting your application. 

Independently Assess Your Work

The Flesch-Kincaid Readability and Grade level tests can help you quickly assess any writing, whether a sentence or a whole book. It looks at your words per sentence with the number of syllables per word and via an algorithm generates an idea of the complexity of the text. As with anything that is produced by an algorithm rather than a human, always double check afterwards using common sense for anything the computer may have missed.

 

To give you an idea of how this tests work, let’s now look at a comparison of two students conveying the same experience in different ways:

“Being so great at football and an excellent team player, me and my team won lots of matches for the school. It is the most fun after school club I do.”

“Of the various clubs I attend, football has proven to be the most enjoyable. I have not only developed my athletic ability but through working together as a tight-knit team my classmates and I have come to dominate other schools in various competitions.”

 

Both of the above quotes contain the same information, either explicitly or implied:

  1. You attend a football club
  2. It is the club you enjoy the most
  3. You are aware of the importance of working well within a team
  4. Your team is successful 

However the implied age of the writer varies wildly between the two versions. If you navigate to https://readable.io/text/ you can carry out this exercise for yourself and then test different parts of your Personal Statement or indeed the whole text.

Let’s look at how these two students fare with their different styles of writing.

The highest score possible, and therefore the most basic use of the English language, scores 120. For reference, ‘The cat sat on the mat’ scores 116.

 

Student A

“Being so great at football and an excellent team player, me and my team won lots of matches for the school. It is the most fun after school club I do.”

Student A scores 87.8, placing the text at a level that is easily understood by a UK Year 6 pupil, i.e. someone 10 to 11 years old.

A Personal Statement written in a stuttered, simplistic way as above places you below even GCSE level, and makes it unlikely your statement will be looked upon in a positive light.

 

Student B

“Of the various clubs I attend, football has proven to be the most enjoyable. I have not only developed my athletic ability but through working together as a tight-knit team we have come to dominate other schools in various competitions.”

Student B scores 45.7, placing it within the bounds expected of a university student, which ranges from 30 – 50.

 

Don’t Go Overboard

A lower and therefore more complex score is not always better. Any text which maintains a postgraduate level of writing will quickly tire readers if the style is not appropriate for the content. If you have read Ulysses by James Joyce you will understand this point.

This section of the WorkBook for example scores 68.8, readable for 15-year-olds and is known as ‘Plain English’. It is the level used when trying to communicate with the general population and in teaching for clear communication of ideas.

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