5 free ways to get student reports done faster on your Mac

Chances are that you landed on this page because you feel you spend too long writing student reports. In this post, I share 5 ways to use your Mac to have your reports done faster than ever before.

1. Learn to type faster

Okay, this one might sound a bit like a copout, but think about it. The average person types approximately 20 words per minute while composing, when a ‘fast’ typist is twice as fast, with 40 words per minute. You could cut the time you spend writing student reports in half simply by learning how to type faster. While learning to touch type can be a lengthy process, it certainly is worth it over the long term, especially when it comes to student reports.

My two favourite online applications to learn to touch type are http://www.typingweb.com and http://www.goodtyping.com.

2. Use the built-in Mac dictation software

Your Mac comes pre-loaded with dictation software, otherwise known as speech-to-text software. No need to buy extra software. Using Mac dictation allows you to ‘speak’ what you want in your student reports, rather than typing it. There are a few caveats (punctuation must be spoken, must be done in a quiet environment, etc.), but the results can be impressive. Sure there will be typos and errors, but you can easily correct those while proofreading, which you would most likely do anyway. If you are a slow typist, then this is one for you. Here is how to use Mac dictation.

Note: your Mac must be running Mountain Lion (10.8.x) operating system or higher (e.g. Mavericks – 10.9.x, Yosemite – 10.10.x, etc.) in order for dictation to work. Click here to check what version of Mac OS X you are running.

3. Use the built-in Mac text expansion tool

Even if you type every student report from scratch, chances are you will re-use some turns of phrases multiple times. If you teach hundreds of students, this can really add up and slow you down considerably. Sure, you could use copy/paste snippets of text, but you first need to find the right snippet to copy, and that can take a while as you most likely need to use the mouse/trackpad.

Using the built-in Mac text expansion tool, you can create your own list of ‘shortcuts’, that expand to a full sentence when typed. Consider the example below:

I have created a shortcut named ‘,,quiet‘ and whenever I type that string of characters on my Mac, it automatically expands to ‘xxx is a quiet student who only takes part in the lesson when prompted.’ That is a typing saving of 64 characters, right there.

To build your own list, you should read your own past student reports to spot patterns in your writing, then come up with a convention, so that your ‘shortcuts’ can never be mistaken for something you genuinely want to write. I prefix my ‘shortcuts’ with a double comma, as this should never occur in my regular writing.

Here is great guide showing you how to create your own list of ‘shortcuts’.

4. Use a dedicated free online application

There are a few online applications you can use to help you write your reports. Some are marketed as being ‘free apps’, but most of those are only demos, with functionality so limited that it renders the app useless. The best school report card writer I have found so far is ‘School Report Writer’, which can be found at http://www.schoolreportwriter.com/.

This free online application to write student report cards allow you to create your own bank of comments, which you can reuse very easily when writing reports. Student names, adjectives and other bits are added automatically. Consider the following example, with a female student named ‘Emily’:

#N has scored highly in all criteria this year. #E has maintained an average GPA of xx.

Would automatically turn into

Emily has scored highly in all criteria this year. She has maintained an average GPA of xx.

The time saving potential is huge. Further, you reduce the risk of making typos. Did I mention it is free?

5. Create your own ‘application’ using a spreadsheet application (e.g. Excel)

By making use of built-in functions such as ‘IF’ or ‘VLOOKUP’, you will be able to create your own report writing application using the likes of Excel, Numbers or Google Spreadsheet. Write a comment if you would like me to create a tutorial on how to achieve that.

Can you think of other ways to write your student reports faster? Please share using the comment section. 


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1 Response

  1. Hi there,

    I would also like to suggest http://www.reportcommentbank.co.uk for your readers – another free online school report writer (the original one!).

    Would that be OK?



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