But Barrett can't explain some of the problems.
"Students say, 'How could I have failed? I got 93 in Grade 12 English!' "It's extremely puzzling to me," Barrett said.
High schools all have different standards, she said. Unlike the United States or the United Kingdom, Canada doesn’t have standardized university entrance exams for high-school students.
In addition, the university level doesn't have a formal relationship with high school teachers in Canada, so there's no simple way to communicate the skills that are necessary for success in university.
The most common mistakes made by English-speaking students are punctuation errors, she said. Students often don't know how to use a colon, or an apostrophe.
"Possessives are a nightmare," said Barrett.
Ironically, these problems are less of an issue for students learning English as a second language. Their grammar is not so bad, but they don't always have a "feel" for everyday quirks of the language.
For example, they might not understand why you can say, "I flew to London on a plane," but you wouldn't say, "I drove to Toronto on a car," Barrett said.
One of the biggest problems for foreign students is lack of practice in speaking English.
D: 5% worse than 5 years ago.
I could not have entered university today with my high school marks.
Articles like this vindicate my suspicion that high school marks are being inflated.
I have advice for U students.
When you get an essay back, read over the marking.
See what grammar and syntax errors you made.
I could have improved faster if I had done so...