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Without computers, we would need to work out difficult math problems on paper. This is still true in math tests, where the teacher would give students a few pieces of paper so they can work out their problems. Usually, students can ask for more paper, if needed.

I don't know a specific word for this kind of paper. I was guessing that it might be working paper or jotting paper, but they don't sound quite right.

What should I call this kind of paper in English?

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I don't think there is any specific word for such kind of paper or if there is any I might not be aware of it. However I have often informally used "rough paper". Get it, paper for rough work - rough paper.!! –  kmdhrm Jan 17 '14 at 14:44
Rough work is done on scrap paper. See example sentence on page of this document. –  Laure Jan 17 '14 at 15:00
@Laure: I'm showing my age. In my youth "scrap paper" meant paper to be "scrapped" or discarded; and because our parents and teachers, from whom we learned the term, had been through WWII, when the government made great efforts to reuse strategic materials, there was a strong sense of "paper-to-be-scrapped-and-recycled". –  StoneyB Jan 17 '14 at 15:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The usual term when I was in school was scratch paper—scraps of paper you "scratch out" calculations and notes on, to be discarded after results have been fair-copied into your exam answer or essay.

  • Laure calls my attention to scrap paper, which appears from this GoogleNGram almost always to have been more popular in BrE, and to have become more popular in AmE since I left high school.

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  • Jim calls my attention to the alternative term work sheet. This works, too; but in my experience it is usually employed when you are supposed to turn in the paper, with your exam, rather than discarding it.

A working paper is usually either a) a report on a "work-in-progress" or b) a "working" version of a paper which is still in development and not yet ready for submission or publication.

The traditional term in textual criticism for an author's manuscript draft, often full of strikethroughs, insertions and corrections, is foul papers, from which a "clean" version or fair copy is made.

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+1 You might also talk about worksheets and how that term may or may not be applicable. –  Jim Jan 17 '14 at 14:55
This is simpler that I thought, perhaps the word scratch paper might have crossed my eyes, but I couldn't recall it when I need to use it. Silly me. Big thanks for two new words for me (foul papers and fair copy), and a nice tip on working paper usages. Thank you. –  Damkerng T. Jan 17 '14 at 15:02
@Jim: Thanks for the idea; I've added something. –  StoneyB Jan 17 '14 at 15:11
In the UK I've heard scrap paper more often than scratch paper. –  Laure Jan 17 '14 at 15:16
@Laure: It appears from this to be both. I note that the crossover in AmE is 1966, the year after I started college. –  StoneyB Jan 17 '14 at 15:33

In exams at school, we always called it "rough paper", meaning paper that was used only for working out calculations etc. and to be thrown away afterwards. We could also have called it "scrap paper".

I have not heard the term "scratch paper" as suggested by the other answerer and whilst I could understand it from context, it would not be a familiar term to me. It sounds more like a phrase used by the older generations, like something my parents might say (I'm 27.) Then again, it could be an area thing, too. I am from the UK.

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+1 Interesting. Although I've never encountered "rough paper" in this sense, quick sketches intended for future elaboration are very often called "roughs" over here, and hasty first versions of texts are "rough drafts". GoogleBooks provides a handful of collocations of "rough paper" with "exam" in the GB corpus, though far fewer than "scrap paper" and "exam". –  StoneyB Jan 17 '14 at 15:52
We had "rough books" as well at school which were a type of exercise book that we used specifically for rough working. –  starsplusplus Jan 17 '14 at 15:55
I wonder how much of the language we use is "scholiolect", the forms in use in the particular school we happened to attend. –  StoneyB Jan 17 '14 at 16:02
@StoneyB: starsplusplus doesn't provide "location" on his/her profile, but perhaps it's UK? I think I recall using "rough paper" at school 50 years ago, and I'm certain my daughter had it less than 10 years ago. I remember her complaining that my "scrap paper" (boxes of by-then-unwanted continuous listing paper) wasn't as good as the stuff she used at school. Which was called rough paper because it was for rough working (sums, outline notes, preliminary sketches, etc). But as a budding artist at the time, she liked the way it took crayon/charcoal, in the literal sense. –  FumbleFingers Jan 17 '14 at 18:29
@FumbleFingers Yes, starsplusplus says "I am from the UK" at the end of the post. Interestingly, most GoogleBooks hits on "rough paper" address its use by artists, not its use on exams. This Ngram suggests BrE "rough paper" has been essentially flat since 1900, while "scrap paper" has been rising since the '20s, passing "rough" in about the year I finished high school. –  StoneyB Jan 17 '14 at 18:39

Whilst working at my computer, I often have a 'scribble pad' beside me, to work things out on, or to jot down unfinished ideas

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