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Access Arrangements in Assessment and Examinations


1. Why Dyslexic Candidates may require Accommodations.
2. Access Arrangements.
3. Separate Room Requirement.
4. Accessible Format.
5. National Curriculum Tests.
6. Common Entrance Examinations.
7. GCSE and A Levels.
8. Apprenticeships and Functional Skills.
9. Further and Higher Education.
10. Practical Tests and Exams.
11. Oral Exams and Vivas.

1. Why Dyslexic Candidates may require Accommodations.

Dyslexia as a Disability.

Dyslexia is a recognised disability under the Equality Act (2010) which requires organisations to ensure that people with disabilities are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments.

In addition to good practice to support dyslexic candidates, specific recommendations for Access Arrangements can be made by appropriately qualified experts.

Dyslexia and impact in Exams.

Formal tests and examinations can present challenges for dyslexic candidates.

  • Speed of processing, organising information, sequencing, short term and working memory, reading accuracy and automaticity and fluency in writing can all be particular issues preventing the dyslexic candidate from achieving their potential.

  • Visual difficulties in reading on-screen or tracking from one piece of paper to another can cause further problems.

  • Some dyslexic people may have difficulty with legible handwriting.

  • In addition, dyslexic people can be prone to stress, which in turn may exacerbate their difficulties.

2. Access Arrangements.

  • Dyslexic candidates in tests and exams will normally require Access Arrangements in order to level the playing field with non-dyslexic candidates.

  • There may be specific recommendations for particular formats of exam, such as multiple choice and case study exams.

  • Every dyslexic person will have different requirements.

  • Access arrangements assessments are ideally carried out by specialist dyslexia assessors, but this is not a statutory requirement for school exams.

Accommodations can include:

  • extra time (25% is usual).

  • a reader.

  • oral language modifier.

  • a scribe.

  • using a computer instead of handwriting.

  • using assistive software (screen reader/voice recognition).

  • exam papers to be on a coloured paper in dyslexia friendly font.

  • hard copy instead of on-screen.

  • supervised rest breaks.

3. Separate Room Requirement.

  • Where a dyslexic candidate requires Access Arrangements, they may need to be in examined in a separate room from other candidates.

  • Candidates with extra time only may also be examined in a separate room. This could accommodate others requiring extra time, but ideally should not include candidates requiring a reader, a scribe, or those using a word processor.

  • Many people with dyslexia find it difficult to screen out background noise and visual disturbance, which can impact on concentration. Once concentration is disturbed, it can be very hard to get back on track.

  • Putting a candidate for extra time in the main examination hall could negate the benefits of the extra time with the disturbance caused by the body of candidates leaving at the end of normal time. In addition, some candidates may be particularly susceptible throughout the exam to extraneous disturbance in an examination hall with a large body of candidates. If the school or college has the room and sufficient invigilators to accommodate the dyslexic candidate separately, this could be of benefit.
    What if there are no Separate Rooms available?

In the event of an examination centre being unable to provide separate accommodation for dyslexic candidates entitled to extra time, the following adjustments could be offered.

  • Candidates for extra time should be seated at the furthest point from the door to the examination hall.

  • When the time comes for the main body of candidates to leave the hall, the examination for extra time candidates should be stopped and only restarted once all other candidates have left.

  • These candidates should be given training on how best to use extra time, particularly where this is brief, such as checking and editing answers.

4. Accessible Format.

Examination papers should be formatted to be accessible for dyslexic candidates:

  • Use a plain, evenly spaced sans serif font such as Arial and Comic Sans. Alternatives include Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet.

  • Font size should be 12-14 point. Some dyslexic readers may request a larger font.

  • Use dark coloured text on a light (not white) background or paper. Some dyslexic candidates will have a particular colour preference.

  • For General Qualifications it is possible to request permission to open a paper early in order to photocopy onto coloured paper.

For further information on accessible written material, see Dyslexia Style Guide.

5. National Curriculum Tests.

Phonics Test (Year 1)

Few children with dyslexia will have been diagnosed at this stage. This test may help to identify those at risk. For children who are working well below the level of the screening check (for example, if they have shown no understanding of letter-sound correspondences), there will be a disapplication process so they do not have to take part. Parents should be informed if a child is disapplied.

Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6)

SATS. Assessment tests (known informally as SATs) are administered at the end of Key Stage 2 at 11 years. Notification is required for extra time and other arrangements to the Local Authority or Standards Testing Agency (STA).

Details of the current Access Arrangements for special needs candidates in SATs test is available on

6. Common Entrance Examinations.

Parents should discuss special arrangements with the new and existing schools.
Senior schools would normally require schools with candidates with a specific learning difficulty or any other special educational need to seek permission from the senior school for concessions at Common Entrance. An Educational Psychologist or specialist dyslexia teacher report specifying appropriate arrangments should be sent with the special needs report to the new school.

For full detailed information see the section on SpLD candidates at:

7. GCSEs and A Levels.

Full information of Access Arrangements is available on the JCQ website.

Applications to the Awarding Bodies, with the required evidence, must be made by the school or college in good time. Schools and colleges should carry out Access Arrangement assessments to determine appropriate support. Individual pupils should be assessed using appropriate tests from a qualified dyslexia specialist assessor. This can be carried out from the beginning of Year 9 at the earliest.

There is also a new computerised test for Access Arrangements from Lucid Research, called Lucid Exact. This is a useful screening tool to identify candidates who may require Access Arrangement assessment.

Where a candidate’s normal way of working is on a computer, the use of a word processor for exams can be allowed. A reader or scribe can be allowed where there are scores on assessments of reading and/or writing in the below average range as long as reading and/or writing help is the normal way of doing school work or exams. In the case of a late diagnosis, access arrangements can be considered. In order for assistive technology to become the normal way of working, students should ask for appropriate Technology for Reading to be put in place at an earlier stage.

Training courses for schools on Access Arrangements are offered by communicate-ed. For useful resources, including a CD Rom of recommended tests, see their Shop. This includes a link to a video explaining resources available.

Where a school or college is unwilling to accept supporting evidence or put forward a candidate for Access Arrangements, they are now required to give reasons.

The school must be able and willing to implement the special arrangements, e.g. supervise candidates for extra time in a separate room or provide special provision with training in the main exam hall and offer separate arrangements for those using word processors or requiring readers and scribes.

If a school fails to fully implement agreed Access Arrangements, the parent can apply for Special Considerations. Application for Special Consideration should be made on Form 10

Any complaints regarding Access Arrangements should be made to the Examination Centre, i.e. the school or college.

For further information refer to the exams regulator Ofqual:

Text Readers.

Some dyslexic candidates are being offered the use of text reading software instead of a personal reader. Candidates and teachers should be proficient in the use of text reading software prior to the examination. Schools and colleges should ensure that on-screen examination papers are compatible with existing assistive software.

For further information see

8. Apprenticeships and Functional Skills.

Functional Skills Tests come under the JCQ regulations above. Assistive software only is allowed for these tests instead of personal readers and scribes. Colleges should ensure that on-screen examination papers are compatible with existing assistive software.

9. Further and Higher Education.

Application for access arrangements can be made to the appropriate examination body or university. Evidence of dyslexia post 16 years and recommendations for Access Arrangements would normally need to be provided from an appropriately qualified dyslexia assessor with a Practising Certificate, (Psychologist or Specialist Dyslexia Teacher assessor.)

10. Practical Tests and Exams.

Accommodations may also apply to practical tests. For example, understanding the instructions for OSCE, (the clinical skills assessment in medical schools) can present particular problems and additional time should be allowed. Videos can present additional problems for those with auditory processing difficulties as they are not able to wind back to revisit a section.

11. Oral Exams and Vivas.

  • People affected by Specific Learning Difficulties have a strong tendency to respond less well in pressured situations such as interviews and oral exams.
  • Candidates with known dyslexic difficulties should be contacted to ask about accommodations in oral exams.

Areas of Difficulty.

  • Candidates with dyslexia and related conditions may have poor auditory memory and slower information processing speeds.
  • Verbalisation difficulties, fluency of speech and word recall – particularly in the heat of the moment – may be a factor.
  • Poor short term and working memory is a common weakness in this area of disability.


  • Some candidates may need to be given a list of questions in advance to allow for processing and understanding. They may need time to prepare notes.
  • Case studies or scenarios to be read out to the candidate may need to be given in writing in advance.
  • Avoid asking about specific details. These may be hard to recall. Put in context instead.
  • Long and complex questions should be broken down into short questions.
  • Prompting may also be needed where the candidate is having difficulty sequencing thoughts and verbalising accurately.
  • Prompting may also be necessary to elicit a fuller answer.
  • Avoid non-specific phrases such as ‘Can you tell me more?’ or ‘Can you expand on that?’ Questions need to be very direct.
  • Candidates can become verbally muddled when asked to give details or describe a situation or method. This needs to be appreciated.
  • Give full titles and names, avoiding initials and acronyms.
  • Candidates may misinterpret the correct meaning of a question. It may be necessary to repeat the question in a different way.
  • Questions may need to be repeated for the candidate to be able to process more accurately.
  • Candidates may have difficulty with nuances and metaphors. Avoid phrases which are open to confusion or misinterpretation.