Access Arrangements in Assessment and Examinations
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 accommodations 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.
Dyslexic candidates in tests and exams will normally require accommodations 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 can only be assessed by an appropriately qualified specialist teacher assessor or qualified Psychologist
Accommodations can include:
extra time (25% is usual).
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.
Separate Room Requirement.
Where a dyslexic candidate requires special accommodations, they will need to be in examined in a separate room from other candidates.
Candidates with extra time only should also be examined in a separate room. This could accommodate others requiring extra time, but should not include candidates requiring a reader or use of a computer.
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.
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 front of the examination hall in advance of other candidates by the amount of extra time required.
These candidates should be given training on how best to use this extra time, particularly where this is brief, such as reading and planning answers.
When the time comes for the main body of candidates to enter the examination hall, the examination for extra time candidates should be stopped and resumed at the start of the main examination.
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.
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 further information on accessible written material, see Dyslexia Style Guide.
Some dyslexic candidates are being offered the use of text reading software instead of a personal reader. Unfortunately the examination boards have, in many cases, not prepared their papers to be suitable for text readers, nor put in place any quality control to check for possible problems. This issue is currently the subject of further investigation.
1. The National Curriculum
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).
Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6)
Latest criteria for extra time for Access Arrangments and Key Stage 2 from spring 2013.
Details of Access Arrangements can be found in Chapter 5 of Assessment and Reporting Arrangements.
Also further advice on arrangements for extra time in Key Stage 2.
2.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: http://www.iseb.co.uk/schools.htm
3. GCSE, GCE 'A' levels and GNVQ Examinations
Full information of Access Arrangements is available on the JCQ website.
For specific queries see JCQ's Frequently Asked Questions
Applications to the Examination Boards, with the required evidence, must be made by the school in good time. Schools should carry out access arrangement assessments to determine appropriate support. Individual pupils should be assessed using appropriate tests from a qualified dyslexia specialist assessor. 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 computer for exams can be allowed. A reader or scribe or use of a computer is allowed where this reflects the candidate's normal way of doing school work or exams. In the case of a late diagnosis, access arrangements can be considered.
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 computers or requiring readers and scribes.
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: http://www.ofqual.gov.uk/for-students-and-parents.
4. Further and Higher Education
Application for access arrangements can be made to the appropriate examination body or university.