Aaron Drain, Content Specialist

Making Exams More Accessible

Exam season can be a daunting time for teachers and students alike, especially if some learners need that little extra bit of help to reach their full potential and ace those tests. Between rising numbers of students requiring a human reader to assist them during test-time, and GCSE resits on the up, schools are understandably under pressure to deliver results - success both academic and financial. 

But there are ways and means of cutting some costs while ensuring that students still achieve marquee grades. JCQ Access Arrangements now permit the use of a Computer Reader in exams, for those who struggle with reading, and so are increasingly becoming a tangible solution to soaring school spends associated with exam resits, while having proven benefits for every pupil beyond the walls of the exam hall. 

In this short guide, we’ll explore some top tips to make exams more accessible for students and more manageable for teachers on the front line.

The use of Learning Support software should be second nature for pupils

For students using assistive technology in exams, it's essential that they have the opportunity to use the software every day in class, to get to grips with both how the reading voice sounds and how to use the features available.

It’s also reccommended that pupils also have the opportunity to use the software in mock exams before using it in the real thing in order to get an accurate experience.

Teachers should be competent in the use of Learning Support software

Not only should pupils be familiar with the exam reading software, it’s also important that staff too have a good knowledge and understanding of how the software works and the options that are contained within feature sets.

Staff will also have the responsibility for scanning the exam papers beforehand, and so should be familiar with the key features of the software.

Plan, plan, plan!

As well as providing early practice in using the software, it's also vital that staff know their roles in setting up an exam reader. It’s essential to make prompt contact with exam boards to find out about all the possible formats each exam can be delivered in. It’s especially important to apply early for the exam to be delivered as a file, to save unnecessary scanning. 

Good communication with Exam Boards and Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ)

Get in touch with Exam Boards and apply for your papers to be delivered in the necessary form (Hard Copy or File). Make sure you’re compliant with JCQ guidelines when using any type of software as an exam reader and only allow the features accepted by JCQ to be visible during the exam.

Familiarise yourself with what features are permitted in exams

According to JCQ guidelines, elements of assistive technology which can be used in exams are a text reader and a screen tint or a screen overlay. Make sure you have your computers set up to only display these settings in advance of any exams.

The Academy, Selsey, has made good use of Read&Write as a computer reader and an everyday learning support tool, with the benefits clear for students both during and outside of exam season. Susie Timney, Exams Officer at the school explains, “Students are much more confident when they can control what is read to them independently. We have seen the confidence of our students grow and their comprehension of the exam papers has improved enormously. Within our first year of using the software, students entitled to a reader have seen significant improvements in their English Language and English Literature results.”

“I was thrilled to find how personalised you could make Read&Write. Our students are able to make it their own and have the software adapt to them, not the other way round.” Susie concludes, “I would wholeheartedly recommend this software. Having our students fully engage with their exam access arrangements is a significant achievement and provides them with the best opportunity to perform well in their assessments.”

Find out more about how Read&Write can meet JCQ Access Arrangements and help your students both during exam time and everyday in the classroom

Any questions? Get in touch for a chat! 


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