Ruth Houston

Top 5 Tips for using a computer reader in exams

It’s fast approaching exam season again here in the UK and with the ability to now use a computer reader to help struggling readers in exams, we thought we’d ask our Trainer, Richard, to give you his top 5 tips for preparing to use software to read exams for your pupils.

Tips for using computer readers in exams

About Richard

Before joining Texthelp, Richard worked as a Teacher in lots of schools in Northern Ireland, including Lisneal College in Londonderry. He brings a wealth of teaching knowledge to our Training team and can empathise with pain points felt by teachers throughout the country. Richard’s day-to-day job includes hosting webinars and face-to-face training sessions with Educators up and down the UK.

Read on for Richard's top tips...

Using Assistive Technology (AT) should be second nature for pupils

For students using AT in exams the most important thing is 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 ideal, if not essential, 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.

Staff should be competent in the use of Assistive Technology

Not only should pupils be familiar with the exam reading software, it’s also essential that staff too should 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 before the exam, and so should be familiar with the key features of the Assistive Software.

Plan for access arrangements early

As well as providing early practice in using the software, it is also important 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.

If you’d like to chat more about using Technology to read your students’ exam papers, drop Richard an email to and he’ll talk you through any worries you might have. Good luck for exam season! 


nina davis 28/10/2020 15:36:16
Hello Richard
I'm an English tutor and have a student who struggles to process and understand text. She's doing iGCSE in London and has been given 25% extra time and the computer reader.
I'm not sure the reader (just by speaking to her in a human-like voice) will actually help her but I might not understand how it works.
Could you explain it please?

Deena Kimmel 30/10/2020 13:13:51
Hi Nina

The computer reader is there to help in that exact case. For students that struggle to process, understand, read or comprehend text on a page, speech has been proven to be an exceptional help. Recent studies show that it actually increases comprehension by a massive 76%. A student using this with all the stresses of the exam itself can suffer from the added stress of the test itself - so this will not only help your student process the text and aid her understanding, but will help reduce stress and apprehension. It’s a way to remove a hurdle that need not be there. Computer exam readers are used by many students for exactly that reason whilst also helping build and support their confidence. It’ll simply read every question on her paper, and provide her with the ability to stop, replay and re-listen to the question as needed. Previously, students would have been given a ‘human reader’ but the computer provides the added advantage of giving the student confidence to replay and listen again to the question as often as they might need, without any embarrassment of asking someone.

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