1. General Information
Candidates with permanent or long-term conditions, including visual and hearing difficulties, or specific learning difficulties, which they believe will significantly impair their performance in the examinations may apply to the State Examinations Commission for a reasonable accommodation(s) to be made to facilitate them taking the examinations.
The reasonable accommodations are intended to:
- remove, as far as possible, the impact of the disability on the candidate's performance and thus enable the candidate to demonstrate his or her level of attainment and
- ensure that, whilst giving candidates every opportunity to demonstrate their level of attainment, the special arrangements will not give the candidate an unfair advantage over other candidates in the same examination.
All applications for reasonable accommodations are considered in light of a published Framework of Principles as set out by the Expert Advisory Group on examinations.
2. Range of Reasonable Accommodations
The means by which a candidate normally studies or communicates will largely determine the reasonable accommodation(s), which will be required. When applying for a reasonable accommodation, care should be taken to ensure that the completed application form contains sufficient pertinent information to allow decisions to be made appropriate to the circumstances of the individual candidate. The range of accommodations, which may be made, is set out in the following sections.
2.1 Exemptions from Examination Components
A candidate's special need may be such that it is not possible for him or her to participate in a particular mode of assessment. For example, the aural element of certain examinations may not be appropriate for a candidate with severe hearing impairment. Where an element or elements of an examination have been waived, so that the purpose of the examination regarding the element or elements has not been met, or the method of examining has been significantly altered, this will be indicated by the presence of an explanatory note on the candidate's certificate.
A candidate can apply for exemption from an element(s) of an examination and have his/her grade determined on the balance of the work in the subject. In approving an exemption the Commission will inform the candidate of the content of any explanatory note in relation to the subject concerned that may appear on the certificate. Any explanatory note will provide detail only on how the assessment procedure was altered. It will not record the nature of the candidate's disability. Similarly an explanatory note will be included on the certificate in any subject where the nature of the arrangement precludes the testing of a particular competency for which marks are allocated.
2.2 Written examinations
The range of reasonable accommodations include:
- Arrangements to have question papers read to the candidate. The questions may be read as often as the candidate requires. No elaboration or explanation may be given.
- Modified question papers may be supplied substituting alternative questions for those which refer to visual material such as diagrams, photographs and maps.
- Braille translations of question papers may be provided, following any necessary modification.
- Question papers may be provided in enlarged print.
- Candidates may be permitted to record their answers on tape recorder, typewriter or word-processor.
- In the case of Design and Communication or Technical Graphics examinations, candidates may be allowed the use of aids such as drafting machines, drawing boards and smaller drawing sheets.
- Answers may be dictated to a person acting as a scribe rather than to a tape recorder. This arrangement may be approved where the candidate's speech would be extremely difficult to interpret on tape or where a tape recording would not meet the particular requirements of the examination, e.g. making calculations in such subjects as Maths and Accounting.
- Ten minutes extra time per scheduled hour of each question paper may be allowed where the candidate needs the help of a scribe or would otherwise be unable to make adequate use of the mechanical aids provided for recording the answers or is visually impaired.
2.3 Oral and Aural Examinations
In the case of oral examinations, school authorities are requested to liaise with examiners with regard to candidates who have special needs.
The arrangements for aural examinations vary according to degree of deafness and are as follows:
- The candidate may remain in the main centre but sit close to the tape recorder.
- The candidate may remain in the main centre and be allowed to use a personal stereo player with personal induction loop. An additional tape of the questions will be provided in such circumstances.
- The candidate may be allowed to sit in a separate room and listen to a tape recorder either with or without headphones.
3. Remit of Schools
Schools have the authority to make a number of specified arrangements to facilitate examination candidates with special needs without requesting advance permission from the Commission. The specified arrangements are
- Granting breaks or rest periods in each examination session that are warranted by the physical or medical condition of the candidate. Under this type of arrangement the time taken for rest or as a break may be compensated for at the close of each examination period to a maximum of 20 minutes.
- Allowing candidates to take medicine, food or drinks into the examination centre where this is required for medical reasons.
- Allowing the candidate to move within the centre.
- Allowing the use of a special desk or chair used in the classroom.
- Allowing the use of low vision aids used normally in the classroom.
- Ensuring that a candidate with a hearing impairment is positioned close to the superintendent.
A school may authorise any of these arrangements based on local knowledge of what is in the best interest of the candidate. To activate any of the above arrangements the examination superintendent should be provided with a note stating that the school is satisfied that the arrangement is warranted.
4. How to apply
School-based, VTOS and candidates following other analogous schemes should apply for reasonable accommodations through their school or education provider. External candidates should apply directly to the State Examinations Commission. Applications must be made on the prescribed application form, which is available through schools/ education providers or directly from the State Examinations Commission. See our Contacts Directory for details.
5. Appeal Forum
In cases where a school/parent or candidate is dissatisfied with any aspect of the Commission's decision in relation to an application for reasonable accommodations, they have access to an independent appeals forum. All members of the appeals group are drawn from outside the Commission. The remit of the appeals group covers appeals against all elements of a decision taken by the Commission, including any proposed inclusion of an explanatory note. All appeals are considered in light of the principles set out by the Expert Advisory Group.