Managing examinations

Students may need adjustments during both in-department and formal examinations. Examination adjustments are put in place to offset the impact that a disability may have on the student's ability to undertake the examination and to perform at their expected level.

Determining exam adjustments

The exam adjustments that a specific student may be eligible to request are determined after consultation with a Disability Services Officer and review of detailed supporting documentation.

Examination adjustments are considered reasonable when they address the impact of a disability on the student's ability to undertake the exam, and do not provide the student with an 'unfair advantage'. Rather, it would be unfair for the student with the disability to undertake an examination while experiencing impacts of their disability that may cost them time, or may make it difficult to see the exam paper well, or to undertake an examination in an environment that exacerbates their disability and may cause ill-health.

Sometimes the required adjustment is not obvious and Disability Services may need to negotiate with the faculty to determine what options are available to assist the student to meet the assessable requirements of the course.

Providing examination adjustments

Formal exams are managed by the Exams Office. In-department Exams are the responsibility of the Faculty. For further information, please refer to the "Assessment Procedures 2011, Part 12 Accessible Examination and Assessment Arrangements, Point 4”.

When a reasonable adjustment is recommended by Disability Services, the adjustment must provided unless a reasonable alternative can be provided.

If you have concerns about recommended adjustments you should contact the Disability Officer who made the recommendation.

Explaining examination adjustments

You may receive an examination adjustment notice for a student, but feel confused as to what a specific adjustment is and how to provide it. Below are some commonly required exam adjustments that may need some further explanation. Note – this list in not inclusive of all adjustments available.

Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology (AT) may include both software and hardware that assists the student to manage their written materials, whether it be to produce written work, or to read written materials. In some instances, AT can also incorporate specialised furniture and equipment. If you need assistance with AT, please contact Jason Markou in the AT Lab on: 9351 4010.

A student may not be able to write by hand due to fine/gross motor control issues, injuries, and learning disorders but may be able to use a computer. Any computer can be used for an exam (located in a colleague’s office, for instance) or a laptop. It is not recommended that the student be allowed to use their own laptop.

Due to learning disorders and cognitive impairments, a student may need to utilise the resources of a dictionary or thesaurus, where it is determined that this access will not disadvantage other students undertaking the same exam.

Ergonomic furniture
Often a student may need an ergonomic chair – this is just an adjustable office chair that can be found in many offices across the University. If specific furniture like a sloping desk or a lectern is required that you cannot locate, Disability Services can assist.

Extra Time
Extra exam time is always, unless otherwise indicated, applied only to the writing time of the exam and is calculated pro-rata. In special circumstances, a student may also have additional reading time, and this will be clearly indicated.

Rest breaks
Sometimes a student may have ‘rest breaks allowed’ noted on their exam adjustments, however, this does not mean that the student can have additional time to rest on top of the additional time that they may be provided to write the exam. This is just an indication that the student may use some of their additional time to rest, or may even take some time to rest outside of the exam room.

If a student has a specific rest break allowance, it will be indicated overtly i.e. 'an additional 20min non-writing rest-break to be provided in the event of a seizure' or something similar. During these breaks, the student is not allowed to continue writing or to review the exam paper or their notes.

A reader is just an additional duty for the supervisor – to act as the reader for the student. Often the student will only need the exam questions read to them.

The reader should not interpret the exam questions or provide additional advice regarding answering or understanding the question. The reader may also be asked to read back what the student has written. When a reader is needed, the student will need to be seated separately to avoid interruption to other students. Please see further information below regarding guidelines for Readers.

A scribe should be located from the Scribe List that Disability Services keeps on file. These individuals have undertaken Disability Awareness training and have been tested for their scribing ability. Scribes are paid for their services. Alternatively, a member of academic staff can choose to act as a scribe for a student if this is easier to manage. Please note that students are not required to locate and hire a scribe themselves.

Please see further information below regarding guidelines for Scribes.

Separate supervision
Separate supervision means a separate room entirely for the student to ensure that they are not distracted by others (where noise, activity, or the presence of others may exacerbate their condition), do not cause distraction to others, or so that specific arrangements can be provided i.e. special room lighting or ventilation. Please see below for further information regarding techniques for separate supervision.

Toilet breaks
Sometimes a student may need to frequent the toilet more than expected during an exam, and this is noted purely to reduce suspicion.

Untimed toilet breaks
Where a student has a medical condition that is exacerbated during stressful times like an exam, some students may spend a large amount of time in the toilet. This can cut into their exam time significantly, and in these instances the student will need to have that time given back to them at the end of the exam. The exam supervisor should casually monitor how much time the student is losing while outside of the room, keep a tally, and add this onto the end of the exam.

If you have an enquiry about any other type of adjustment, please don't hesitate to contact Disability Services.

Guidelines for scribes

Students using scribes are still permitted to write for themselves, for example to jot down ideas, write an essay plan, draw diagrams in an exam book, or write parts of an answer.

As an scribe, you MUST:

  • meet with the student prior to the exam, to discuss how they would like to work through the exam, particularly if it is in several parts
  • write the text exactly as spoken by the student; do not interpret what they said or advise grammatical improvements
  • refrain from making conversation with the student unless it relates to clarification of something they said (for example you can ask them to repeat a sentence or spell a word)
  • understand and recognise the stress that students are experiencing
    be able to write quickly and clearly for up to four hours, with only short rest periods
  • have good hearing (frequent requests to repeat information will interrupt a student’s train of thought)
  • have a linguistic, scientific or technical knowledge approximately commensurate to the candidate’s (where possible)
  • be able to follow basic grammatical instructions such as ‘quote’, ‘unquote’, ‘colon’ and ‘semi-colon’
  • remain emotionally uninvolved and demonstrably calm (students may become flustered or distressed but an amanuensis should not respond in an emotional way)
  • be able to use a calculator if necessary
  • be able to read clearly and at a steady pace
  • ask if unsure about spelling
  • be healthy and well (no coughing/sneezing)
  • be rested and mentally alert. If this work makes you feel mentally or physically tired, you may wish to make yourself available for only one scribing session per day.

Scribes MUST NOT:

  • comment on the student’s performance
  • interrupt the student’s flow of thought (unless you need to ask them to slow down because they’re speaking too quickly)
  • interpret or editorialise the student’s words
  • make any presumptions about why the student needs a scribe or reader
  • allow yourself to become involved in any conflict with a student. Refer any disputes to the Unit Coordinator immediately.
Guidelines for readers
  • read for the student – this may include the exam paper, or the student’s own answers or notes
  • do not offer interpretation or explanation of the exam question
  • read clearly and at a steady pace (not too fast or slow) - the pace of your speech may be important in understanding the meaning of what is being read
  • note: it may not be appropriate for a person with a strong accent to be a reader.
Supervising technique for separate supervision
  • The supervisor is present to ensure the student completes the exam in the given time and there is no attempted misconduct.
  • There is no need to watch the student constantly – this could make them feel intimidated or uncomfortable. Bear in mind the student is taking the exam under special conditions because of a disability, so standard supervisory techniques may be inappropriate, for example staring at the student, or walking up and down.
  • Remember that with fewer people in the room the smallest sound is amplified, so you should sit as quietly as possible while the student works.