Access to assessments - taking exams and tests

Helping young people with SEN to demonstrate their skills and knowledge.

Local Offer Oxfordshire

What are access arrangements or exam concessions?

Access arrangements, or exam concessions as they are sometimes called, are designed to enable young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities to demonstrate their skills and knowledge around what is being tested in exams without being disadvantaged by their difficulty/disability in areas of learning that are not being tested. 

For instance, if a student taking a science exam has difficulty with reading, support can be given with reading the test paper, so that the student is able to demonstrate their ability in science.

What concessions are available?

There is a whole range of different arrangements that can be put in place to support students, and the school should work with each student to decide which ones are most helpful to them.  Students can have different arrangements for different exams.

  • Supervised rest breaks
  • 25 per cent extra time
  • Extra time of up to 50 per cent
  • Extra time of over 50 per cent
  • Computer reader/reader
  • Read aloud and/or an examination reading pen
  • Scribe/voice recognition technology
  • Word processor
  • Transcript
  • Prompter
  • Oral language modifier
  • Live speaker for pre-recorded examination components
  • Communication Professional (for candidates using Sign Language)
  • Practical assistant
  • Alternative accommodation away from the centre 
  • Bilingual translation dictionaries with up to a maximum of 25 per cent extra time
  • Modified paper, for example, coloured, enlarged and Braille papers
  • Modified language papers and transcript of listening test/video

The school or college needs to consider carefully what is most helpful to students and whatever arrangements are decided on should become part of the student’s normal way of working, and should be put in place for controlled assessments as well as exams.

Who is eligible for concessions?

  • Pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP)
  • Pupils on SEN support whose learning difficulty affects their ability to access the tests
  • Pupils who require alternative access arrangements because of a disability, (which may or may not give rise to a special educational need)
  • Pupils who are unable to sit and work at a test for a sustained period because of a disability or social, emotional or mental health difficulty.
  • Pupils for whom English is an additional language and have limited fluency in English.

How do I know if my child is eligible for exam concessions?

Students with an EHC plan are eligible for exam concessions, if the school is able to submit supplementary evidence to demonstrate the level of need.

Other students whom the school considers eligible for access arrangements are assessed to check whether they meet the criteria. Access arrangements need to be applied for online, and should be done as early as possible to cover the whole course, so assessments are usually done in Year 9 or 10 for Keystage 4 courses such as GCSE and BTECs, and Year 12 for A level and other post 16 courses. 

The deadline for schools applying for access arrangements is three months before an exam or controlled assessment takes place.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) issue guidance each year on the types of arrangements that can be made and the criteria for students receiving them.  For instance, to receive support with reading or extra time a student must score less than 84 on a standardised reading test.

The guidance on access arrangements can be found on the Joint Commission for Qualifications (JCQ) website

What about Primary SATs?

There are similar access arrangements available for Keystage 2 SAT tests, but the assessment process for applying for these is much simpler.  Schools apply for access arrangements online by giving details about the levels at which pupils are working.

What do I do if I think my child is eligible, but s/he has not been assessed by the school?

You will need to discuss this with your child’s school. You may want to request that the school do some assessment work with your child to check whether they meet the criteria for access arrangements. 

If your child is eligible, it is worth discussing with the school, which arrangements will best meet their needs. 

Extra time may sound like a good option, but students often struggle to use additional time effectively, and are often better taking rest breaks, so discuss the options with the school and what is best for your child.

Help and information

Search for organisations and groups on the Family Information Service website to support parents and carers of disabled children and young people and those with SEN and additional needs.

Contact us

Special Needs and Disability - The Local Offer team is here to help you. Contact us.

Impartial free advice and support - education

The special educational needs and disability information advice and support service (SENDIASS) offers impartial information, advice and support to parents of children and young people with SEN and disabilities regarding their education. You can get in touch by completing this online form.

The service aims to help parents, carers, young people and educational professionals to work together to provide the best possible support to children and young people with special educational needs, by:

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