Learners’ Voices – Reflections on exam concessions

To follow on from the previous post on learning disabilities and other barriers to learning, we spoke to some of our Grade 11 learners who have had the support of various concessions during their exams – some for as long as from Grade 8 at Bishops. All of the concessions discussed below are recognised  by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), as granted with the support of a psycho-educational assessment by an educational psychologist, following a history of learning challenges and subsequent intervention support.

This is what they had to say about the experience:

 

Reader:

A person will sit with the learner in a separate venue and read the exam out aloud as the learner follows on his exam paper.  This concession is often granted to support learners with Dyslexia or visual impairments.

 

I can read, it just takes up a lot of my time. Having a Reader means I don’t have to spend all my time on reading the exam. Instead I can concentrate on the answers and I finish within the time limit.

 

Reader Pen:

The Reader Pen is an assisted reading device. It has recently been approved as a recognised WCED concession to support Dyslexia and visual impairments, and unlike a Reader, is permitted within the Bishops classroom for tests and assignments.  

 

The Reader Pen has been helpful to me as it helps me to understand words more easily, and I can highlight words when I get stuck and see how it is pronounced and identify that for next time I see the word. It gives you a sense of responsibility – you can do it on your own. You can just whip this out your pocket and just do that. I use it for studying, for subjects like History. I highlight a part and it reads it out, and I follow along on the paper with my normal highlighter, which is cool. It has gotten more stuff into my head, by repetition. I also have extra time, which also helps me a lot. Because of the reader pen and spelling dispensation, it takes up more time, which means I don’t get to most of the questions – now I do. 

 

Scribe:

A person will sit with the learner in a separate venue and write the learner’s answers as he dictates them – word for word. The scribe is not allowed to alter the learner’s words at all – they just become the physical hand for the learner. This concession can  granted if there are visual-motor or motor coordination challenges, such as with Dysgraphia, or a chronic or temporary hand/shoulder injury that may otherwise disadvantage a learner. Poor handwriting on its own does not generally qualify for a scribe.

 

I really find it very helpful. For people who write slowly to have this help is really helpful. I notice the difference during tests when I don’t have a scribe – I sometimes struggles to finish in time and my handwriting is not good.

 

Computer:

A learner may qualify to use a computer to present his/her answers in a typed format. The learner is loaned a laptop, and they type in the same venue as their peers. The script is then printed by the exam officials after the exam. This concession is often granted when there are motor co-ordination concerns.

 

I’ve used a computer for two years. I type faster than I write, so often it is a lot better to have something that I can type on. Often my writing is almost illegible, so so it is nicer to type on a keyboard. I use computers quite a lot, so being able to type normally benefits me. I don’t use a computer for subjects with numbers (like Maths) or for Music, or Physics. 

 

Extra Time:

Extra time (between 5 and 15 minutes per hour of writing time) is added to the end of the exam session. This is one concession that may be granted to support statistically significant differences in cognitive skills, learning disabilities, severe cases of ADHD, and physical challenges (following an extensive history of supportive intervention that has not raised these skills to the peer level).

 

The extra time gives me a little bit more time to write down my answers and think them through in my head, so I can get through the question paper.

 

Spelling Dispensation/Concession:

This concession is awarded when there is a statistically significant discrepancy between the chronological age and spelling age of the learner, and when the learner’s ability to express thoughts adequately is thus compromised. Recognised by either ‘dispensation’ or ‘concession’, the learner should not be penalised for spelling as long as what is written is phonetically correct (does not include English language paper). 

 

The spelling dispensation helps as I can write a lot faster and not worry, “How do I spell this word?” I can just write.

 

Further thoughts on what it is like to have a learning disability:

My mom told me I was Dyslexic in, like, Grade 4 after I went for quite a few assessments, and I actually thought I was stupid! And my mom told me, “Don’t worry, you are actually just Dyslexic,” and she explained it and I watched a few films and documentaries about it, and I actually understood, and I’ve embraced it. What helped me is that a lot of famous people, like Sir Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Einstein, are all Dyslexic, so that gave me motivation, as most of them think outside the box, which is cool. 

Image: Equity Equality