Exam accommodations are special arrangements made during the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations for students with special needs and/or disabilities. According to the State Examination Commission (SEC), the purpose of exam accommodations is to level the playing field by minimising the effects of a child’s disability on her test performance. Accommodations do not give children with disabilities advantages over their peers.
The SEC administers the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. In addition, it decides whether to grant applications for accommodations. Schools authorise some types of accommodations, such as rest breaks or allowing students to bring medicine or food into the examination.
Students seek accommodations for various reasons including:
  • Problems with handwriting
  • Vision impairments
  • Reading issues
  • Need for rest periods
  • Hearing difficulties
The types of accommodations available include:
  • Enlarged print on exam papers
  • Waiver of a part of an exam
  • Use of a scribe
  • More time
  • Access to a reader
  • Waiver of assessment of spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Use of a word processor
If you think your child will need accommodations for the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations, it is important to prepare early, because you may need:
  • A report from a doctor or psychologist to support your child’s request
  • Tests performed to check your child’s ability in different areas
  • Your child to become proficient in word processing
  • To practice different accommodations during regular school testing
  • To decide what types of accommodation work best for your child
In addition, applications for accommodations for the Leaving Certificate are made a year before the exam.
There is a significant difference between requesting accommodations at Junior Certificate level and Leaving Certificate level. At Junior Certificate level, schools recommend accommodations for students, and the SEC confirms their recommendations. At Leaving Certificate level, the SEC determines what, if any, accommodations a candidate receives. Accommodations granted for Junior Certificate exams are not automatically granted for Leaving Certificate examinations, so a new application must be submitted.
This short example illustrates some of these issues. If your child has handwriting problems, possible accommodations include using a scribe, typing responses, dictating responses and extra time. The only way to know what will help your child is to practice different methods under exam conditions. Work with your child’s school to determine the best way to test which accommodation suits your child. Keep in mind that your child may need different accommodations for different subjects. For example, if your child uses a word processor for most of her exams, this accommodation might not be suitable for a subject such as math.
For more information about exam accommodations, talk with your child’s school or check the website of the State Examinations Commission.
Special Education Advocate