Guidance regarding alternative modes to replace examinations The following guidance is provided to support Schools during a consultation regarding the possible use of an alternative mode of assessment as a reasonable adjustment for a disability.
Wherever possible Reasonable Adjustments (RAs) will be made to the mode itself rather than replacing it with an alternative mode as this would inevitably be harder to benchmark against the cohort. Where a significant number of alternative modes are agreed this may bring into question the reliability of any degree classification and the extent to which academic standards may have been compromised. A recent OIA judgement, a redacted version of which was included in the paper on extenuating circumstances and reasonable adjustments recently presented to Senate (Senate S/245/6) stated the following ‘We would further note that compliance with the Equality Act should not result in academic standards being compromised for students with disabilities.’ Notwithstanding the above, there will be rare cases where a particular mode of assessment, even with a full range of RAs, will still substantially disadvantage a particular individual. In these circumstances, the University must consider whether or not an alternative mode can be provided that would enable the learning outcomes, competence standards or accreditation requirements to be met. Where these can only be tested with an unseen examination, the School must have specified this in the relevant course and module handbooks. An assessment ‘only amounts to a competence standard if its purpose is to demonstrate a particular level of a relevant competence or ability such as a requirement that a person has a particular level of relevant knowledge of a subject’ (Paragraph 7.33 Equality and Human Rights Commission Equality Act 2010: Technical Guidance on Further and Higher Education).
Where an alternative mode cannot be agreed, a full range of enhanced exam arrangements can be put in place, including additional time, an individual room, a scribe/specialist software, rest within a designated exam area outside of the exam room, a variant exam paper capped at 4 hours etc.
In considering the use of an alternative mode, please consider the following points, consulting with academic colleagues as appropriate:
1) The alternative mode should assess, as far as possible, the same range of knowledge that might potentially be assessed in an exam. Thus, if the exam contains a variety of questions or task types, the alternative mode should encompass the same range.
2) The alternative mode should encourage a similar study pattern to that of students taking the exam. This might be done by either setting a series of contributory assessments during the teaching period for the module which encourages study and assessment of most elements of the syllabus, as for the exam, or a summative contributory assessment that is completed during the relevant assessment period. In the latter case, the actual assessment task would only be given to the student after teaching had completed, although students should of course, be provided with the rubric well in advance. A mixture of the two might also be appropriate, even where this results in the amount of assessed work being greater for a student who does not take the standard cohort exam. This would be appropriate for some modules as it would be comparable to the amount of private study and revision that other students in the cohort would be expected to complete as preparation for an exam.
3) Especially in cases where several alternate modes may be set for the same student, Schools should put arrangements in place to reduce the risk of academic misconduct. The QAA has recently drawn attention to a rapid increase in the availability of custom essay writing services which cannot be detected through the e-submission process and Turnitin.1 They suggest the use of relatively short periods between setting and submission of the assessment and the possible inclusion of a short in-person viva to reduce the risk of this form of academic misconduct.
4) The School must ensure that appropriate marking and marks checking procedures are in place to secure academic standards. All written alternate mode submissions, together with the relevant question paper and rubric, should be sent to the external examiner. The external examiners should be asked to confirm that academic standards have not been compromised by the use of the alternate mode.
5) The School must consider if the agreed alternative mode of assessment can be used for all students on the cohort the following year. This would reduce the need for alternative modes going forwards and ensure that the University meets the general anticipatory duty under the Equality Act 2010. The Curriculum Development and Approval sub-committee will consider module assessment for the following cohort where an alternative mode has been approved.
In suggesting a particular alternate mode for approval by the Panel, the School should address the points above and should also include a specific statement to the effect that their academic judgement is that the alternate mode of assessment will not result in academic standards being compromised relative to the main cohort of students.
Guidance regarding variant examination papers considered as a reasonable
Adjustment The following guidance is provided to support Schools during a consultation regarding the possible use of a variant examination paper as a reasonable adjustment for a disability.
Wherever possible Reasonable Adjustments (RAs), such as extra time, a single room etc. will be made rather than setting a separate paper as this would inevitably be harder to benchmark against the cohort. Where a significant number of variant papers are agreed for a single candidate this may bring into question the reliability of any degree classification and the extent to which academic standards may have been compromised. A recent OIA judgement, a redacted version of which was included in the paper on extenuating circumstances and reasonable adjustments recently presented to Senate (Senate S/245/6) stated the following ‘We would further note that compliance with the Equality Act should not result in academic standards being compromised for students with disabilities.’
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Examination and Assessment Regulations Handbook (chapter 2.8) available at:
It is University policy that exam durations are capped at 4 hours for all students with additional time as a result of a reasonable adjustment, unless this contradicts the requirements of a Professional and/or Statutory Body. Therefore the following will apply:
Where additional time, approved by the University Reasonable Adjustment Panel, results in an exam duration exceeding 4 hours, the exam duration will be capped at 4 hours.
The School will be consulted regarding an appropriate variation to the exam paper, following discussion by the Panel.
The School will be asked to provide a variant exam paper that enables the relevant module learning outcomes to be met. This may be:
the same exam paper with the requirement proportionally reduced in line with the reduction in time. For example, where 100% additional time results in a 3 hour exam being adjusted to 6 hours, instead a student may be required to complete 4 questions in 4 hours instead of the 6 questions in 3 hours that the cohort are required to complete. This would ensure that the student had the full choice of questions.
a shorter variant of the exam paper, for example, a 30 question MCQ paper instead of 50 questions. As this is a different type of paper, this would ensure that the student did not spend time deciding which questions to do. This option is only suitable for exam papers with many questions.
a bespoke paper that enables the learning outcomes to be met. For example, the requirement to complete one or two essay questions that tested an equivalent breadth of the module content as for the cohort.
Where a variation is not in keeping with the past exam paper and rubric previously published, a mock paper including rubric reflecting the changed exam structure must be provided by the School. This is to ensure that the student is given information equivalent to the cohort regarding the rubric and access to a past paper, given that those published for the cohort may not be appropriate.
The School recommendation regarding the variant exam paper will be considered and approved by the Panel virtually.
The School should normally ask the External Examiner to sign off the exam paper.
The approved variant of the exam paper will be used for all students given a reasonable adjustment on the module, provided this was appropriate for the reasonable adjustment agreed. This ensures that papers are not normally set for individual students.
The exam will be scheduled at the same time as the cohort exam.
The answer papers, together with the relevant question paper and rubric, should form part of the sample provided to external examiner for moderation. The external examiner should be asked to confirm that academic standards have not been compromised by the use of the variant paper.
ADQE October 2016
1 Plagiarism in Higher Education. Custom essay writing services: an exploration and next steps for the UK higher education sector QAA 2016.