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RS Assessment from Hodder Education Blog

Using Access Reading Tests (ART) as evidence for access arrangements
By Caroline Read, Communicate-ed
10 Mar

6 minute read: Caroline Read, senior course tutor for Communicate-ed, the UK’s largest Examination Access Arrangements Training Provider, explains how flexible, standardised reading test ART can be used in evidence for access arrangements.

*UPDATE*:  Even without summer exams this year, the JCQ are recommending that access arrangements are still put in place in 2021. Ofqual have advised that when deciding on grades, schools should take into account any arrangements the candidate would have had. The published deadline for application is 31st March, but the JCQ have said that under the current circumstances late applications will be accepted.

We will start by reviewing the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ)* rationale behind access arrangements. The JCQ are the body that represent the joint interests and responsibilities of the awarding bodies who offer general qualifications – principally AQA, OCR, Pearson, CEA in Northern Ireland and WJEC in Wales. There are a number of ‘General Qualifications’ but the main ones are GCSE and GCE ‘A’ level.

Access arrangements are intended to be for candidates with the required knowledge, understanding and skills, who are unable to demonstrate these in an assessment due to a difficulty or disability. So, these are the students who know the science, the geography, the history, but they are unable to demonstrate what they know due to a difficulty or disability. Perhaps they struggle to read the paper due to a learning difficulty or vision impairment. In most papers we can help them with reading so that they can access the paper. We want to allow learners with SEN, disabilities & injuries to access assessment.

Any arrangement provided should reflect the help usually given to the candidate in the centre, that is, it should be the ‘normal way of working’ and will be agreed well in advance of the assessment.

How can the ART be used as evidence for access arrangements?

In the past, a below average score (below 85) on a reading test was required before a candidate could have access to a human or computer reader in exams. This is no longer the case. However, many SENCos and Access Arrangement Coordinators (AAC) continue to screen students to make sure that they are not missing anyone who needs reading support. Group administration of ART reduces the time required to do this. If a score on ART is low, the SENCo will then investigate whether the student has reading help in class, which often goes unnoticed.

Reading help can take a number of forms. Sometimes a teaching assistant is allocated to support an individual student, but more often a TA works across the class and the weak reader asks for help with reading. It could be that the class teacher reads everything to the whole group in a low ability class. Sometimes a more able friend reads to the student when necessary. Where a score on ART indicates a weak reader SENCos often find that the candidate is having reading help which is ‘hidden’.

When applying for permission to use a reader or computer reader the SENCo or AAC must be satisfied that the candidate has an impairment with a substantial/long term adverse effect on their reading, with persistent and significant reading difficulties and a genuine need for the arrangement. An application is made for permission through the JCQ ‘Access Arrangements Online (AAO)’ system and this is evidenced by a ‘Short Concise File Note’ on centre headed paper.

In rare cases a candidate with very weak reading or comprehension may be granted permission to have the help of a Language Modifier (LM).

The LM will be able to reword the carrier language of a question if the candidate indicates that they don’t understand. The LM is not permitted to change technical or subject specific language as knowledge of these is part of the assessment.

In the case of a LM, the candidate will need to be assessed by an assessor with a master’s level qualification in assessment and achieve a score below 70. ART is a suitable test for this.  Evidence will be recorded on Part 2 of ‘JCQ Form 8’ and an application will be made through AAO and referred through to the awarding body where the case will be considered individually.

In applications for 25% extra time, ART cannot be used as core evidence. Whilst ART is timed, the standardised score is evidence for reading comprehension, not reading speed.

However, ART can be used as supplementary or qualitative evidence for 25% extra time, which can be obtained in a group setting at the same time as screening for poor readers as discussed above. 

If students have not completed ART in the recommended time of 30 minutes, they should be allowed an additional 7.5 minutes (25% extra) with a change of pen colour for the extra time.

The SENCo or AAC will calculate the score without and again with the extra time. If the score has improved in the extra time, this may be used as supplementary evidence in Part 1 of Form 8 for extra time for reading (but not core evidence in Part 2).

However, the increase in the score will prompt the qualified assessor to carry out an assessment of reading speed, or other measure of speed of working which can then be used as core evidence.

This method of assessing for slow reading is included in RS Assessment's free online reporting tool MARK (My Assessment & Reporting Tool) for print tests and the interactive digital version of ART does this automatically. However, assessors should be aware that 30 minutes is generous, many students will complete the test in 25 minutes or less.

To learn more about ART visit: hoddereducation.co.uk/art 

To learn more about Communicate-ed visit: communicate-ed.org.uk


*Joint Council for Qualifications produce ‘Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments’ which is updated in September each year. https://www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/access-arrangements-and-special-consideration/


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