Access Arrangements

Some candidates are likely to have a number of needs which mean that they are likely to require a range of access arrangements.  An access arrangement must be the candidate’s normal way of working.  A selection of possible examples of where access arrangements may be required follows:

  • Communication and Interaction
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Sensory and Physical Needs
  • Behavioural, Emotional and Social Needs

Access arrangements may cover the entire course and must be applied for as soon as possible – the deadlines are as follows:

  • Summer – 21st February (Visually impaired candidates requiring modified papers – must be ordered by 31st January)
  • November – 4th October (Visually impaired candidates requiring modified papers – must be ordered by 20th September)

An approved access arrangement will remain current for two years.

A candidate does not necessarily have to be disabled (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) to be allowed an access arrangement.  The process for granting an access arrangement and the evidence required will vary according to the assessment, as well as the nature of the access arrangement and the reason for seeking it.  Access arrangements are intended to increase access to assessments but cannot be granted where they will directly affect performance in the skills that are the focus of the assessment.

Access arrangements are not there to give candidates an unfair advantage, but to give all candidates a level playing field in which to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and understanding.  In order to ensure this, the JCQ awarding bodies require that evidence of need must always be obtained by centres to support an access arrangement.

The SENCO/specialist teacher is responsible for identifying and testing students to decide on the need for an access arrangement.


Where a candidate has a temporary difficulty such as a broken arm on the day of an exam, the Examinations Officer will contact the relevant awarding for an access arrangement via the online application process.  Medical evidence will be required.  As soon as permission is granted, the SENCO/specialist teacher will make arrangement for the candidate.  Special consideration may also be required if the candidate is suffering any pain or trauma or if the access arrangement is not the candidate’s normal way of working e.g. the candidate is not used to using a word processor.


Candidates and Teachers need to make informed choices about the qualification routes they chose.  This means that candidates need to be aware if they are choosing a course where they may not be able to demonstrate attainment in all parts of the assessment and consequently may be unable to gain credit in all parts of the assessment.  A candidate may still decide to proceed with studying a particular subject and not be entered for all or part of the assessment.  Guidance should given as to the range of subject options open to candidates and in which they can cover the course and demonstrate attainment across the whole of the assessment.

In coursework marked by teachers, credit should only be given for skills demonstrated by the candidate working independently, access arrangements should not affect assessment requirements.


Should a candidate be too ill to sit an examination, suffer bereavement or other trauma, it is the candidate’s responsibility to alert school by telephone to that effect on the day of the examination.

Special consideration is not given if preparation for or performance in the examination is affected by long term illnesses or other difficulties during the course affecting revision time, unless the illness or circumstances manifest themselves also during the assessment.

Where an examination cannot be re-entered a post examination adjustment will be considered.  Any special consideration claim must be supported by appropriate evidence received at school within five days of the examination, for example a letter from the candidate’s doctor.

Claims will only be made if they are supported by relevant, up-to-date evidence and fit the criteria below.

Candidates will be eligible for special consideration if they have been fully prepared and have covered the whole course but performance in the examination is affected by adverse circumstances beyond their control.  These include:

  • Temporary illness or accident/injury at the time of the assessment
  • Bereavement at the time of the assessment (where whole groups are affected, normally only those most closely involved will be eligible)
  • Domestic crisis arising at the time of assessment
  • Participation in sporting events at international level at the time of certification

Candidates will NOT be eligible for special consideration if preparation for or performance in the examination is affected by:

  • Long term illness or other difficulties during the course affecting revision time, unless the illness or circumstances manifest themselves also during the assessment
  • Bereavement occurring more the 6 months before the assessment, unless an anniversary has been reached at the time of the assessment or there are ongoing implications such as inquests or court cases
  • Domestic inconvenience, such as moving house, lack of facilities, taking holidays at the time of the assessment
  • Minor disturbance in the examination caused by candidates, such as bad behaviour, mobile phones etc.
  • The consequences of committing a crime
  • The consequences of taking alcohol or any other non-prescribed drugs
  • The consequences of disobeying the centre’s internal regulations
  • Misreading the timetable and/or failing to attend at the right time and in the right place
  • Misreading the instructions on the question papers and answering the wrong question
  • Making personal arrangements such as a wedding or holiday arrangements which conflict with the examination timetable
  • Submitting no coursework at all, unless coursework/controlled assessment is scheduled for a restricted period of time, rather than during the course
  • Missing all examination and coursework components
  • Failure to cover the course as a consequence  of joining the class part way through
  • Permanent disability unless illness affects the candidate at the time of assessment (Access Arrangements exist to make adjustments in such cases – see section on Access Arrangements).

What is special consideration?

Special consideration is a post examination adjustment to the marks or grades of a candidate who is eligible for consideration.  Special consideration can only seek to go some way to assist the candidate affected by a potentially wide range of difficulties, emotional or physical, which may influence performance in examinations.  Special consideration can not remove the difficulty faced by the candidate; there will be situations where the candidate should not be entered for the examination because they are not in a fit state to cope with the assessment.  Only minor adjustments can be made to the mark awarded because to do more than this would jeopardise the standard of the examination.

There are minimum requirements for enhanced grading in cases of acceptable absence

The exams Office at Robert Smyth Academy will be able to tell you the current minimum requirements.

The maximum allowance given is 5% and will be reserved for the most exceptional cases, the most common allowance is 2%.  The majority of cases will fall within this category:

Special Consideration for shortfall in coursework

If a candidate has been subject to an unforeseen illness or other misfortune during the period when coursework was produced, it may, in some subjects be possible to accept a reduced quantity of coursework without penalty, as long as all off the assessment objectives have been covered at least once.  This will not be possible if the specification requires only one piece.  Where several pieces are required, the reduction will be accepted only if those pieces are testing the same criteria.  It will not be possible to give this consideration in every case, for example if coursework has not been submitted or the assessment objectives have not been satisfied.

Further Notes

Applications for special consideration can only be made by the Head or the Examinations Officer.  Applications will not be acceptable if submitted directly by parents or candidates.  It is very rare for an application for special consideration will be approved when access arrangements are already in place.  Awarding bodies will not reply individually to each application.