Guidance on GCSE Exam Concessions

GCSE Examination Access Arrangements for learners of English as an additional language

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has released updated access regulations with effect from the 1st September 2015 to 31st August 2016. Within these regulations, there are some key points to consider for students for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL).

Bilingual translation dictionaries and extra time

Bilingual dictionaries can be used by candidates in exams if necessary. The centre does not need to make an application for this or record the use of the dictionary. The bilingual dictionary used can be electronic or a hard copy paper version but must not define words or phrases. Reading pens, translators (including web based translators), wordlists or glossaries cannot be used. In addition, the bilingual translation dictionary must not have pictures or any form of explanation of the words in (it must be just a direct translation of a word from English to another language) (section 5.18.2, page 72).

Candidates who are allowed to use bilingual translation dictionaries may also be entitled to up to 25% extra time if they have been resident in the UK for less than two years at the time of the examination and have ‘no prior knowledge of the English Language’ (section 5.18.5, page 73). However, the regulations stipulate that extra time will only be awarded in rare and exceptional circumstances, depending on need (section 5.18.4, page 72). In addition, the regulations state that ‘very few bilingual translation dictionary users will need to have extra time’ (section 5.18.9, page 74). The regulations specify that centres should consider the amount of extra time (up to a maximum of 25%) which would be most appropriate for individual candidates and stipulates that centres should consider if 10% extra time would be more appropriate, particularly if an electronic bilingual dictionary is used.

Extra time must only be awarded to a candidate when using a bilingual translation dictionary if:

  • the candidate’s first language is not English, Irish or Welsh;
  • the candidate entered the United Kingdom within two years of the examination(s);
  • English is not one of the languages spoken in the family home;
  • prior to their arrival in the United Kingdom the candidate was not educated in an International school where some or the entire curriculum was delivered in English; or
  • prior to their arrival in the United Kingdom the candidate was not prepared for or entered for IGCSE qualifications where the question papers were set in English;
  • prior to their arrival in the United Kingdom the candidate was not prepared in English for other qualifications. e.g. IELTS qualifications;
  • the candidate has to refer to the bilingual translation dictionary so often that examination time is used for this purpose, delaying the answering of questions;
  • the provision of extra time of up to 25% reflects the candidate’s usual way of working with the dictionary’ (section 5.18.7, page 73)

The SENCo or EAL Co-ordinator must compile evidence to confirm all of the above criteria and an application must be made for a candidate to have extra time.

There are particular examinations in which dictionaries must not be used in, including English/English Language subject examinations, as well as in GCSE English Literature, Geography, History and Religious Studies (section 5.18.1, page 71). This is due to the assessment of spelling, punctuation and grammar. However, there are particular language subjects where candidates can have access to a bilingual dictionary, including Functional Skills English examinations and writing tests in GCSE subjects including GCSE Arabic, GCSE Bengali and GCSE Dutch (section 5.18.1, page 71).

Modified language papers

Centres are also able to order modified language papers for students who have ‘persistent and significant difficulties when accessing and processing information’ (section 6.6.1, page 78). Modified language papers contain questions with simplified wording but the meaning of the questions stays the same. The questions also still contain the same technical/specialist vocabulary and require the same answers as the standard language papers. The centre must make sure that an application is made in advance, bearing in mind the final deadlines for making an application (deadlines can be found in the full guidance) (section 6.9, page 80). It is down to individual centres to determine if a candidate for whom English is an Additional Language would benefit from the use of a modified language paper but it is likely that those candidates learning English as an Additional Language would find this helpful.

Read the full document for access arrangements


Further information