Guidance on GCSE Exam Concessions

GCSE Examination Access Arrangements for learners of English as an additional language (2015)

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has released updated access regulations with effect from the 1st September 2014 to 31st August 2015. 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, 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 73).

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 – although the updated regulations stipulate that extra time will only be awarded in rare and exceptional circumstances, depending on need (section 5.18.5, page 74). The regulations stipulate that centres should consider the amount of extra time (up to a maximum of 25%) which would be most appropriate for individual candidates. It now explicitly states that extra time should not be awarded ‘to compensate for difficulties in reading and writing in English’ (section 5.18.8, page 74). A candidate is entitled to extra time if they have to use the bilingual translation dictionary during the examination ‘so often that examination time is used for this purpose, delaying the answering of questions’, ‘the candidate still has a very limited knowledge of the English language’ and that the extra time of 25% reflects how the candidate would normally work when using a bilingual translation dictionary (section 5.18.7, page 74). The regulations define a normal way of working as ‘the support given to the candidate in the centre’ (section 4.2.5, page 17). Therefore, the guidance suggests that if a candidate would be given extra time in class in order to use a bilingual dictionary and to complete their work, it would be appropriate for them to have the same extra time in the examination.

The regulations state that extra time must not be awarded to a candidate when using a bilingual translation dictionary if:

- English is one of the languages spoken in the family home; or

  • prior to their arrival in the United Kingdom the candidate has been 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 prepared for or entered for IGCSE qualifications where the question papers were set in English; or
  • prior to their arrival in the United Kingdom the candidate was prepared in English for other qualifications. e.g. IELTS qualifications’ (section 5.18.9, page 74)

The updated regulations now go so far as stating that ‘Very few bilingual translation dictionary users will need to have extra time’ (section 5.18.9, page 74).

There are particular examinations in which dictionaries must not be used in, including English/English Language subject examinations (section 5.18.1, page 73). 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 73).

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 79). 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 81). 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