Learning Support Responsibilities Preparation

Examinations and assessments


Assessment and examination policies, procedures and practices provide disabled learners and tauira with the same opportunity as their peers to achieve learning outcomes. 

Best practices

  1. Provide reasonable accommodations for examinations and assessment that allow disabled learners the same opportunity as their peers to achieve learning outcomes. 
  2. Develop a clear procedure for granting alternative arrangements following the national standard for Guidelines and Procedures for the Provision of Alternative Arrangements in Tests and Examinations to Students with Disability/Impairment.
  3. Ensure that access to alternative arrangements: 
    1. Widely publicised with a clear pathway for disabled learners to follow.
    2. Operates with minimum delay.
    3. That this is applied consistently across the institution or organisation.
  4. Monitor the provision of alternative arrangements regularly so that:
    1. Equity and fairness are upheld.
    2. Teaching staff understand possible provisions and procedures and how to advise disabled learners.
    3. Provision is consistent across the tertiary provider. 
  5. Consider providing alternative arrangements for internal assessment and tests of under 30 minutes for disabled learners with a reading, writing or spelling difficulty, on an individual needs basis.

Poor practice in which a learner is unable to access learning support: 

“With dyslexia it was very hard to do reading and writing and I was not able  to have any support, the university denied any support for that, which made it  mightily impossible to do exams and tests.” 

- Former Disabled Learner, Tertiary Institution.

Ideas and resources

  • Reasonable accommodations for examinations and assessment may include: 
    • The use of assistive technology in examinations.
      For example, C-Pens that have been developed specifically for exam use. This eliminates the need for a reader in an exam.
    • Flexibility in the balance between assessed coursework and exams to help minimise issues like stress. 
    • Demonstration of achievement in alternative ways – presentations in sign language, oral exams, assignments instead of exams, short-answer instead of multiple-choice exams or vice versa, assessments which vary  question and response options.
      For example, audio or video tape instead of written answers.
    • Additional time allowances, rest breaks and rescheduling of exams.
    • The use of computers, note takers, reader/writers and other support in examinations.
    • Examinations and presentation of assessed work in alternative formats.
    • Additional rooms and supervisors for those using alternative arrangements. 
    • Extended deadlines for assignments. 
  • Providing an alternative arrangement examination and assessment manual can ensure consistency by guiding staff on areas such as the use of scribes  and computers, additional time and managing oral exams. Training for test or exam support staff is also important. 

What you need to know

If evidence is provided that delayed completion of assessed work, non attendance at examinations, deferral or withdrawal has been due to impairment then policies and procedures should allow this to be recorded in non-prejudicial terms in all academic files.

Teaching staff can feel frustrated if not given a chance to meet a student’s learning support needs: 

“I had a learner with a learning disability and it wasn’t until we were halfway through her third year course with me that she turned around and told me that she had a problem doing exams. Well, there was no exam in the second year course that I taught her in, but if she had told me what her problems were I would have told her how she could have been helped in every other context to do with the course.” 

- Academic and Disability Support Staff, Tertiary Institution.

Guidelines and procedures are currently not used consistently across tertiary education organisations:

“Lecturers at my institution do not consistently take into account the needs of learners with specific learning disabilities when marking scripts, and some learners may be disadvantaged by losing marks for spelling and grammar etc. Are these guidelines endorsed by TEC and the Ministry of Education? If so then I think it should be stated that it is expected that tertiary providers follow these guidelines.”

- Academic and Disability Support Staff, Tertiary Institution.


Sometimes disabled learners do not have a diagnosis, but have obvious impairment-related learning support needs. Services should always  be supported to put in a bridge until the learner is able to get the right documentation or support, but not to send a learner away with no plan or  support in place.

In the COVID-19 era and for online invigilation, some tertiary providers have used systems such as ProctorU that can have adverse impacts on disabled learners if not properly monitored.  

Barriers to passing industry exams and entry requirements for disabled learners: 

“So let me just give you an example, which has been big in my mind, and that is in the plumbing, gas, and drain laying industry, there are about a 1,000 people who have finished their training that can’t pass the registration exam. 

Now, when you think about it they’re a wasted resource, they get to that point and they can’t get any higher. Now we’ve come up with a way of helping these people get their registration exam. 

The important thing about that is all of a sudden their income expands enormously because they’re a registered tradesperson. Their bosses’ income increases, because they can charge them out for more. New Zealand benefits. And it can be, literally if you multiply it over a lifetime, it can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

So that’s an example of what I call the investment approach. In the same way an interpreter, a signing person, if they enable somebody to succeed in their degree, it’s a cost, but it’s an investment cost. 

And it’s the same thing as for midwives and entry to the police, where people have to do a very, very difficult psychometric test. That literally excludes a lot of people, because we all know that the time pressure of psychometric tests is  [difficult for] many dyslexic people ... And it’s only a sort of an artificial sieving mechanism. That’s all it’s used for in institutions. It’s out of date and antiquated, and it applies across a whole lot of sectors.”  

- Staff Member, Previously with an ITO.

This page is current as of May 2022 Print this page