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Special examination arrangements for VCE external assessments

Updated February 2020

Eligibility

Special Examination Arrangements may be approved to meet the needs of students with disabilities, illnesses or other circumstances that affect their ability to access a VCE external assessment.

Special Examination Arrangements applications are made to the VCAA through the student’s school and must be endorsed by the principal. Such applications will be considered by the VCAA in accordance with its policies.

The VCAA recognises that some students with a disability, as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwlth), or illness may require Special Examination Arrangements to enable them to access the examination/test questions and communicate their responses in a timed external assessment.

In designing and approving Special Examination Arrangements, the VCAA is mindful of the need to balance the competing demands of providing students with the opportunity to perform at their optimum and the academic integrity of the assessment process.

The VCAA considers a large number of applications for Special Examination Arrangements every year. As it is the school that makes the application on behalf of students, and will ultimately administer their VCE external assessments, the VCAA’s consultation with a student and/or their representative will usually take place through their school.

Schools must not permit a student to receive Special Examination Arrangements without the VCAA’s approval. Failure to comply  with these instructions may constitute a breach of the rules governing the conduct of VCE external assessments.

The VCAA considers each application for Special Examination Arrangements on the basis of independent professional and/or educational and academic assessments, any school-based evidence and recommendations provided with the application, and the VCAA’s assessment.

Disability and/or illness does not automatically entitle a student to Special Examination Arrangements. The prime consideration is the impact of a disability and/or illness on the student’s capacity to undertake their VCE external assessments and, if necessary, what reasonable adjustments can be made to enable the student to complete VCE external assessments on the same basis as students without a disability and/or illness.

The professional, educational and academic assessments, along with school-based evidence, will be considered by the VCAA on a case-by-case basis. The VCAA will make a decision based on all evidence received with an application.

Early engagement and application

The VCAA encourages schools to engage with the VCAA as early as possible to discuss any issues relating to managing students completing secondary level studies (Years 7–12) that may be eligible for or require special provision.

Early engagement allows schools to discuss interventions and implement appropriate provisions for school-based assessments, in the years preceding VCE, to ensure they are consistent with Special Examination Arrangements likely to be approved for VCE external assessments.

For long term or permanent conditions, it may be appropriate for a school to submit a formal early application for Special Examination Arrangements from Year 9 onwards. Evidence requirements for early applications are consistent with applications submitted on behalf of students enrolled in one or more VCE or scored VCE VET Unit 3–4 sequences.

An early application that is approved by the VCAA will provide schools and students with certainty about the provisions that will be in place for the student when enrolled in one or more VCE or scored VCE VET Unit 3-4 sequences and allows schools to implement these provisions from Year 9 onwards. Any advice given or decisions made by the VCAA in relation to early engagement or formal early applications will need to consider the National Protocols for Test Administration (NPTA) which cover rules and requirements for NAPLAN special provision (referred to as disability adjustments).

Once an early application has been assessed by the VCAA, the responsibility will rest with the school to contact the VCAA in the period leading up to and including the year in which a student enrols in their first VCE or scored VCE VET Unit 3–4 sequence to discuss variations to a student’s provisions as a result of any change in their existing circumstance(s) or due to the onset of a new condition.

In some cases, such as a condition that presents episodic symptoms, the VCAA may require updated and timely evidence at particular stages during the student’s secondary schooling. At the same time, other evidence/cognitive assessments will not be required to be submitted again.

Schools should contact VCAA Special Provision on (03) 9225 2219 or 1800 205 455 to discuss procedures associated with submitting a formal early application.


Submitting an application for Special Examination Arrangements

Schools can apply for Special Examination Arrangements in the year the student first enrols in a VCE or scored VCE VET Unit 3–4 sequence. However, the VCAA strongly encourages schools to engage with the VCAA as early as possible to discuss issues relating to appropriate provisions and evidence requirements.

Students who are approved Special Examination Arrangements can generally expect that these arrangements will be replicated for any additional VCE Units 3 and 4 sequences undertaken in subsequent years. The VCAA reserves the right to request additional and/or updated evidence when it is deemed necessary. Students with health impairments or a mental health condition may be required to submit current medical evidence pertinent to each assessment period.

What schools need to do

Schools are responsible for identifying who may be eligible for special provision for both School-based Assessments and VCE examinations. Many students will already be known to school staff having been identified though established and ongoing support programs and discussions with teachers and/or parents.

Schools must consider individual student’s circumstances, any existing special provisions for classroom learning and/or School-based Assessments, teacher observations and professional evidence when determining what Special Examination Arrangements to apply for.

The VCAA recommends that special provisions at the school level are consistent with those likely to be approved by the VCAA. Special provisions approved by the school may not necessarily meet the eligibility criteria established by the VCAA for Special Examination Arrangements. The fact that a school has approved special provisions for a student’s classroom learning and/or School-based Assessments is insufficient grounds for seeking such arrangements for VCE external assessments without the appropriate supporting evidence.

Schools should consult the VCAA if they are unsure about appropriate arrangements.

Applications for Special Examination Arrangements need to be made to the VCAA through the student’s school using the VCAA’s Special Provision Online (SPO) system by the closing date.

What the VCAA will do

To enable an informed professional judgment, the VCAA will not process an application until all the relevant evidence has been supplied. If necessary, the VCAA will contact schools to request additional information.

In processing Special Examination Arrangements applications, the VCAA will establish an expert Special Examination Arrangements panel, comprised of educational psychologists, medical practitioners, senior examination assessors and other relevant professionals, to assist VCAA staff with decisions.

The VCAA reserves the right to seek additional information from the school or any of the professionals named in an application.

The VCAA’s decision regarding Special Examination Arrangements approved and/or denied will be communicated to the school via email.

The school is responsible for communicating the decision to the student.

If an application has been denied, a new application may be submitted if there is a new diagnosis or evidence that an existing condition has deteriorated.

Administering approved Special Examination Arrangements

Schools must ensure a copy of any approved Special Examination Arrangements are distributed to the student, relevant school personnel (i.e., VCE Coordinator) and the examination chief supervisor.

School personnel must ensure there is a common understanding between the school, student and supervisor as to precisely what any approved Special Examination Arrangements entail.

Emergency Special Examination Arrangements

Schools may submit an emergency application if a student experiences a sudden illness, accident or personal trauma immediately before or during the assessment period.

Medical evidence for emergency applications must contain:

  • a diagnosis
  • the date of diagnosis
  • the date of onset
  • an outline of symptoms and treatment
  • comments on the likely effect of the illness or condition on the student’s capacity to complete VCE external assessments
  • any medical recommendations for particular Special Examination Arrangements

As it does with all its Special Examination Arrangements decisions, the VCAA will apply consistent criteria when assessing emergency applications.

For situations that arise just before an assessment period, schools should use the Emergency Special Examination Arrangements application form. This application will be available two weeks prior to the commencement of each period for VCE external assessments.

If a student is ill on the day of, or during, an external assessment, the school should contact VCAA Special Provision to request and seek approval for immediate Emergency Special Examination Arrangements. Follow-up medical documentation must still be provided.

Any attempt by a student to falsely claim to an examination supervisor to have Special Examination Arrangements when these have not been approved by the VCAA may constitute a breach of examination rules and must be reported to the VCAA.

Appealing a decision

Schools may appeal a VCAA decision. Appeals must be submitted in writing by the school within 14 days of receiving a decision email. The appeal must state why the VCAA decision is being challenged and reference the evidence supplied in the original application. Appeals should include any supporting new evidence, including any other professional’s letter of support, educational and academic tests not previously submitted, and/or school-based evidence and observations.

The VCAA will establish an independent panel to review any new evidence submitted with the original application. The VCAA will process all appeals within 21 days of receipt of an appeal. The outcome will be communicated to schools via email. The school is responsible for communicating an appeal decision to the student.

New evidence may also be submitted to support an application if there is a new diagnosis or deterioration in an existing condition.


Types of Special Examination Arrangements

Special Examination Arrangements can include the following:

Rest breaks

Rest breaks are typically approved at a rate of 10 minutes per hour of the ‘total examination writing time’.

Rest breaks are in addition to all reading or writing time.

In specific circumstances, the VCAA may approve ‘unlimited rest breaks’ to facilitate management of a significant medical or physical condition.

Students may decide how to manage their allocation, including when and how long each break will be, with the supervisor noting the start and end times on the Special Examination Arrangements Rest Break Log Sheet.

The rest break allocation displayed on the Special Examination Arrangements Advice Slip should not be exceeded. Students must be offered the full allocation of reading and writing time, in addition to the time taken for rest breaks.

Students:

  • are not permitted to leave their table or leave the examination room during rest breaks, except in special circumstances as approved by the VCAA
  • are not permitted to read or write or access the examination/test questions or their responses during a rest break; papers must be turned face down during a rest break
  • may use their rest break to relax, rehearse previously learned coping strategies, focus their thoughts or reflect on their responses.

Extra working time

Extra working time is typically approved at a rate of 10 minutes per hour of the ‘total examination writing time’.  In specific circumstances, the VCAA may approve ‘extra working time’ in excess of 10 minutes per hour

Separate rooms

If the use of a scribe (or electronic scribe), reader (or electronic reader) or clarifier has been approved by the VCAA, a student must complete their external assessment in a separate examination room.

Where a student is completing their external assessment in a separate room, a supervisor must be present.

Where a school is requesting a separate room for two or more students in the same examination session and the students have the same or similar conditions, a request can be made to seat these students in the same room.

Consent must be attained from both the parents/guardians and students before requesting this provision.

Use of computers and/or assistive technology

The following table outlines the responsibilities of, and actions required by schools, supervisors and students when the use of a computer and/or assistive technology (that is, specific text-to-voice or voice-to-text software) has been approved.

This table outlines what a school, supervisor and student must do
The school must:
  • only allow a student the use of a computer and/or assistive technology if the VCAA has approved such provision for their external assessment
  • supply a stand-alone computer that only has access to a word-processing package and approved software
  • not allow the student to use predictive software or functions
  • not allow the student to access dictionary functions in examinations where a dictionary is not allowed
  • not allow the student to access the internet during the examination
  • check that the computer and any other equipment to be used on the day of the external assessment are functioning properly
  • supply one memory device per external assessment. Please ensure that no other information is contained on the memory device
  • clearly label the memory device with the following:
    • name of the external assessment
    • VCAA student number
    • centre number.
The supervisor must:
  • watch the computer screen at all times to check that the student is not accessing any other programs or documents
  • remind the student at the commencement of the external assessment that they must save their work at regular intervals
  • stop the external assessment if problems are experienced with the computer or other software and equipment. Seek appropriate assistance and then resume the external assessment, ensuring no time loss to the student. An Incident Report about the circumstances should be completed and returned to the VCAA with the student’s response materials
  • print the final version of the student’s responses at the conclusion of writing time. The student must be present at the time of printing (this must be done when the assessment is completed. The VCAA will not print student work)
  • place the printed work inside the front cover of the response materials
  • if necessary, complete all written details on the front cover of the response materials
  • ensure that the memory device used and the response materials are returned inside the gold envelope
  • clearly label the memory device with the VCAA student number and external assessment name.
Students:
  • must use a stand-alone computer that has access to a word-processing package and approved software only
  • must not access any other programs, files, or data. Any use of other programs, files or data constitutes a breach of VCAA rules and will be subject to appropriate disciplinary procedures
  • may access the dictionary function in examinations where a dictionary is allowed
  • may access the spell-checker facility in the word-processing package only. Use of predictive text or predictive software is not allowed
  • must not set language to any language other than English in the word-processing package
  • must save their work regularly during the external assessment
  • must include their VCAA student number at the beginning of every page
  • must include the number of each question or task answered at the beginning of every page, ensuring that it correlates with the examination question or task book
  • must be present to witness the printing of their work from the memory device. This must be done when the assessment is completed. The VCAA will not print student work.

Group Computer Rooms

Where a school has two or more students requiring the use of a computer in the same examination session, a request can be made in each Special Examination Arrangements application to seat students in the same room.

The request will only be considered for students who have been assessed as having a specific learning disorder, motor coordination disorder or a physical injury/impairment.

Consent must be attained from both the parents/guardians and students before requesting this provision.

Readers

The function of a reader is to read the examination paper and/or the student’s responses as often as requested by the student. A person appointed as a reader should have:

  • a facility for English and familiarity with the VCE study being examined
  • patience and sensitivity to the student’s requirements
  • an understanding of the need to maintain confidentiality.

The appointed reader may work with the student in any practice examinations.

A supervisor, in addition to the reader, must be present in the examination room and monitor all interactions between the reader and the student.

This table outlines what a reader can or cannot do
Readers can:Readers cannot:
  • read the examination/test questions and any incorporated stimulus or resource material as many times as the student asks them to
  • read the student’s answers back to them
  • operate a calculator at the student’s direction.
  • assist and/or interpret any question/s for the student
  • advise the student in any way, either by prompting or discussing the answers.

Electronic readers

If a student is approved the use of an electronic reader or reader software, they must be supervised in a separate room.

This table outlines what supervisors and students must do
Supervisors must:Students must:
  • (where applicable) allow a student the use of a computer with assistive technology if the VCAA has approved such provision for their external assessment
  • monitor that the student has access to an approved electronic reader or software only
  • not allow the student to use word predictive software or functions
  • not allow students to access dictionary functions in examinations where a dictionary is not allowed
  • not allow the student to access the internet during the examination.
  • only use the approved computer and reader software as required during their external assessment. Any use of other programs, files or data constitutes a breach of VCAA rules and will be subject to appropriate disciplinary procedures
  • not access the internet during the external assessment
  • not use word predictive software or functions during the external assessment
  • only use the electronic dictionary in examinations where a dictionary is allowed.

If the use of a reader or electronic reader is approved, extra working time at a rate of ten minutes per hour of writing time will be approved.

Scribes

The function of a scribe is to record, on the appropriate response material, the verbal responses and directions made by the student in the process of answering the question/s.

A person appointed as a scribe should have:

  • a facility for English and familiarity with the VCE study being examined
  • clear and legible handwriting
  • patience and sensitivity to the student’s requirements
  • an understanding of the need to maintain confidentiality.

The appointed scribe may work with the student in any practice examinations.

On behalf of the student the scribe will:

  • complete all written details associated with the examination on the response materials, such as the VCAA student number, study title, the numbers of all questions and/or tasks answered and the number of answer books used
  • record the student’s responses, as dictated by the student
  • re-read the student responses for editing purposes, if requested by the student.

These tasks are to be completed within the total approved writing time.  If the use of a scribe is approved, a separate room will also be approved and extra working time at a rate of ten minutes per hour of writing time will be approved.

The supervisor, in addition to the scribe, must be present in the examination room and monitor all interactions between the scribe and the student.

Before the commencement of the external assessment, the student should advise the scribe how they propose to answer the examination questions. Fifteen minutes before the end of the examination, the supervisor must announce to both the student and the scribe the time remaining. At the conclusion of the external assessment, the supervisor must inform both the student and the scribe that writing should cease.

This table outlines what a scribe and a student can or cannot do
Scribes can:Scribes cannot:
  • ask the student to repeat a word or sentence
  • ask the student to spell difficult or obscure words
  • punctuate and use capital letters without the specific direction of the student
  • operate a calculator at the student’s direction
  • re-read a paragraph that has been written, to enable the student to regain their place in their work
  • plot or draw graphs with the specific direction of the student.
  • interpret the question/s for the student
  • advise the student in any way
  • make comments on the student’s work
  • alter the student’s work or write words that the student has not dictated
  • re-write a student’s written work (that is, a student cannot write out their examination answers and then have the scribe re-write them)
  • type for the student (unless specific VCAA approval has been granted)
  • draw (if the student cannot draw, contact Special Provision).
Students can:Students cannot:
  • dictate their answers exactly as they wish them to be written down
  • advise the scribe when to start a new paragraph, when to put something in brackets or inverted commas, and when to underline something
  • regularly read over what the scribe has written.
  • ask to have a question interpreted.

Electronic scribes

If a student is approved the use of scribing software, they must be supervised in a separate room.

This table outlines what supervisors and students must do
Supervisors must:Students must:
  • allow a student the use of a computer with assistive technology if the VCAA has approved such provision for their external assessment
  • monitor that the student has access to the approved scribing software only
  • not allow the student to use word predictive software or functions
  • not allow students to access dictionary functions in examinations where a dictionary is not allowed
  • not allow the student to access the internet during the examination.
  • only use the approved computer and scribing software as required during their external assessment. Any use of other programs, files or data constitutes a breach of VCAA rules and will be subject to appropriate disciplinary procedures
  • not access the internet during the external assessment
  • not use word predictive software or functions during the external assessment
  • only use the electronic dictionary in examinations where a dictionary is allowed.

If the use of a scribe or electronic scribe is approved, extra working time at a rate of ten minutes per hour of writing time will be approved.

Clarifiers

The function of a clarifier is to clarify words contained within examination/test questions. The appointed clarifier may work with the student during any practice examinations.

Clarification can occur during reading and writing time.

This table outlines what clarification means for students with a language disorder or who are deaf or hard of hearing
For students with a language disorder, clarification is restricted toFor students who are deaf or hard of hearing, clarification is restricted to
  • definition of one or more words in a question. However, the clarifier must not define any words or terms that are ‘study specific’ or subject-related
  • provision of alternative words to those words in the question. Again, the clarifier must not offer alternatives for ‘study specific’ words or terms.
  • definition of one or more words in a question. However the clarifier must not define any words or terms that are ‘study specific’ or subject-related
  • provision of alternative words to those words in the question. Again, the clarifier must not offer alternatives for ‘study specific’ words or terms
  • breaking complex sentences down into more manageable parts.

The student and the clarifier are permitted to write the clarification on the examination question/task book.

Discussion about answers, or prompting, must not occur.

Strict conditions apply for the use of a clarifier in any VCE external assessment. If a student is granted permission by the VCAA to use a clarifier, their school must ensure a copy of the clarifier instruction document (available on VASS) relevant to the impairment/disorder is given to the supervisor and the clarifier. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that the instructions are followed.

The supervisor, in addition to the clarifier, must be present in the examination room and monitor all interactions between the clarifier and the student.

If the use of a clarifier is approved, extra working time at a rate of ten minutes per hour of writing time will be approved.

Alternative format examination papers

Alternative format examination papers and materials can include enlarged print, electronic text and Braille.

Students with vision impairment may be eligible to apply for an exemption from the GAT because Braille and some other alternative format papers are unavailable for that external assessment.

Alternative examination venues

Only in exceptional circumstances will the VCAA approve for a student to sit an external assessment at an alternative venue, e.g., at home or in hospital. Such circumstances would include cases of infectious disease or serious physical or psychological incapacity.

All applications must be supported with a specific medical recommendation. Schools should contact VCAA Special Provision for advice before seeking this arrangement.


Special Provision categories, evidence requirements and appropriate provisions

Students are eligible for Special Examination Arrangements if it can be demonstrated that their capacity to access a VCE external assessment is impaired due to one or more of the following:

Mental health conditions

Definition

The VCAA has adopted the following operational definition of a mental health condition for the purpose of assessing Special Examination Arrangements applications:

A mental health condition is a disorder or illness that affects a student’s thought processes, judgement, perception of reality, or emotional and social wellbeing. The symptoms significantly impact on a student’s cognitive functioning. The current presenting symptoms must be supported by evidence from a range of sources including a student’s history, school observations and appropriate health professionals.

Evidence requirements

An application for Special Examination Arrangements for a mental health condition must be substantiated with evidence from the primary treating health professional working within a relevant area of mental health, who has made a comprehensive assessment of the student, seen the student recently for their condition, and is not related to them.

The professional evidence must be completed in the year of the application and be signed and dated by the treating professional, and contain the following details:

  • clinical assessments, diagnosis (if available),date of diagnosis
  • consultation history, presenting symptoms
  • treatment period and plan (if available)
  • description of severity; the impact of the student’s mental health condition on learning and assessment.
  • The School-based evidence – detailing the history of special provisions approved by the school over the period of the condition.

The VCAA reserves the right to request additional evidence, if necessary.

Appropriate provisions

The overwhelming consensus amongst professionals that work with students with Mental Health conditions is that in most circumstances rest breaks are considered the most appropriate provision to manage symptoms that significantly impact on cognitive functioning.

Mental health conditions impact directly on mood, thinking and behaviour and, in an examination environment, may impact on a student’s ability to concentrate.

Rest breaks provide students with an opportunity to use taught techniques to manage their thoughts, emotions and feelings.

An application for the use of a separate room will only be considered where strongly supported by appropriate professional and school-based evidence.

This table outlines details of the possible Special Examination Arrangements available for a range of mental health conditions.
ConditionPossible difficulties under test conditionsPossible arrangements

Anxiety disorders

Concentration difficulties, anxiety preventing performance in group situations

Rest breaks, permission to take medication, separate room

Attention-deficit and disruptive behaviour disorders

Concentration and difficulty with impulse control

Rest breaks, permission to take medication, separate room

Eating disorder (Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa)

Fatigue, concentration difficulties, need to accommodate eating plans

Rest breaks, permission to take medication, separate room

Depression

Concentration difficulties, difficulties remembering and making decisions, fatigue and tiredness

Rest breaks

Bipolar disorder

Fatigue, restlessness, irritability, disorganised behaviour, difficulty with memory and concentration

Rest breaks, separate room, extra working time

Schizophrenia

Memory loss, mental confusion, slowness in activity, fatigue

Rest breaks, extra working time, separate room

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Recurrent unwanted thoughts and/or repetitive behaviours

Rest breaks

Requests for extra working time

Requests for extra working time must be accompanied by compelling evidence from the treating health professional and the school that demonstrates significant impact of a student’s executive functioning and a decline in academic performance. The evidence may include:

  • the results of any psychological testing previously administered, such as Conners 3, Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF – prior to 2018 or BRIEF2), NEPSY II: A Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment, second edition
  • a health professional statement outlining the symptoms and why extra writing time is required
  • school-based evidence that demonstrates a decline in the student’s performance as a result of the condition. This may include the student’s work before and after the onset of the mental health condition
  • school observations and history of other provisions (namely rest breaks) being trialled unsuccessfully.

Schools are encouraged to contact VCAA Special Provision to discuss specific student cases before applying for extra working time.

Health impairment or physical disability

Evidence requirements

An application for Special Examination Arrangements based on either health impairment or a physical disability must be substantiated with evidence from an appropriate health professional who has treated the student for the condition.

Professional evidence must be completed in the year of the application, be signed and dated by the treating professional, and contain the following details:

  • a diagnosis
  • the date of diagnosis
  • a brief history
  • comments on the how the illness or condition would impact on the student’s day-to-day functioning in the classroom and learning
  • comments on the likely effect of the illness or condition on the student’s capacity to complete VCE external assessments.
  • The School-based evidence – detailing the history of special provisions approved by the school over the period of the condition.

The VCAA reserves the right to request additional evidence, if deemed necessary.

Appropriate provisions

Please note the following :

  • an application for the use of a separate room will only be considered where strongly supported by appropriate professional evidence
  • If the application is for extra working time, a scribe or the use of computer and/or assistive technology, students will be required to complete the required essays as outlined in Written Expression - requests for extra working time, computer or scribe and/or assistive technology.
This table outlines details of the possible Special Examination Arrangements available for a range of health impairments or physical disabilities.
ConditionPossible difficulties under test conditionsPossible arrangements

Autism spectrum disorder

Concentration difficulties

Rest breaks, separate room, permission to leave examination room under supervision

Back injury/chronic pain

Pain and/or discomfort due to injury, problems with prolonged sitting

Rest breaks, permission to take medication, permission to stand and stretch

Crohn’s disease

Pain and/or discomfort

Rest breaks, permission to leave room under supervision

Chronic fatigue syndrome (for example, post-viral fatigue syndrome), myalgic encephalomyelitis, glandular fever

Tiredness/inability to concentrate due to illness

Rest breaks, permission to take medication

Diabetes

Need to check blood sugar levels

Permission to take food and/or drink into the examination, permission to take medication, permission to leave examination room under supervision, rest breaks

Epilepsy

May suffer from epileptic seizure during examinations

Permission to take medication, separate room

Hand/wrist/arm/shoulder injury

Difficulty writing due to pain or discomfort in the hand and/or arm, excessive fatigue in the hand

Rest breaks, extra working time, a computer or a scribe

Acquired brain injuries

Mental processing difficulty or slowness

Rest breaks, permission to take medication

Pregnancy or early infant care

In hospital for birth, breastfeeding

Rest breaks, feeding breaks, separate room, hospital supervision

Muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, etc

Muscle weakness, restrictive use of limbs, communication difficulties

Permission to stand and/or stretch, permission to take medication, separate room, extra working time, computer, assistive technology, use of an scribe/aide, alternative examination paper

Specific learning disorders

Definition

The VCAA has adopted the following operational definition of a Specific Learning Disorder for the purpose of assessing Special Examination Arrangements applications:

Specific Learning Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a biological origin. Students with this disorder possess specific cognitive processing deficits that cause difficulties with learning and using academic skills and manifest in persistent problems with one or more of the following:

  • inaccurate or slow and effortful word reading
  • understanding the meaning of what is read
  • spelling
  • written expression
  • mastering number sense, number facts or calculations
  • mathematical reasoning.

The affected academic skills are substantially and quantifiably below those expected for the student’s grade and/or cause significant interference with academic performance. The learning difficulties are not better accounted for by intellectual disabilities, hearing or vision disorders, motor impairment, mental health disorders or external factors such as environmental disadvantage, chronic absenteeism or lack of appropriate educational experience.

The diagnosis of a learning disorder must be based on the integration of comprehensive clinical evidence from a range of sources including a student’s history (developmental, medical, family and educational) and appropriate diagnostic assessment results.

Schools are encouraged to contact VCAA Special Provision to discuss individual applications.

Evidence requirements

The VCAA has assessed and approved the following tests for determining eligibility for Special Examination Arrangements.

Cognitive Assessment (IQ tests) (mandatory requirement)

A cognitive assessment, administered no earlier than the student’s last year of primary schooling, (that is Year 6), is required. The test must be administered by a registered psychologist. The VCAA will accept any of the following cognitive assessments for determining eligibility for Special Examination Arrangements:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) V or IV
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) IV
  • Woodcock Johnson (WJ) IV or III
  • Stanford Binet V or IV (if test administered in 2017 or earlier).

A copy of the cognitive assessment report administered by an appropriately qualified professional registered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is required. The report should include subtest scaled scores, along with an interpretation of assessment results.

Impairment in reading – requests for extra working time, reader and/or assistive technology

The VCAA has adopted the following criteria to determine the suitability of tests to measure reading ability. The test should be:

  • silent-reading comprehension (this reflects the silent reading conditions of an examination)
  • timed
  • published with Australian norms.

The VCAA must be able to access the test and its normative data.

The purpose of such a reading test is to establish if a student’s reading level is significantly below what is expected of an average Year-12 student.

The current prescribed reading test is the Progressive Achievement Test in Reading (PAT-R), published by ACER. The VCAA will accept results from Comprehension Booklet 10 (edition 4 or 5).

Evidence of a student’s reading comprehension skills must be based on a test administered no earlier than the year the student commences the VCE or Term 4 of the year prior.

The results of the York Assessment of Reading for Comprehension (YARC) or other reading tests administered, if available, can be submitted by schools as additional evidence.

Impairment in written expression – requests for extra working time, use of computer, scribe and/or assistive technology

The VCAA completes an assessment of a student’s level of written expression involving an analysis of several variables, including the following:

  • thought and content
  • structure and organisation
  • expression and/or language
  • handwriting
  • productivity
  • spelling
  • punctuation.

Requests for extra working time require: Essays One and Two with the completed Essay cover sheets as outlined below

Requests for the use of a computer, assistive technology or a scribe require: Essays One, Two and Three with the completed Essay cover sheets as outlined below

Essay One

The topic for this essay is supplied by the VCAA and must be completed according to the following conditions:

  • Strictly five minutes’ reading time and 30 minutes’ writing time are to be provided.
  • No special provisions are to be used for this essay.

Essay Two

This essay should be a copy of a handwritten English or Literature essay from an assessment that the student has recently completed (within six months) at school. It must have been for either a School-based Assessment or a school examination, have had a writing time of at least one hour with Special Provisions permitted.

Essay Two must have been marked with teacher comments and observations, and the teacher’s grading should be indicated.

The essay topic, the time taken for this essay, the date of the assessment and details of any approved Special Provisions used by the student should be recorded on the Essay Two Cover Sheet.

The essay must not be a short-answer response or have been written in another language. If the student is completing a Unit 3–4 sequence that does not involve extended responses or essays, the VCAA will accept an English examination or similar assessment from Term 4 of the year prior.

Essay Three (typed or using assistive technology or scribed)

The topic for this essay will be supplied by the VCAA and must be completed according to the following conditions:

  • If typed or using assistive technology - strictly five minutes’ reading time and 30 minutes’ typing time should be provided
  • If scribed - strictly five minutes’ reading time and 35 minutes’ scribing time should be provided
  • apart from the computer and/or assistive technology or use of a scribe, no additional special provisions (for example, extra time) should be used for this essay.

Essay administration

Essay Cover Sheets have further details of the specific requirements for administering the essays.

Essays should be completed at school and supervised by school staff. The supervising teacher must remain with the student until they have completed the task to observe the student and ensure that the time restrictions are observed.

All essays are to be completed under examination conditions (no assistance or prompting from the supervising teacher). The supervising teacher should complete all relevant information on the essay cover sheet, including if the essay and result is reflective of the student’s normal working level.

Mathematics – requests for extra working time, use of computer and/or assistive technology

The following evidence is required in support of applications for Special Examination Arrangements for an impairment in mathematics or requests for extra writing time for mathematics examinations on the basis of a deficit in written expression:

  • examples of mathematics assessments completed at school by the student – with and/or without special provisions, detailing any provisions utilised by the student and time taken
  • study specific teacher observations of student difficulties during assessments and in class.

Appropriate provisions

This table provides a guide to appropriate provisions available to students with specific learning disorders.
Impairment in Reading (includes Dyslexia)Impairment in Written ExpressionImpairment in Mathematics (includes Dyscalculia)
  • Extra working time
  • Reader
  • Use of assistive technology (e.g. text to voice software, electronic readers)
  • Extra working time
  • Use of a computer
  • Permission to use a Scribe
  • Use of assistive technology (e.g. voice to text software)
  • Extra working time
  • Use of a computer
  • Use of assistive technology

A student may be approved extra working time on the basis of:

  • an impairment in reading (10 minutes per hour);
  • an impairment in written expression (10 minutes per hour); and/or
  • an impairment in mathematics (10 minutes per hour).

The VCAA will consider requests for additional time in excess of 10 minutes per hour – for any of the above impairments - where it can be clearly demonstrated, through professional and/or school-based evidence, there is a compelling need for the additional time.

Extra working time approved by the VCAA is to be used in addition to the ‘scheduled writing time’ of the VCE external assessment.

A student with a severe reading disability may be approved the use of a reader or electronic reader.

Language disorder

Definition

The VCAA has adopted the following operational definition of a language disorder for the purpose of assessing Special Examination Arrangements applications:

Language Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder impacting on a student’s acquisition and use of language across a range of modalities (i.e. spoken, written, sign language). Difficulties are evident in one or more of the following:

  • Reduced vocabulary – the student struggles with understanding and expression of words.
  • Limited sentence structure – the student struggles to formulate sentence that are both structurally sound and convey meaning.
  • Impairments in discourse – the student struggles with providing adequate information, sequencing it appropriately and conveying intended meaning in connected speech.

The onset of difficulties is evident in a student’s early language development. It is necessary that these difficulties cannot be better attributed to hearing or another sensory impairment, motor dysfunction and another medical or neurological condition. Likewise it is important to consider that the language difficulties are not better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay.

The difficulties identified are substantially and quantifiably below those for the student’s grade level and cause significant interference with academic performance.

The diagnosis of a Language Disorder needs to have a solid basis in comprehensive clinical evidence from a range of sources including a student’s history (developmental, medical, familial and educational) in addition to appropriate diagnostic assessment results.

Schools are encouraged to contact VCAA Special Provision to discuss individual cases, if necessary.

Evidence requirements

The following evidence is required to support all applications for Special Examination Arrangements for a student with a language disorder:

Cognitive Assessment (IQ tests) (mandatory requirement)

A cognitive assessment, administered no earlier than the student’s last year of primary schooling, (that is Year 6), is required. The test must be administered by a registered psychologist. The VCAA will accept any of the following cognitive assessments for determining eligibility for Special Examination Arrangements:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) V or IV
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) IV
  • Woodcock Johnson (WJ) IV or III
  • Stanford Binet V or IV (if test administered in 2017 or earlier).

A copy of the cognitive assessment report administered by an appropriately qualified professional registered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is required. The report should include subtest scaled scores, along with an interpretation of assessment results.

Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF) fifth-edition assessment (mandatory requirement) administered in either the year the student commences the VCE or in Term 4 of the year prior.

Progressive Achievement Test in Reading (edition 4 or 5) Test Booklet 10 (mandatory requirement); administered no earlier than the year the student commences the VCE or Term 4 of the year prior.

Requests for extra working time

  • Essays One and Two with the completed Essay cover sheets

Requests for the use of a computer, a scribe or assistive technology

  • Essays One, Two and Three with the completed Essay cover sheets

Requests for use of a clarifier require:

  • Essays One and Two with the completed Essay cover sheets
  • information outlining the history of the student’s use of and need for a clarifier.

Appropriate provisions

This table provides a guide to appropriate provisions available to students with a language disorder.
Language Disorder (possible provisions based on functional impact on the student)
  • Extra working time
  • Reader
  • Clarifier
  • Use of assistive technology (such as text to voice software, electronic reader)

The VCAA will consider requests for additional time in excess of 10 minutes per hour for a student with a language disorder where it can be clearly demonstrated, through professional and/or school-based evidence, there is a compelling need for the additional time.

Extra working time approved by the VCAA is to be used in addition to the ‘scheduled writing time’ of the VCE external assessment.

Motor coordination disorders

Definition

The VCAA has adopted the following operational definition of a motor coordination disorder for the purpose of assessing Special Examination Arrangements applications:

Students with a Motor Coordination Disorder possess specific motor skill deficits which can cause significant difficulties with slowness and/or inaccuracy of handwriting.

The diagnosis of a Motor Coordination Disorder must be supported by evidence from a range of sources including a student’s history, school observations and appropriate diagnostic assessment results from a qualified individual.

The motor skills deficits are not better explained by intellectual disability, visual impairment or are attributable to a neurological condition affecting movement (e.g., cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, degenerative disorder – these conditions should be applied for under the Physical Disability category).

Evidence requirements

One of the below Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH) assessments administered no earlier than the student’s final year of primary schooling (i.e. Grade 6).

  • DASH 9–16 years, Pearson, 2007
  • DASH 17 years, Pearson, 2010.

A copy of the motor coordination report administered by an appropriately qualified professional registered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) must be attached.

Requests for additional working time: Essays One and Two with completed VCAA prescribed cover sheets.

Requests for the use of a computer, a scribe and/or assistive technology: Essays One, Two and Three with completed VCAA prescribed cover sheets.

While not mandatory, the VCAA will consider other motor coordination assessments, in addition to school observations, as supplementary evidence where there is a request for extra working time, use of a computer, scribe and/or assistive technology on the basis of handwriting difficulties. Examples include:

  • The Handwriting Speed Test, Wallen, Bonney and Lennox, 2006
  • The Beery Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration, sixth edition (Beery VMI), Pearson, 2010.

Appropriate provisions

This table provides a guide to appropriate provisions available to students with motor coordination disorder
Motor Coordination Disorder (possible provisions based on functional impact on the student)
  • Rest breaks
  • Extra working time
  • Use of a computer
  • Permission to use a Scribe
  • Use of assistive technology, such as voice-to-text software

Deaf and hard of hearing

Evidence requirements

The VCAA requires the following evidence to support an application for Special Examination Arrangements for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing:

  • a recent unaided audiogram and report from a qualified practitioner (for example, an ear, nose and throat specialist or audiologist) indicating a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and/or conductive hearing loss that is moderate, severe or profound
  • a support statement with comments and recommendations from a specialist teacher, along with confirmation of the student’s enrolment in either the Visiting Teacher Service or a deaf facility or school.

If this evidence is not available, the VCAA may contact the student’s school to request other educational and testing information.

Appropriate provisions

This table provides a guide to appropriate provisions available to deaf and hard of hearing students
Deaf and hard of hearing (possible provisions based on functional impact on the student)
  • Extra working time
  • Use of a clarifier
  • Microlink assistive technology
  • Access to audio-video stimulus (e.g. English as an Additional Language written examination Listening to texts section)

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing may be eligible for a clarifier to assist with their external assessments. A request for a clarifier for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing is unlikely to be approved if the student:

  • does not regularly use a clarifier; or
  • is not enrolled with the Visiting Teacher Service or a deaf and hard of hearing facility or school.

It is the school’s responsibility to plan appropriate seating arrangements in an external assessment so a student who is deaf or hard of hearing can clearly see the chief supervisor and follow any communications and messages during an external assessment. If specific technological devices, such as Microlink assistive technology, are required, these should be requested in the application.

Vision impairment

Evidence requirements

The VCAA requires the following evidence to support an application for Special Examination Arrangements for a student with vision impairment:

  • evidence of a moderate or severe vision impairment from either an ophthalmologist or the Educational Vision Assessment Clinic (EVAC)
  • a supporting statement with comments and recommendations from a specialist teacher, along with confirmation of the student’s enrolment with the Visiting Teacher Service.

If this evidence is not available, the VCAA may contact the student’s school to request other educational and testing information.

If an alternative format examination paper is required (for example, large print, Braille, electronic examination), a specific request with details of font type, font sizes, format and any other recommendations from specialists should be clearly outlined for each external assessment in the application.

Appropriate provisions

This table provides a guide to appropriate provisions available to students with a vision impairment.
Vision impairment (possible provisions based on functional impact on the student)
  • Alternative format examination
  • Extra working time
  • Rest breaks
  • Use of a computer
  • Permission to use a Scribe
  • Permission to use a Reader
  • Use of assistive technology