Assessment arrangements guide for learners

Assessment arrangements support disabled learners and/or those with additional support needs to access our qualifications and to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in assessments. This guide explains how assessment arrangements work and gives some examples of the arrangements that are available.

Important things you need to know about assessment arrangements

We can’t accept assessment arrangement requests directly from learners, parents/carers or guardians.

Your school, college or training provider is best placed to know the requirements of each qualification, and what types of assessment arrangements would be allowed (or not allowed) in an assessment. Therefore, we encourage you or your parent / carer or guardian to discuss your need for assessment arrangements with them.

The detailed information and instructions that your school, college or training provider needs when making a request is available from our website.

Some learners may need support when accessing an exam or other assessment. There are many different reasons why a learner might need support, but it could be because of a physical difficulty (including medical or sensory difficulty), a behavioural or mental health difficulty, or a learning difficulty.

We can make adjustments to give disabled learners, and those with additional support needs, an equal opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do. These adjustments are called ‘assessment arrangements’.

We do not need you to have been formally diagnosed by a medical professional as having a disability for you to have an assessment arrangement.

You will still be expected to demonstrate the same skills or knowledge as all other learners, and you will be marked in the same way using the same marking criteria. This is to make sure that your grade can be directly compared to everyone else who achieved the qualification.

The Equality Act (2010) and our qualifications

By law, under the Equality Act (2010), we must make sure that disabled learners are supported to show what they can do when accessing our qualifications. The law is also clear that there are situations where we should not make adjustments to our qualifications. Your school, college or training provider will be able to discuss this with you and seek advice from SQA if needed.

We ask schools, colleges and training providers to think about the specific needs of each learner who may need assessment arrangements, for each subject and level. This is because each learner is different — even if a learner has the same diagnosis or difficulty as their peer, they may not need the same type of support. This is what we call a ‘needs-led’ approach.

We can only put assessment arrangements in place when:

  1. your need is identified by the school, college or training provider
  2. the arrangements requested are similar to how you are supported in class

Decisions about assessment arrangements are not just based on the nature of your disability or condition, but also on how you learn, and what effect these arrangements have on your ability to demonstrate what you’ve learned. Any assessment arrangement that you are not used to could make assessment worse for you instead of better.

You may not need the same arrangements in all subjects. If you have a condition that affects how you write, you might use a laptop to type your answers in an assessment with lots of writing such as English, but you might not need this in Practical Cookery where there is a practical assessment and an exam that you only need to write short answers for.

While you are learning, your teachers or lecturers will be making decisions about the best arrangements that are possible and that will be suitable for your needs. Your teacher or lecturer will discuss this with you and ask you sign a form agreeing that:

  • you (and your parent/carer if you are under age 16) agree to the arrangements your centre has requested
  • you agree to the school, college or training provider passing on some personal details about your disability or your additional support need (we will look after this information very carefully and will delete it after the assessments are finished)

Before your assessment each year, your school college or training provider will contact us to request your assessment arrangements and review if these are still appropriate as you progress.

Read our assessment arrangements blog post for parents/carers

Equality Act

The Equality Act (2010) ensures that people with protected characteristics are not subjected to discrimination or unfair treatment.

Because SQA is also the ‘general regulator’ for qualifications in Scotland (which means that we are responsible for maintaining the standards or value of qualifications), the Act also specifies instances in which we should not make reasonable adjustments for our qualifications. This means that it is not possible, for example, to make an adjustment to the standard of the qualification, and how learners are assessed. To do so would mean that it did not provide a reliable indication of the learner’s knowledge, skills and understanding and any qualification awarded would not be equal to that of other learners.

However, what we can do is consider the types of assessment arrangements that allows a learner to access the assessment.

Examples of assessment arrangements

There are different types of assessment arrangements that are available and they may vary by subject, level and learner. We have provided some examples of assessment arrangements below.

If you have any difficulty with accessing printed words because of a visual impairment or a learning difficulty, an adapted or digital paper might be suitable for you. This can be:

  • Enlarged question papers: the question paper that all learners are given in an exam can be enlarged to A3 or produced in landscape format. The text can be enlarged (for example, to font size 18, 24, 36 or 48) or changed to a different font type (such as Comic Sans or Arial).
  • Coloured question papers: the question paper can be printed on one our six standard colours that we offer with bigger text, different font type and on A3 paper. If using coloured paper is not something you are used to, you can also use a coloured overlay or coloured glasses. Any coloured images in the question paper may look different on coloured paper, so these will be printed in black and grey. The invigilator will make sure you have a copy on white paper so you can still see the images in colour.
  • Digital question papers: a digital version of the standard question paper will put on your computer, laptop or device for you to see on screen. This means you can enlarge the text, change the font type or background colour yourself. You can also use a digital question paper with text-to-speech software to read the question paper or your typed answers. You can also type (or dictate, where speech recognition software is installed) your answers onto a digital answer booklet.
  • Braille question papers: if you are blind or have a severe visual impairment that means you are unable to see written text or images, your school, college or training provider can ask for a braille or a print copy of braille question paper for your exam. The standard paper can either be made for you in braille, or modified to make it more accessible and diagrams and other images may be simplified or removed. We check the questions to make sure any that ask you to draw diagrams are replaced by another question of a similar level of difficulty or you can use tactile diagrams with braille labels.

If you are d/Deaf or have difficulty with your hearing and might not be able to hear the CD for a language listening exam, your school, college or training provider can ask someone to be there to read out the listening transcript to you in a separate room. This allows you to see lip patterns and to lip-read if you can. This is called a 'live presentation’.

You can also use a CD with extra time built in to make the breaks between each spoken passage longer and use headphones to listen to the CD.

If you have difficulty with reading text, a person (reader) or piece of software (text-to-speech) who reads some or all of the question paper to you might help. You will need to be in a room on your own with the person reading for you so this does not disturb your peers.

You should have been given sufficient time to practise using a reader before the scheduled assessment. The reader will make sure that you are clear about their exact role. For example, your reader may say:

  • ‘I can only read what I am asked to read.’
  • ‘I cannot explain any words or questions to you, but I can read things as many times as you like.’

Before you start an assessment, or during a practice session, your reader will decide with you which side to sit on so that you are both comfortable.

During the assessment you can read some parts of the assessment yourself and have other parts read to you. It is your decision if you want your reader to read out any text.

You must study any diagrams, graphs, formulae, equations or pictures yourself. However, you can ask your reader to read out scientific or mathematical notation or any text associated with such material if you cannot read it yourself.

You should tell your reader the instructions, questions or parts of questions you wish to have read. If you are allowed a dictionary, you can ask your reader to look something up for you and read it.

Your reader can also read back your answers to you.

Your reader can only read the exact wording of the assessment, and cannot give you meanings of words, rephrase questions, or interpret anything for you, for example telling you what a word or question means.

Your reader cannot give you any advice on, for instance, which questions to answer, which order the questions should be answered in.

An SQA-appointed invigilator may need to be positioned beside your reader during the external exam.

If you have difficulties with writing your answers and cannot use a device to type, you may be able to use a scribe. A scribe is someone who writes your answers down or types them on a device for you in an assessment.

You should have been given sufficient time to practise using a scribe before the scheduled assessment.

Your scribe will make sure that you are absolutely clear about their role in the assessment.

Before you start, or during a practice session, decide which side your scribe should sit so you are both comfortable.

During the assessment you can choose to write some responses and dictate others if you like, and you might also want to write or draw something extra. You must produce any diagrams, maps or graphs by yourself. If you are unable to draw these, your scribe may be allowed to assist, but only if this has been agreed with SQA beforehand.

In a Modern Language writing assessment, you must spell out each word in the modern language for your scribe to record your responses.

An SQA invigilator may need to be positioned beside your scribe in the external exam.

Speech-to-text software, also called ‘speech recognition’ or ‘voice recognition’ software, learns the human voice and types what you say onto an electronic device. Some learners may prefer to use software instead of telling a scribe what they would like written down.

Whether you have a person writing for you or you are using software, you will need to be in a room on your own so this does not disturb your peers who are completing the same assessment.

This assessment arrangement allows you to type your answers on a computer, laptop, tablet or other device while using the standard question paper. If you have a learning difficulty that affects how you spell words, your school, college or training provider will turn on the spellcheck function. There may be other functions that are not allowed in an assessment which will also be turned off.

Depending on what assessment arrangements you need, you may also be using the digital question paper so you can read this on screen, or software that can read out questions, passages or your answers back to you (we call this ‘text to speech software’) or type the answers you speak into a microphone (‘speech recognition’ or ‘speech to text’ software).

If you are d/Deaf and use sign language, you can have your question papers signed to you, and you can sign your answers in some subjects.

You should have had practice in working with your sign communicator, and both of you should be well prepared for working together in your assessment where this is allowed*. You must:

  • clearly indicate to your sign communicator which parts of the assessment you would like to have signed — you can ask for it to be signed again as often as you want, but the sign communicator cannot suggest or choose which parts
  • study and interpret any maps, diagrams, visual material or graphs etc on your own. Your sign communicator can sign any labels or text to you

You can write or type some assessment answers and sign others — this is your decision. You may also want to include additional written or graphic material with your signed answers.

If you choose to sign your responses in your SQA assessments, we will require your signed answers to be videoed. You must be comfortable with this and have had practice of being videoed. You will be asked to sign a form to agree with being filmed and that you have been told that the video recording will be sent to us. Your sign communicator will transcribe your signed answers into written English; this together with your video recording and your signed agreement will be sent to us for marking.

*You cannot use sign language in English (Reading & Writing), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Modern Languages (including Gaelic) assessments.

Sitting an assessment, such as an exam, can be stressful and make you anxious. You may have an additional support need that makes you feel even more worried or anxious when you’re sitting a formal assessment. If so, there are some assessment arrangements that might help.

These are just some examples of the types of support that are available. You should always speak with your school, college or training provider to discuss your needs. They will get in touch with us if they are unsure about what is allowed in SQA assessments.


You may need to take a break in the room where your assessment is taking place (called ‘rest periods’) or if you need to leave the assessment room to do this (called ‘supervised breaks’). This can be helpful if you have a condition that means you need comfort breaks, to take medication, check blood sugar levels, eat or drink if you are diabetic, or if you need some time to help you continue with the exam.

Any time you use for breaks does not affect the overall time you are given to sit your assessment. The invigilator will make a note of this and make sure you have the same amount of time to complete the assessment as your peers. If you need supervised breaks, a member of staff must be there to supervise you when you are outside the assessment room.

Extra time

Some learners, because of their disability, may need more time to complete their assessment — for example, because of a learning difficulty that means they need more time to process, or a physical difficulty that means they are unable to write, type or speak in the time set for the assessment.

This is a different arrangement from rest periods and supervised breaks. You may only need one of these, or both extra time as well as breaks — your school, college or training provider will be able to discuss with you what the most appropriate assessment arrangements are for your individual needs.

Practical assistant

If your difficulty prevents you from carrying out practical tasks safely and independently or, for example, if you need someone to hold equipment steady for you during an exam, a practical assistant will be able to help you with this.

You will need to show that you can demonstrate the skills that are being assessed, but the practical assistant will be familiar with the subject and the assessment itself. The practical assistant will be able to carry out your instructions exactly as you give them, unless to do so would be dangerous or harmful.

The practical assistant might ask you to explain if they do not understand your instructions, but they will not be able to give you any factual help or tell you what you have to do. The practical assistant should have been working with you during your course, so you know how to work with them in an assessment.

The practical assistant will be available to you throughout the whole assessment, but you do not need to ask the practical assistant to help if there are parts of the assessment you can do on your own. You only need to ask them to help with any parts of the assessment that you need help with.


If you have difficulty concentrating or with keeping track of time, a prompter might be helpful to you. Your prompter will be a member of staff from your school, college or training provider that you know, but they cannot be a relative or close friend. You and your prompter should agree the best way for them to prompt you and where they will sit — this should be similar to how they support you in class.

You will need to be in a separate room on your own with the prompter and invigilator when this arrangement is being used in an assessment — this is to make sure your peers are not disturbed by this arrangement.

During the assessment, the prompter will only draw your attention back to the task — they will not be able to give you any advice on what question to answer, how much time you should spend on each question, or explain any words or questions to you.

There is also the option to use cue cards that we have approved or for you to use a kitchen timer that you can set yourself in the assessment.

Separate accommodation

You may not be comfortable sitting in the main hall with all your peers when sitting your assessment and that is okay. Depending on your difficulty, you may also need a quiet room in a different building from where other learners are sitting their assessment, or you might need a room with good or low lighting. You should always discuss your needs with your school, college or training provider.

You may want to be in a room on your own (individual accommodation) with only the invigilator present. This will be needed if you have someone else supporting you in an assessment (such as a reader, scribe or prompter), if you are using software like a screen reader without headphones or speech-to-text, or if you are listening to background music on the centre’s computer, laptop or CD player because of a hearing difficulty. This could also be suitable if, for example, you have rest periods and need to stretch or move around, eat and drink in the exam or check blood sugar levels if you are diabetic.

You may prefer to be in a smaller group setting with some of your peers. The number of other learners in the room should be a similar setting to what you have been given in other assessments.

If the arrangement you want is different to what you have agreed to, your school, college or training provider will try their best to find a suitable room for you.

We have provided information and guidance to schools, colleges and training providers to make sure they follow our assessment arrangement requirements. However, because we do not know you or how you access teaching and learning, we rely on them to determine which learners need assessment arrangements and what these should be.

This is why we encourage you to discuss your concerns with your teacher or lecturer. You can also ask your parent/carer or guardian to speak with them for you. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, if appropriate, you should contact the local authority education department.

If you have discussed your concerns with your school, college and training provider and / or local authority and you are not happy with their response, you can contact us.

It is important to remember that this does not mean we will take action if you do not agree with their reply. We will look at the full details of the concern before we decide whether we need to investigate it further.

If we decide to contact the school, college or training provider about your concern, we will need you to provide us with their name and to confirm that you give us permission to contact them on your behalf to discuss your teaching and learning needs.

We will let you know the outcome once we have finished our investigation. Your school, college or training provider may also want to contact you or your parent/carer or guardian to discuss this further.

Further information

More information on assessment arrangements, including past digital papers is available from the Assessment Arrangements section of our website. Enquire and Reach also provide information that you might find helpful.

If, after speaking to your school, college or training provider, you want to ask us anything, you can get in touch with us by phone (0345 279 1000) or by using our enquiry form.