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The University of Southampton
Student Disability & WellbeingPart of Student Services

Guidelines for the Assessment and Marking of Written Examinations by Students with Specific Learning Difficulties

Student in exam

The primary purpose of coursework and examinations is for students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding. There must be no difference in the requirements for Dyslexic and Non-Dyslexic students to provide evidence of learning. However, as a direct result of their learning difference, written exams submitted by students with Dyslexia may differ in certain respects from that of their peers, and it is for these differences that markers may need to make adjustments.

Academic standards

Where competence with language is being actively assessed, or where correct use and spelling of certain vocabulary is required, it is up to academic staff to demonstrate why this is so. Markers should seek clarification from colleagues and/or professional bodies if they are unsure to what extent use of language and spelling is crucial to the marking of an assignment/exam question.

When it is accepted that the use of language and spelling is not crucial to the marking of an assignment/exam paper and will not affect learning outcomes, the following guidance can be given:

Mark for ideas and knowledge rather than presentation, with the intention of giving credit for the student’s achievements in meeting the learning outcomes, by focusing on the content and understanding of the topic rather than concentrating on written expression.

Types of written error

Some students give cause for concern because of the unexpected, poor quality written exams. The main features which markers may question are:

Inconsistencies in spelling

Sentence construction

The above points are not intended to be an exhaustive checklist but just examples of typical difficulties which are observable when marking written exams.

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