Guidelines on using Exact

Guidelines on using Exact

This subsection provides guidelines for the use of Exact in examination access arrangements in accordance with JCQ AARA Sept–Aug 2019. This document has been reviewed by JCQ, Communicate-ed and Patoss.


The purpose of these guidelines is to clarify how Exact may be used when assessing students for examination access arrangements, which are governed by regulations set out in the document ‘Adjustments for candidates with disabilities and learning difficulties: Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments’ published annually by JCQ (hereinafter referred to as ‘JCQ AARA’).


1. Exact is a fully computerised, UK nationally standardised suite of literacy tests for the age range 11 years 0 months to 24 years 11 months. It can be used by access arrangements assessors as an integral part of their assessment of students who may require examination access arrangements, and the results from Exact can be entered into Section C of JCQ Form 8.

An access arrangements assessor is a Health Care Professional Council registered educational psychologist or

  • a specialist assessor who holds a current Assessment Practising Certificate (APC) as
  • awarded by Patoss, Dyslexia Action or BDA (see JCQ AARA 2018/19, Section 7.3.4) or
  • a teacher who holds a postgraduate qualification at or equivalent to Level 7 which covers at least 100 hours in individual psychometric assessment. The sections below outline exactly how the results from Exact may be used for this purpose.

2. No single test on its own is adequate, and Exact must not be viewed as the complete assessment solution; results from other tests are likely to be required. Candidates needing access arrangements may have difficulties in any one of a number of skills, and assessors will be able to draw on a range of assessment tools in order to confirm such difficulties.

3. Before an assessment, the SENCo must complete Section A of Form 8. The candidate must be assessed in light of the picture of need and background information as detailed within Section A. All test results must be backed up by evidence showing that the access arrangement requested is the student’s normal way of working in the classroom, i.e. ‘painting the picture’ of the student’s need for the arrangements (see JCQ AARA 2018/19, Section 5.2.2).

4. Exact may also be used as a screening tool to help identify students who may qualify for access arrangements, and who will require further assessment by an access arrangements assessor. If Exact is used solely as a screening test, the results would be included within Section A of Form 8 (not Section C). Screening may be administered by a suitably qualified access arrangements assessor or by a non-specialist member of staff who is competent in test administration but does not hold an assessor qualification (e.g. a SENCo or trained HLTA (higher level teaching assistant)). If Exact is administered by a non-specialist, the results cannot be entered into Section C of JCQ Form 8. All tests in Section C must be administered by a qualified access arrangements assessor who must sign to say that they carried out those assessments. If Exact has been used as a screening test by a non-specialist, the student may be retested by an Access Arrangements Assessor using the parallel (equivalent) form of Exact – see the Exact Administrator’s Manual (accessed from the program and from the GL website).

5. Exact is available for individual use or for multiple users over a network. Exact should be administered in accordance with the instructions given in the Exact Administrator’s Manual. As with all tests, it is important to supervise students closely when administering the test, whether screening or carrying out an access arrangements assessment. Those who don’t engage fully with the tasks may have questionable results.

Extra time in exams

The following results from Exact are appropriate when applying for 25% extra time in examinations.

  • Reading comprehension speed (standard score 84 or below) (JCQ AARA 2018/19, Section 5.2.2)

1. The Exact comprehension speed measure is valuable in showing those students (e.g. compensated dyslexics) who can read accurately but slowly. It is one of the few timed tests of reading comprehension speed. The test is easy to administer and, being a computer-based test, it is free from administrator bias or inconsistency. However, some students may attempt the test too quickly by just guessing without giving the questions proper consideration. This, of course, is a potential factor in any multiple-choice test, not only computer-based tests. Before they start the test, the administrator should therefore point out to students that they should make use of all the time allowed and should try to get as many answers right as possible. They are not expected to answer all the questions, and if they complete the test too quickly their score will not be valid.

2. A standard score of 84 or less in an appropriate test is regarded as the key criterion for most access arrangements. However, the JCQ AARA also allows, in “rare and exceptional” cases, standard scores from at least two different areas of speed of working (e.g. two low average standardised scores relating to speed of reading and speed of reading comprehension would not be acceptable) within the low average range (85-89) to be cited in the case of 25% extra time. There must, of course, be supporting evidence regarding the student’s normal way of working to back up these low average scores (see JCQ AARA 2018/19, Section 5.2.2 for details).

JCQ Form 8 Section 5 requires scores of handwriting speed, and as such the Exact handwriting to dictation can be used as core evidence for extra time where the candidate’s standard score is in the below average range.

A reader or computer reader in exams

The following results from Exact are appropriate when applying for a reader or computer reader in examinations.

  • Reading comprehension accuracy (standard score 84 or below)
  • Reading comprehension speed (standard score 84 or below)

(JCQ AARA 2018/19, Section 5.5).

Both the Exact comprehension accuracy and the comprehension speed measures give useful evidence of a student’s need for a reader or computer reader. This may be backed up by a low score in Exact word recognition and/or an untimed test of single word reading (e.g. WRAT4 or WRAT5 Word Reading, WIAT-IlUK-T or WIAT-IIlUK-T Word Reading). Note, however, that the Exact word recognition test does not meet the JCQ criteria of an untimed test of single word reading. However, its scores correlate well with WRAT4 Word Reading and it is very quick to administer, so it can be a very useful extra tool in ‘painting the picture of need’ and can be commented upon in Section A of Form 8.

Writing: Use of a scribe or word processor with spell check enabled or voice recognition technology

The following results from Exact are appropriate when applying to use a scribe, or a word processor with spell check enabled or speech recognition technology in examinations.

  • Spelling (standard score 84 or below) which renders the writing illegible (JCQ AARA 2018/19, Section 5.7).

Note that although the handwriting to dictation test in Exact is particularly useful in demonstrating students with handwriting difficulties, it cannot be used within Section C as evidence for the use of a scribe, because for this purpose the JCQ AARA specifies the use of a test of free writing (rather than writing to dictation). Nevertheless, students with illegible or very slow handwriting due to dysgraphia/dyspraxia can be apparent from the results of the dictation test in Exact, and their typing speed and accuracy can help to determine whether they might need to use a word processor or have a scribe. If a student is going to use a word processor in examinations, with spell check and word prediction functions disabled, no further evidence is required provided it is the student’s normal way of working (see JCQ AARA 2018/19, Section 5.8). However, the typing to dictation subtest on Exact can provide useful information on the student’s ability to type (both typing speed, expressed in words per minute and a standard score, and accuracy).

A few students handwrite adequately to dictation but write slowly when free writing; this discrepancy is valuable because it shows that their difficulty is not with the mechanics of writing but with ‘thinking time’ or in some cases uncertainty because of spelling difficulties. These students require further assessment of their processing speeds and spelling, and may require extra time rather than a scribe. However, the Exact dictation test will again have been useful in deciding whether a word processor may be more appropriate than a scribe.

Painting the picture of need

All the test results from Exact can be used as part of the evidence to paint the picture of the student’s needs within Section A of Form 8 (see JCQ AARA 2018/19, Sections 5.2.2, 7.5.12 and 7.6.1).