Posted by: MandyS | November 29, 2011

Activity 25.2 – Accessible examinations

One thing which stood out to me in reading these pages was the fact that law exams were highlighted as a potential problem. It reminded me of the 14 exams I sat over a period of 9 days when I took my Law Society Finals; stamina was definitely a key feature in passing. From a lawyer’s perspective, a key skill is getting your point across succinctly and in the shortest time possible, on the basis that both office and court time are precious. I recall standing up to cross-examine in a trial; as I rose to my feet and before I uttered a word, the magistrate said ‘I hope this is not going to take long!’ Remand applications involve sifting through dozens of emotive statements to establish what actually happened and the basis on which one can apply to incarcerate someone. For this reason, the law exams are designed to test a student’s ability to sort the relevant from the irrelevant and stick to the point; the only way of doing this is by timed answers. It is interesting that there has recently been an increase in legal challenges by disabled students that timed exams are setting them at a disadvantage. However, the court in Burke v the College of Law and the SRA (UKEAT/0301/10/SM) has determined that law exams are testing a person’s ability to work under pressure and as such, adding time to the exam is detracting from the competence being tested.

The law society finals remain pretty much as they were when I took them some xxx years ago and the law programme I tutor is very similar in nature to my own law degree, although there is perhaps more ongoing assessment.

  • whether particular assessments or examinations are core to the course

W201 is assessed by means of 6 eTMA’s and an end of year examination, which are core to the course. Students have to gain at least 40% in the assessments and 40% in the exam to pass overall.

  • what adjustments are permissible within particular assessments or examinations without compromise to academic, or other prescribed, standards, such as competences required by professional bodies

Students need not pass, or even submit all of the assignments to be able to pass the course, but they have to pass the exam. Extensions of up to 3 weeks, in exceptional circumstances, can be granted and special arrangements can be made for taking exams e.g. taking the exam at home using their own equipment.

  • whether the successful achievement of the highest grades and awards, based on performance in examinations and other assessments, is equally attainable by disabled students.

The same provisions apply to all students and is based on their individual circumstances. Tutors are advised about the issues which may be encountered in marking dyslexic student’s scripts. To that end, high grades are achievable by disabled students.

I think these are valid points in considering accessible exams. It is appropriate to test students with different abilities in different ways but only so far as they achieve the same competencies by doing so. For example, a disabled student who has difficulty writing quickly could narrate the answer to the question in the same amount of time. This is perhaps one positive aspect of online assessment i.e. the ability for different assessment methods to be used. A negative is one which Bloxham (2011) has highlighted, assessment by means of using a forum very much depends on the student’s ability to fully participate in the same.

References:

Bloxham J, (2011), H810 Clive’s Tutor group forum, 23 November 2011, 21:42 http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/discuss.php?d=786219#p6164092

Teachability (2004) Creating Accessible Examinations and Assessments for Disabled Students [online], Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, http://www.teachability.strath.ac.uk/ chapter_8/ TableofContents8.html (accessed 28 November 2011).

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