Although computers and other technologies are becoming increasingly important educational tools, many of the exams taken by students in the UK are still paper based. This is particularly the case for the traditional essay subjects, such as English and history, as this can involve a considerable amount of writing. Nearly continuous writing for over an hour is a difficult task for anyone. You may be wondering whether it is possible to get a scribe for your exam – someone who writes down your answers as you dictate them.
The short answer is yes, you can get a scribe for your exams. However, you will need to fulfil certain eligibility criteria. Generally speaking, students with temporary or long-term conditions that restrict their ability to write can have a scribe in exams, to ensure they are not at a disadvantage. Schools may organise internal scribes for smaller assessments, but they are also available for national tests, including GCSEs and even university level end-of-year exams.
There are a lot of things to consider when getting a scribe for exams. This article will discuss in more detail what is involved.
Table of Contents
Why would you need a scribe for exams?
The first thing to think about is whether you are eligible to have a scribe in your exams. There are many different reasons why this might be the case. Most often, they involve an impairment that makes it difficult to write consistently and legibly during an exam, which can be due to a variety of circumstances. A simple, temporary injury such as a broken wrist can make it near impossible to write a full essay under timed conditions, making it much easier to speak your answer for a scribe to write down. Students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia may also benefit from using a scribe in exams.
It is also worth remembering that there are many different types of assistance available in exams. They are all designed to help students with various difficulties that may disadvantage them in an exam situation. This article from the goodschoolsguide.co.uk includes a list of the most common access arrangements, as well as more information on how they work. Some of these options may be more suitable to your specific circumstances than a scribe, so it is worth having a look.
How do you get a scribe for exams?
Most of the time, scribes will be arranged through your place of education, whether this be a school, college, or university. However, you or your parents will first need to make sure the school is aware of any impairment that affects your writing and discuss the possibility of getting a scribe with them.
You may have a long-term learning difficulty that affects your daily education. For example, this may be using a computer in lessons where other students use paper. In this case, whoever helps organise this for you is a good person to talk to about getting a scribe, or any other help, during exams.
Another person who will be able to help with accessing arrangements for exams is the school’s SENCo, or (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator). All mainstream schools in the UK are legally required to have. Similarly, every school should have an Exams Officer, whose job it is to sort the arrangements for national exams such as A-Levels. They will be able to organise the logistics of having a scribe in your exam by liaising with exam boards and communicate with the SENCo to ensure you are not unfairly disadvantaged when taking your exams.
It might be helpful to look at this article by Think Student, which has a detailed guide on how to apply for extra time in your exams – a process which can also be used when applying for many other types of access arrangements.
What does a scribe do in an exam?
When they think of a scribe, most people will picture someone writing down what a student dictates – this is indeed their main job. However, this does not mean they are sitting the exam for you. Although someone else is writing it down, it must be the student’s own work that is submitted, so the scribe can only write what the student tells them to.
Another role of the scribe can be to read aloud what they have written, if the student requests it. This can allow the student to check their answer and dictate any changes they want the scribe to make. Depending on the individual student’s circumstances, it may be easier for them to check their work by reading it, and then dictating anything they want the scribe to add or change. In this case, make sure to think about where the scribe and student are positioned, so the student has a clear view of what is being written.
What can a scribe not do in an exam?
As with all exams, there are strict rules to ensure the test is fair. For example, scribes are not allowed to give advice or factual information to help their student answer a question. Similarly, they are not allowed to suggest that a student’s answer is right or wrong, whether this be verbally or through their body language. To make sure these rules are followed, the scribe will usually not be someone you know, such as a teacher, as they may be biased.
These rules are not something to worry about. All students have to follow a clear set of rules to make sure the exams are fair for everyone. Similar to invigilators, if you ask your scribe about the exam questions, they will simply tell you that they are not allowed to answer, and you will be able to continue with the exam.
How do you prepare for taking an exam with a scribe?
Some students are familiar with using a scribe or other arrangements for their exams. However, if you haven’t taken an exam with a scribe before, it can be disorientating, as it will likely be a very different exam experience to what you are used to. If possible, it is useful to have a practice with your scribe beforehand – almost like a mock exam. This can also be a good chance to sort out logistics, such as where you will both be sitting, and whether you are going to dictate punctuation such as commas.
You can also prepare without your scribe. See if you can get a family member or friend to practise with you. On your own, you can try using past papers and dictating the answers, then checking the mark scheme.
In the exam, you will have your own room because you will be speaking out loud and will generally have extra time. Try to practise in a quiet space, and time how long it takes you, to best prepare for the real exam. Overall, remember that the arrangements for a scribe are to make the exam fair – all you have to do is try your best.