Exams are the most important aspect of school for every student. Because so many people go through education, exam boards must ensure that all students have equal opportunities to do well in their exams. This is a difficult task as every student has different exam capabilities, but one way exams can be made fairer is through the use of laptops.
Laptops are allowed for written exams in the UK. You will typically only be granted access to a laptop if you have a disability or are someone with special educational needs. However, there are some exceptions.
There is a long and complicated decision process before a student may be given access to a laptop for their exams. If you want to know whether you’re eligible for access to a laptop, keep reading to find out more.
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Can you use a laptop in GCSE exams?
The short answer is yes, you can use a laptop in GCSE exams if you meet the requirements. However, you will have to be assessed before you are given permission to use a laptop. If you are not entitled to any access arrangements, you won’t be allowed to use a laptop.
Even if you do have access arrangements for exams, this may not always come in the form of a laptop. It is important to discuss with your school what access arrangements you might be given and how these will impact the exam process.
Can you use a laptop in A-Level exams?
As with GCSEs, you can use a laptop in A-Level exams if you meet the requirements. You are not allowed to use your own personal laptop; the school will provide you with a laptop to use. The exams process with laptops is the same as it is for students sitting GCSEs.
Why would you need a laptop in an exam?
Every student is unique, and unfortunately, exam formats can’t cater to everyone. Students who struggle to complete written exams can be assessed to determine whether they will be allowed a laptop for their exams. This can be for a multitude of reasons. The process and requirements for the use of laptops depends on your school’s policy.
The main reason why you might need a laptop in an exam is if you have a disability or special educational needs (SEN or SEND). For example, you may be given access to a laptop if you have a disability that means it is too painful to write, or if you have special educational needs that mean you struggle with reading and writing or concentration.
The use of laptops in exams is designed so that disabled, impaired, or SEN students have equal educational opportunities to able-bodied students. If you would like information about support for SEND students, you can check out the government website (UK students).
Can you be given access to a laptop in exams for bad handwriting?
In some cases, if you have poor handwriting and do not have a disability or medical condition, you may be given access to a laptop. However, this is only for a very small number of cases, so you should check with your school and their policy before your exams.
You will only be given access to a laptop for handwriting issues if your handwriting is considered completely illegible, which would affect your exam results. If you believe your handwriting can be improved, advice on how to do so can be found in this Think Student article.
Are you allowed to use a laptop in an exam if you normally use a laptop to work?
The general rule for students is that you will not be allowed word processors or laptops in exams unless it is your “normal way of working”. This means that if you use a laptop every day in your normal lessons, you should be given access to a laptop for your exams. If not, then you will be expected to sit the exam the standard way.
How do you get a laptop in exams?
Some students sitting exams may have “access arrangements”, which are given to the student if they are at a disadvantage to other students sitting exams. While the exact process is different for each school, if you feel you’re at a disadvantage to other students, you will be assessed for access arrangements.
Access to a laptop is a type of access arrangement; these are tailored to the individual needs of each student. To read about the different access arrangements you may be entitled to, you can check out the JCQ website.
Access to a laptop for exams will typically be given to you if other access arrangements, such as extra time, are not suitable. You can find more information about how to receive extra time in this Think Student article. If you are given access to a laptop for your exams, exam invigilators will be made aware.
What changes from written exams to using a laptop in an exam?
The obvious difference between writing in an exam and using a laptop in an exam is that you get to type. However, there are measures and checks in place to make sure that students who use laptops in exams do not have an advantage over students who handwrite exams. Read on to find out more.
If you use a laptop, grammar checks and auto correct will be disabled so not to give you an advantage over students who are writing exams. You may not get extra time if you use a laptop. If you aren’t eligible for access arrangements but are worried about your timing, this Think Student article is a helpful guide to help you write faster.
If you have any type of access arrangements, including a laptop, then your school will support you through the exam process.
Do students who use laptops in an exam have an advantage?
No, students who use laptops in an exam do not have an advantage over students who write. The assessment to determine a student’s access arrangements are in place to make sure every student has equal educational opportunities. A common misconception is that students type faster than they write, where they are generally about the same pace.
As SEND students are often at a disadvantage to other students in day-to-day learning, laptops are used to balance exam difficulties for students. Giving access to laptops isn’t designed to give a group of students an advantage over the other.
Some studies, such as this one by the MIT, have found that using laptops in class can actually be worse for students than writing. However, some students may not have the option to choose, so laptops are the best way to make exams fairer.