Student Disability Service

VIVA Guidelines: Mental Health Conditions

VIVA guidelines for staff examining students with a mental health condition.

You will be acting as an internal/external examiner for a student with a mental health condition for whom reasonable adjustments are recommended. 

Whilst the following suggestions are likely to be generally helpful, they will not necessarily apply equally to all individuals.  Note that the difficulties outlined below may occur due to various permutations of the underlying condition, side effects of medication/ treatment or high levels of anxiety.

Specific difficulties which may be encountered by students with mental health conditions: 

  1. Processing difficulties
  • Memory problems, particularly short-term.
  • Reduced concentration span.
  • More readily distractible/ a sense of ‘internal’ distraction.
  • Difficulty listening and writing simultaneously.
  • A poor concept of time.
  • Impaired organization of study.
  1. Verbal difficulties
  • Possible difficulties with word retrieval and finding the ‘right words’.
  • Difficulty conveying thoughts and ideas clearly, with a possible tendency to pause frequently and/ or be unable to complete sentences.
  • A tendency to make tangential or peripheral comments.

Potential Reasonable Adjustments:

  • Prior offer to view location of exam.
  • Extra time for locating detail, reading and responding to questions.
  • Extra time for explaining details.
  • Repeating and rephrasing questions if requested.
  • Offering a short break if student shows signs of anxiety or stress.
  • Breaking long questions down in to smaller sections.
  • Clarity on ‘turn-taking’ during any group discussion.

In addition, all students would benefit from prior, clear explanation of the VIVA process.

Guidance Written: March 2018