Student Disability Service

Guidance for marking exams

This guidance refers to examination scripts which carry a sticker informing markers that the student has specific learning difficulties.

Guidance for marking examination scripts from students with specific learning difficulties

The sticker informs markers that:

This student has specific learning difficulties which may affect spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They should incur no penalties for poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation in examination scripts, unless these are being directly assessed and are core to an understanding of the course (see

This request is a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010 (which supersedes the Disability Discrimination Act) and is particularly important in examination situations, where support for spelling/grammar is unavailable or is not assured.

Unlike assessed coursework, under examination conditions a proof reader cannot be employed to check the work for spelling, grammar and punctuation before it reaches the marker.

Some students have the use of a PC with appropriate software during an examination, but this is not equivalent to a proof reader since the student may select the wrong words when spell-checking or changing grammar, or errors may not be detected.

Some students may be given extra time but this is given to help with difficulties organising and structuring work, reading and highlighting materials, and for reading over work to check for accuracy.

Some examples of when spelling and grammar should/should not be taken into account

In some cases it may be essential to the understanding of the course that particular words or phrases are used correctly. For example:

  • If a medical student uses "hypoglycaemic" where they were required to discuss "hyperglycaemic", the marker should take account of the error since this understanding is core to the course.
  • However, if a humanities student uses hypoglycaemic rather than hyperglycaemic in a metaphorical sense, they should not be marked down since it is unlikely that distinguishing between hypoglycaemic/hyperglycaemic is a core learning outcome.
  • A student who frequently misspells diabetes, but who correctly uses hypoglycaemic and hyperglycaemic amongst other course concepts, should not be marked down since they have achieved the required learning outcomes regardless of presentation.
  • In language subjects such as Latin or Greek, where students are being directly assessed on their understanding of the language, errors should be considered. This does not automatically apply to non-language-based assessment, such as spelling errors where the student is commenting in English on Greek poetry.

In marking an examination script if you are uncertain about whether to assess spelling, grammar, punctuation or presentation, please discuss this with the Student Disability Service.