ADHD Children and Exam Taking

Some children with ADHD need special accommodations which make it easier to sit for a school exam and produce a better result.

If your child with ADHD has a special educational need, you must plan early for any examinations he will be sitting. The fact that a student has a Statement of Special Educational Need does not qualify him automatically for special arrangements.

Regulations and Guidance Relating to Candidates with Particular Requirements is published each September for the approaching academic year, and is available from the organisations mentioned overleaf, from whom parents can obtain their own copies. It covers GCEs, VCEs, GC SEs and GNVQs.

Each autumn, this booklet is circulated by the English Examining Bodies to all examination centres (e.g. schools). It describes the special arrangements that are considered to be acceptable for students with special needs, what criteria have to be met and how to organise these special arrangements in examination situations. The booklet contains all the information and forms, which the Examining Bodies require schools, educational psychologists or others to complete for each candidate.

There is a clear requirement for continuity between the classroom and the examination room: "the candidate's usual method of working in the classroom will be considered by the Examining Body when special arrangements are being made".

Submitting Requests for Special Accommodations

Establishing and agreeing the nature and extent of the student's difficulties must beg early enough for the student to receive support and for special arrangements to be made in the classroom well before the request for special arrangements in examinations and assessments is submitted to the Examining Body. Assessment of your child's special educational needs and organising what on-going help he should receive in the classroom must begin as early as possible, therefore. The resulting documents and reports will then be available to support an application to the Examining Body when the student starts on his examination courses.

All requests for special arrangements must be supported with evidence in the form of a report from an appropriately qualified teacher completed within 2 years of the examination series, OR a report from a qualified psychologist proving a history of literacy difficulty completed or updated within 2 years.

It is vital that Heads of Examining Centres submit their requests on the appropriate forms as early as possible. Unless sufficient notice is given to an Examining Body it may not be possible to provide special versions of question papers, or to agree to any other arrangements.

Attention problems, language disorders, communication disorders including autism and Asperger Syndrome and emotional and behavioural problems are mentioned on page 38. "There are, however, others for whom particular special arrangements may be made, related to their own individual needs. ... For such candidates and others not specifically mentioned, early discussion with awarding bodies is essential so that decisions may be made on the nature of the evidence required and the arrangements that will be permissible. In most of these cases psychological and/or medical evidence will be needed."

Depending on the disability, special arrangements may be made, including amongst others: up to 25% extra time, supervised breaks/rest periods, enlarged print, Braille, OCR scanners, use of computers or word processors, modification of language or amplification for aural tests for the hearing-impaired, use of flashcards, colour overlays, dictation of answers onto tape, use of a prompter, use of an amanuensis, use of a practical assistant in practical examinations, alternative accommodation in exceptional circumstances.

Heads and Principals are empowered to grant the 25% extra time and/or rest breaks without prior application, but any additional. Extra time considered necessary must be applied for.

All other modifications have to be applied for, and it is crucial to make sure that your child's school, especially if it is a mainstream (i.e. not a special needs) school is fully aware of all these implications: early assessment of needs, on-going classroom intervention to address the needs, early requests for any special arrangements required during examinations backed by the appropriate forms and reports.

Patoss (Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties),

In the UK there is The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Here you will find details of a Booklet called "Special arrangements for the National Curriculum Assessment". On the site they say:

"The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is committed to building a world-class education and training framework that meets the changing needs of individuals, business and society. We lead developments in curriculum, assessments, examinations and qualifications.

Special Arrangements for the National Curriculum Assessment

Further clarification and information about some changes to special arrangements for the National Curriculum Assessment Tests are included in the Assessment and Reporting Arrangements booklets which QCA sent to all schools in October. These include:

  • use of prompters;
  • compensatory awards in the mental maths and spelling tests for pupils with profound hearing loss;
  • special consideration - allows a pupil's final level to be adjusted in very exceptional circumstances;
  • dealing with disruption during the test.

Guidance has also been updated on the use of word processors, amanuenses, transcripts and readers; special arrangements for the mental maths tests, and rest breaks. There is also more detailed guidance on the use of additional time and early opening of papers."

Suggestions For Parents / (Residential School) Teachers

Be aware of how your child or student's particular difficulties need way he affecting him/her at this time.


  1. Take an interest in the exam timetable of your child/student. Offer to help with revision; liase with teachers; find out any concerns or stress triggers and aim to reduce these.
  2. Ensure revision materials taken home at weekends 1 half terms with full instructions and schedules. Do not expect your child / student to he able to decide how much they should do, what they should do, etc. Advise. Liase.
  3. Where at all possible make sure exam candidates are familiar with where they will be sitting their exam. If students have ADD/ADHD, ensure it is ADD/ADHD.
  4. Talk them through what will happen when they arrive at the examination room. Are they able to 'line up' quietly? Do they understand all the rules of the examination room? Do they understand that someone - possibly unknown to them - will be invigilating?

The evening before:

  1. Make sure any areas of likely upset (got his/her favourite breakfast cereal?) in the approach to exams are covered.
  2. Don't plan anything tiring the night before. Make sure they have a relaxing time, have a good meal and plenty of water to drink, and get to bed early.
  3. Get their clothes ready the night before - no panics first thing in the morning as to 'what to wear!'

The morning of the exam:

  1. Make sure your child/student gets up in good time to shower, dress and eat a proper, relaxed, breakfast. Cooked one is best. Too much sugary food (i.e. cereals alone) gives quick but short 'lift', followed by a 'down mood. If exam is in the afternoon, make sure lunch too is a favourite but nutritious one.
  2. Ensure they have the correct items for the exam/s they are taking that day: maths equipment, pen or pencil, eraser, ruler, calculator, etc.


Know what time the exam finishes and how your child/student may be feeling. Consider some sort of treat ... favourite cake? Let them 'chill out' a bit.


  1. Support your child/student all the way. Care for how they are feeling. Do not leave them to prepare alone. Do not be negative.
  2. Remember that with some disorders, what you see is not what you get. For example, Asperger Syndrome anxiety will magnify the effects of the disorder. They may say they're OK and have a smiling face, but this may not be correct.
  3. Help with relaxation. Watch out for obsessive tendencies and rituals taking over. 4. Send a good luck card. Send a well-done card - whatever the outcome!

Below is a list by Bonnie Mincuof possible accommodations which may be worth asking about. Bonnie is a business and personal coach, specializing in AD/HD. She is located in NYC. You can hire Bonnie by visiting Coach Network at Coaches and searching under "New York".

  • Untimed testing
  • Extended time testing (x 1 ½, x2, etc.) or lab work time (proctored/unproctored?)
  • Coaching
  • Tutors
  • Composition assistance-e.g., special meetings w/ instructor, evaluation of rough drafts, editor review before submission.
  • Note-taking assistance-equipment such as laptop computer or tape recorder (including recorder positioning at podium/teacher's desk).
  • Note-taking assistance-scribes (note-takers): from paid professionals with specialized training/experience to paid students to volunteers to the copying of notes of peer classmates (privilege to have this done anonymously).
  • Books-on-Tape (requires early booklist provision)
  • Flexible scheduling of tests--time extension, optimum score of successive (repeated) administrations, subdividing exams into parts of days or over multiple days
  • Flexible setting of tests--individual administration, small-group administration, adaptive or special equipment at the regular testing session, or at a separate location, auditory tape presentation of test items; use of aides to interpret test items; distraction-free environment; white-noise generator or Walkman with music via earphones or out loud if in a separate test area, earplugs
  • Flexible test format-large print editions, changes in presentation in terms, changes in wording or format (e.g., line or item spacing, or emphasis [key words]) of directions, changes in format or space for answers, oral presentation of test, oral responses, oral presentation & responses ("oral exam"), taped responses, printed responses, masks to cover test portions
  • Flexible rating format-e.g., optional special projects for credit with reduced emphasis on exams
  • Markers/highlighters (in texts, in tests)
  • FM radio transmission, teacher to hearing aid
  • Magnification devices
  • Calculator usage
  • Electronic speller usage
  • Access to computers in classroom
  • Access to computers outside of classroom hours
  • Allowing printing when standard specification is cursive
  • Waiving of foreign language requirements
  • Preferential instructor selection (for style)
  • Early or preferential registration (for selection of times or instructors or class size)
  • Reduced class size
  • Reduced course load
  • Single dorm room
  • Counseling/advisement with mentor/adviser knowledgeable in ADHD
  • Vocational Guidance
  • Preferential seating (front of room; away from door or distractions; separate desk)
  • Permission to stand/move in back of room during class or test; to take tests standing, on floor, or on desks
  • Permission to leave class for brief periods without permissions per each.



APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 25). ADHD Children and Exam Taking, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: May 7, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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