Blog: Getting the right adjustments for spoken exams

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Our Helpline team shares a recent success story, after a mum of a GCSE student called us, worried about their child's oral exam.

At STAMMA, we sometimes hear from school or university students who stammer who are worried about an upcoming oral, or spoken, exam. Sometimes it's not the student, but their parent or teacher who contacts us. 

Generally, spoken exams, like GCSE modern language or English exams, have not been designed with stammering in mind. Students who stammer can be disadvantaged by the way these exams are set up if, for example, there's a time limit or the student has to use specific words and isn't allowed to explain things in a different way. Sometimes they might be disadvantaged by the scoring system if marks are given for fluency. 

At the beginning of this school year, the STAMMA helpline team were contacted by the mum of a student who's taking their GCSE exams this year. The family were worried that the student's French GCSE mark would be dragged down if they stammered and couldn't complete the exam tasks within the allotted time. 

However, at STAMMA, we rarely take 'no' for an answer! 

The school had originally applied to the exam board for an adjustment to double the standard time for the exam, and were successful. But it was clear that this was still not enough time for this particular student to show their skills and knowledge of French within the exam. The exam board refused when they requested more time, saying that 100% was the absolute maximum extra time that could be applied.  

However, at STAMMA, we rarely take 'no' for an answer! Our volunteer team got in touch with the parent, had a Zoom call with the young person, and called the relevant teacher at school. We helped them apply to the exam board for unlimited time in the spoken exam and provided them with information about the law, the GCSE system and about stammering in general. 

We are delighted that the school's work and perseverance paid off and the student has been granted unlimited time for the spoken exam. This will give them enough time to work through the exam tasks, stammering as they go, and demonstrating all the great language skills they have in French. 

As the parent said: "I really hope more parents and students reach out as children and young people should not have to face any form of discrimination through no fault of their own".

If you are worried about spoken exams, whether you're a student who stammers, a parent or teacher, contact us. We can help you work out what adjustments might be right for you and support an application to the exam board. You can email us at, start a webchat or call our helpline for free on 0808 802 0002. 

It's not just extra time that can help. There are lots of adjustments you can consider. Downloadable our 'Reasonable adjustments for students' resource below for some ideas.

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