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How to Qualify for Extra Time in UK Exams

How to Qualify for Extra Time in UK Exams

Navigating through exams can be a daunting task, especially for those facing additional challenges such as learning difficulties or specific health conditions. In such cases, extra time in exams can be a valuable accommodation. This article aims to guide you through understanding this provision, the conditions that may qualify a student for it, and the application process in the UK.

How much extra time do you get?

Extra time in exams is a special arrangement provided to students who might struggle to complete their exams within the standard time due to certain conditions. This extension, often 25% (but can go up to 50% in some cases), is aimed at providing a fair and equal opportunity for every student to showcase their understanding and skills.

Who qualifies for extra time in exams?

We all learn differently, and while some students thrive in a timed exam environment, others face challenges that make it more difficult. Several conditions can qualify a student for extra time in exams.

If you’re in need of some additional help, we have tutors who specialise in working with children with Special Educational Needs - they can help you come up with a plan ready for exam time.

Understanding these can help ensure every student has the opportunity to perform to the best of their abilities:

  • Slow Processing: Some students just take a tad longer to piece things together in their heads.

  • Handwriting Pace: If jotting down answers feels like a race you're always losing, this could be for you.

  • Dyslexia: For those who find reading and writing a challenge, extra time can be a game-changer.

  • Anxiety: When exam jitters become overwhelming, a few extra minutes can help level the playing field.

  • ADHD: For those who find their thoughts jumping around, a bit more time can make a world of difference.

  • Autism: Diverse learning approaches might mean a little extra time is needed.

  • Physical Disabilities: Conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy might mean needing more time, especially if writing is a challenge.

  • Sensory Impairments: Students with visual or hearing challenges, especially those using assistive tech, could benefit from more time.

  • Medical Conditions: Issues like epilepsy or chronic fatigue syndrome can impact exam pace.

  • Mental Health Hurdles: Beyond anxiety, conditions like depression or OCD can affect exam performance.

  • Temporary Setbacks: A recent injury, like a broken arm, can slow you down in an exam setting.

  • Medication Side-Effects: If your meds make you drowsy or scatterbrained, extra time might be on the cards.

  • English as a Second Language: If you're still getting the hang of English, you might qualify for more time, especially if you're relatively new to the UK.

  • Recent Traumas: Life's curveballs, like losing a loved one, can mean you're eligible for extra time due to their emotional toll.

If you think you or someone you know could benefit from extra time, it's worth having a chat with your school or exam board. They're there to ensure everyone gets a fair shot!

If test taking really is a struggle, just remember that university doesn’t have to be the end goal. In fact, we put together an article with our favourite alternatives to university to inspire anyone who is looking for a less exam-focused way to get where they want to be.

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How to apply for extra time in exams

Securing extra time in exams is a process that requires careful preparation, understanding, and coordination with educational institutions. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to navigate this process.

  1. Identify Need: The first step is recognising the need for extra time. This often comes from observing consistent struggles with timed tasks, despite understanding and engagement with the subject matter.

  2. Seek Professional Assessment: A formal diagnosis or professional assessment is often needed to substantiate the need for extra time. This might involve working with educational psychologists, medical professionals, or special education experts. They can provide an understanding of the challenges faced and recommend suitable accommodations, such as extra time in exams.

  3. Notify Your School or Education Provider: Open a dialogue with your school or education provider about the identified needs. Provide them with any necessary documentation or evidence from your professional assessment. Remember, schools are there to support their students. They will likely have procedures in place to handle such requests.

  4. Application Submission: In most cases, the school or education provider applies for extra time on behalf of the student. This application is typically submitted to the exam board or educational authority responsible for the exams. The process and timeline for this can vary depending on the level of study and specific exam board, so it's important to start this process well in advance of exam dates.

  5. Confirmation and Implementation: If the application is approved, the school will receive confirmation and instructions on how to implement the accommodations. Ensure that you receive a copy of this confirmation and that the instructions are clear to you.

This process may seem daunting but remember that you are not alone. There are numerous resources and support systems available to help.

It's also important to note that these accommodations are about providing fairness and equality, not an advantage. Everyone deserves the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in a supportive and accommodating environment.

Further Resources:

To help you in navigating the process of qualifying for extra time in UK exams, consider exploring these resources:

Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ): The JCQ provides guidance on access arrangements, including extra time. It's a vital resource for understanding the official procedures and requirements.

British Dyslexia Association (BDA): If dyslexia is a concern, the BDA offers resources and advice for students, parents, and educators.

Exam Boards: The specific exam board administering your tests will have dedicated pages on special considerations, including extra time. Some major exam boards include:

Student Room Forum: This is a community where students share their experiences and offer peer advice. It has threads dedicated to exam accommodations.

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS): For students heading to university, UCAS provides guidance on disclosing a disability or other condition.


While these resources can provide valuable information and guidance, always consult with your school or educational institution as they will have specific knowledge about your situation and the available accommodations.

There are other steps you can take to ensure the best chance of exam success, such as creating a practical revision timetable, or enlisting the help of a tutor. It is worth exploring all avenues so that exam season can be as stress-free as possible.

Remember, qualifying for extra time in exams can make a significant difference for students who face additional challenges. Understanding the process and knowing your rights is the first step towards receiving this support. If you think you or your child may qualify for extra time in exams, do not hesitate to seek help and start the process.

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Hannah C

Hannah C

30th Aug 2023