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Additional time for examinations: how does it work?

by Kala Parasuram

Consider this: 80 students of 815 in an IB Diploma Programme (DP) cohort at an IB World School experience challenges to their learning which vary in type and severity. However, all their learning plans have one common factor – 50% additional time for examinations. Given that the challenge faced by every student, as well as their learning styles and how they respond to different kinds of support is unique, their access requirements cannot really be the same, and must be unique too. Teams that plan the access arrangements must craft learning and access plans that are individualized, offering the best, optimal support to students.

What does the research say about additional time?

Several researchers have challenged the application of additional time as a one-size-fits-all access arrangement with regards to its meaningfulness in yielding test results and its fairness to students with and without challenges. There is no research that supports the standard use of 50% and 100% additional time as more appropriate and valid duration than 25% (Solkal and Wilson, 2017). Studies have found that students with ADHD provided with additional time in exams performed more poorly and slowed down their efforts than when working under standard conditions (Lovett and Leja, 2015). Elliot & Marquart (2004) found that additional time in maths tests did not improve scores of students with disabilities.

IB access and inclusion principles and policy

International differences have resulted in the International Baccalaureate (IB) seeing inclusion requests ranging from 25% additional time to 100% for similar candidate profiles. Therefore, to ensure consistency and standards, the IB’s access and inclusion policy contains clear criteria. The policy also explains the principles which translate to best practice when planning and applying access arrangements.

One of the key principles of the IB’s access and inclusion policy is optimal support – providing the exact kind and amount of support that a student will need for access.

Identifying the optimal support

How does the school work out what support is optimal?

  1. Based on classroom observations by the teachers and the student’s own experience. Recommendations from psychologists/doctors are best used as a guide only, as these recommendations are based on standard practices in that country which vary widely globally. The best practice is for teachers and the student to determine what support is most suitable and optimal.
  2. By trying out different access arrangements, the teacher and the student can explore what works best. For example, teachers observe that a student with a standard score of 87 on reading fluency is supported well by 25% additional time for the reading challenge while another with the same profile responds better to the use of reading software. Here, it would not be good practice to plan 50% additional time in the Individualized Education Program or Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for these two students because that would not be individualized, optimal support.
  3. Optimal support also requires regular monitoring and reviewing of access arrangements. The support that a student needs is not static; it changes over time

Additional time does not have the same effect on all students. The positive impact it has for one may vastly differ from how it impacts another. It should be provided after careful observation, with clarity of both purpose and expected impact on performance. Teams responsible for writing learning support plans must take optimal support and IB policy into consideration when identifying how best to support the student.

IB World School teachers and coordinators can read the IB Access and Inclusion policy in the My IB portal

Elliot, S. N., & Marquart, A. M. (2004). Extended time as testing accommodation: Its effects and perceived consequences, Exceptional Children, 70, 349-367.

Lovett, B. & Leja, A. (2015). ADHD symptoms and benefit from extended time testing accommodations. Journal of Attention Disorders, 19, 2, 167-172.

Sokal, L. & Wilson, A. (2017). In the nick of time: A Pan-Canadian examination of extended time accommodation in post-secondary schools. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 6, 1, 28-62.

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