Guidance on GCSE Exam Concessions

Examination Access Arrangements for learners of English as an additional language

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has released updated examination access regulations with effect from the 1 September 2023 to 31 August 2024. Within these regulations, there are some key points to consider for students for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL).

Bilingual translation dictionaries

JCQ – Instructions for conducting examinations

Bilingual translation dictionaries can be used by candidates in certain exams if their ‘first language is not English, Irish or Welsh’ and where this reflects their ‘normal way of working’ (section 14.2, page 30). The centre does not need to make an application for this or record the use of the dictionary.

The bilingual translation dictionary can be an electronic version or a hard copy paper version. However, monolingual dictionaries, translators (including web based translators), wordlists or glossaries cannot be used (section 14.4, page 30). In addition, the bilingual translation dictionary must not have pictures or any form of explanation or clarification of words or phrases (section 14.5, page 30). Reading pens are permitted to be used, if this reflects the ‘candidate’s normal way of working’, but the reading pen ‘must not have an in-built dictionary or thesaurus, or a data storage facility’ (section 14.17, page 32).

There are particular exams in which dictionaries must not be used in (section 14.3, page 30), including GCSEs in:

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Geography
  • History
  • Religious studies

Translation of either examination material or the candidate’s answers into or from the candidate’s first language is not permitted (section 14.7, page 31).

Extra time for users of bilingual translation dictionaries

JCQ – Access arrangements and reasonable adjustments

Candidates who are allowed to use bilingual translation dictionaries may also be entitled to 25% extra time if they have been resident in the UK for less than three years at the time of the exam and have ‘no prior knowledge of the English Language’ (section 5.18.6, page 73). However, the regulations stipulate that extra time will only be awarded in ‘rare and exceptional’ circumstances (section 5.18.4, page 71). In addition, the regulations state that ‘very few bilingual translation dictionary users will need to have 25% extra time’ (section 5.18.4, page 73).

Extra time must only be awarded to a candidate when using a bilingual translation dictionary if all of the following stipulations are met:

  • the candidate's first language is not English, Irish or Welsh
  • the candidate entered the United Kingdom within three years of the examination(s) with no prior knowledge of the English Language
  • English is not one of the languages spoken in the family home (a candidate with no prior knowledge of the English Language who has been placed in a foster home upon arriving in the United Kingdom would not be considered to be living in their family home)
  • prior to their arrival in the United Kingdom the candidate was not:
    • educated in an International School where some or the entire curriculum was delivered in English
    • prepared for or entered for IGCSE qualifications where the question papers were set in English
    • prepared in English for other qualifications eg IELTS qualifications, Preliminary English Tests
  • the candidate has to refer to the bilingual translation dictionary so often that examination time is used for this purpose, delaying the answering of questions
  • the provision of 25% extra time reflects the candidate's usual way of working with the dictionary (section 5.18.6, page 72).

The SENCo or EAL Co-ordinator must compile evidence to confirm all of the above criteria and an application must be made for a candidate to have extra time using Form BD25% (section 5.18.6, page 73). The regulations make it clear that ‘extra time must not be awarded to a candidate using a bilingual translation dictionary in order to compensate for difficulties in reading and writing in English’ (section 5.18.7, page 73).

In subjects where a bilingual dictionary is not permitted, 25% extra time will still be available provided the candidate meets the above criteria (section 5.18.5, page 73). This means that a candidate entered for English Language, English Literature, Geography, History or Religious Studies would be entitled to 25% extra time in those examinations even though they could not use their bilingual dictionary. This provision is made using same online application (Form BD25%) which must be completed by the SENCo (section 5.18.5, page 73).