Now that you have been awarded a laptop exemption to type out your Junior or Leaving cert – what do you do next?


Now that you have been awarded a laptop exemption to type out your Junior or Leaving Cert – what next?

Having to sit through State exams answering questions with pen and paper for hours at a time is all very well for those for whom writing poses no problems, but what about students who struggle to form letters and words?

Thankfully the Irish State Examinations Commission registers the fact that many students today have difficulty with writing. In recognition of this and the fact that typing is now the accepted professional version of writing, exemptions are now readily available for those seeking to type rather than write their exam responses.

If you or your child has already been awarded an exemption to use a laptop/word processor for your Junior/Leaving Cert due to a handwriting impairment, here at Searsol we extend our congratulations.

For those still in the process of applying for the exemption, please note that the Department of Education will be looking for proof that your child can, or is in the process of learning how to type. At the end of the day, the exemption will be granted on the basis that your child’s typing skills are better than their handwriting skills.

Searsol touch-typing courses

In order to ensure your child masters correct touch-typing skills, Searsol runs a series of after-school touch-typing classes for children and young adults that are designed to help each individual learn correct touch-typing practice at their own pace.

Our courses run nationwide and classes are generally arranged in a classroom setting. We offer a unique Typehands training programme which consists of a series of lessons to help students advance from beginner to proficient touch typist. Tutors work individually and collectively with students to help them progress through the course in order to gain proficiency.

There is no need for typing practice to be carried out at home as all lessons can be completed during the after-school courses, which run parallel with normal school calendar terms.

Please feel free to get in touch with your nearest Searsol provider – course details are available here on our website.


Exemption guidelines

According to the guidelines for State exams, as set out by the State Examinations Commission, the use of mechanical aid, such as a word processor, is appropriate where it can be established that a candidate’s ability to produce a legible script is compromised.

There are two separate categories under which a student may be deemed eligible for this exemption from handwriting, as follows:

  1. Illegible handwriting – which renders a script unintelligible due to the frequency of spelling/grammar/punctuation errors.
  2. Slow writing – where the rate of writing is so slow that it renders a student unable to complete exams.

In order to apply for an exemption from writing, students must submit a completed Junior Certificate/Leaving Certificate reasonable accommodations application form, outlining the particular difficulty, and this must be signed by the school principal.

The Commission accepts the school’s confirmation on the application as sufficient evidence to permit an exemption.

Once you have been awarded your exemption to use a word processor, you will also be exempt from having your exam answer assessed in regard to spelling, punctuation or grammar. This applies specifically to exams in any language subjects (Irish, English, French, Spanish etc). However, students granted the use of a word processor must ensure spell-check and autocorrect are turned off.

Further info on Reasonable Accommodations for Junior and Leaving Certificate Examinations can be found on www.examinations.ie

New developments for 2017

New developments in regard to exemptions arise in the current year 2017 and onwards after the State Examinations Commission agreed that approved exemptions for Junior Cert students can also be carried through at Leaving Certificate.

Prior to this students had to make fresh applications for each exam.

The Commission also agreed that exemptions can be granted in cases where dyslexia has not been formally diagnosed. Welcoming this progress, the Dyslexia Association of Ireland issued a statement, as follows:

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI) welcomes some much needed positive changes to the implementation of Reasonable Accommodations for the Junior and Leaving Certificate from 2017 onwards. The DAI has lobbied and advocated for a change to this unfair and unnecessarily stressful system for many years and is pleased that students with dyslexia and their parents will be operating under a fairer system from now on.

The accommodations are intended to limit the impact of the candidate’s disability on their exam performance, while not giving the candidate an unfair advantage.

The options students with dyslexia can apply for if they meet the criteria are:
• Access to a Reader
• Use of a Recording Device or Word Processor/Laptop
• Access to a Scribe
• Waiver from the assessment of spelling, grammar and punctuation in the language subjects

The Association noted two key changes to the 2017 Reasonable Accommodations at Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme, as follows:

  1. Reasonable Accommodations that were granted for the Junior Certificate will now be reactivated at Leaving Certificate level. This is on the condition that the school can confirm that the student still has an identified and continuing need. This means that the State Examinations Commission (SEC) will, in most cases, accept the reactivation recommendations from the school and there should be no need for further testing of attainment levels.
  2. Previous to these changes dyslexic students applied for RACE under the category of ‘Specific Learning Difficulty’. This category has now changed to ‘Learning Difficulty’. In light of this change cognitive/IQ scores are no longer required or a formal SLD/dyslexia diagnosis. This means that more students will be able to access accommodations, e.g. students who perhaps haven’t yet had a formal diagnosis of dyslexia, as well as students with more general or multiple learning difficulties.

The Dyslexia Association further notes that at present, the only assistive technology option available to a student with dyslexia is a word processor/laptop.

However, it is important to note that the SEC has stated that it is open to individual applications made through the school for the use of other assistive technology provided it meets the following criteria:
It must be already being used by the student (therefore the student could use their own equipment and there would be no additional cost to its approval for use in a State exam.)
• The SEC are satisfied that is will not jeopardise the integrity of the exam.
• It requires no development work from the SEC in relation to its exam papers.


The Association offers the following advice to students who have yet to apply for exemptions:

Applications Process

All applications for RACE will be made through the school using a common set of forms. You must indicate on the forms that you are making an application under ‘Learning Difficulty’ if you are dyslexic. There are separate sets of application forms for Junior and Leaving Certificate and they have separate application deadlines. Please see the below timetable of applications deadlines for 2017. It is important to note that as 2017 is the flagship year for this change in the RACE application process, the deadlines are quite tight. The SEC has stated that they hope the deadlines will be different in 2018.
The following are the forms that must be filled out in relation to RACE at Junior Certificate level:

RACE Scheme Junior Certificate Application Form (RA5) – This is the standard application form for RACE at Junior Certificate Level.
RACE Scheme Junior Certificate Late Applications Form (RA6) – This form is used for late RACE applications.

The following are the forms that must be filled out in relation to RACE at Leaving Certificate level:

RACE Scheme Leaving Certificate Reactivation Form (Form RA1) – This should be used when applying for the reactivation of accommodations from Junior Certificate. It is also acceptable to use this form to apply for the use of a word processor rather than ascribe if a scribe was granted at Junior Certificate.

RACE Scheme Leaving Certificate Application for New Accommodations (Form RA2). This form can be used to apply for RACE for students who meet the criteria but did not receive any accommodations in their Junior Certificate OR where a student needs additional accommodations to the ones that were granted at Junior Cert.

Race Scheme Leaving Certificate Late Application Form (Form RA3). This form can be used to make a late application for RACE at Leaving Certificate. It should be noted that there is still a deadline for late applications and that schools will have to furnish the SEC with a reason for the application being submitted late.

Further information on laptop exemptions

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland carries further up-to-date details on its website regarding exemptions open to students entering third-level, as follows:

Accommodations at Third Level

Many third-level colleges and examination bodies make provision for dyslexic students taking written exams.  These provisions can include being given extra time, being allowed to use a word processor/computer, having the specific difficulty taken into account when marking the exam paper, etc.

Students should consult with the Disability Officer in their college, their Tutor or Course Director, to find out precisely what provisions may be available.

Please contact your nearest Searsol after school typing centre for details on our touch-typing classes to ensure your child has the chance to perform at their best in State exams.