External Examinations

A Guide to Special Consideration

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Special consideration is a post-examination adjustment to a candidate’s mark or grade to reflect temporary illness, temporary injury or some other event outside of the your control at the time of the assessment, which has had, or is reasonably likely to have had, a material effect on your ability to take an assessment or demonstrate your normal level of attainment in an assessment.

The examinations regulator has produced a guide to the special consideration process.

If you feel your performance in the examination series has been hindered by temporary illness, injury or some other event, please inform the examinations officer. You will need to provide proof, such as a doctor or solicitor’s note, to support your application.

The examination boards emphasise any special consideration granted cannot take away the difficulty the candidate has faced and can only be a relatively minor adjustment to ensure that the integrity of the standard is not compromised.

Deadline for Requests

Three working days after the exam series has ended


You will be eligible for special consideration if you have been fully prepared and have covered the whole course but performance in the examination, or in the production of coursework or non-examination assessment, is materially affected by adverse circumstances beyond your control. These include:

  • temporary illness or accident/injury at the time of the assessment;
  • bereavement at the time of the assessment (where whole groups are affected, normally only those most closely involved will be eligible);
  • domestic crisis arising at the time of the assessment;
  • serious disturbance during an examination;
  • accidental events at the time of the assessment such as being given the wrong examination paper, being given a defective examination paper or CD, failure of practical equipment, failure of materials to arrive on time;
  • participation in sporting events, training camps or other events at an international level at the time of the assessment, e.g. representing their club or country at an international level in chess or football;
  • failure by the centre to implement previously approved access arrangements for that specific examination series.

Candidates will not be eligible for special consideration if preparation for, or performance in the examination is affected by:

  • long term illness or other difficulties during the course affecting revision time, unless the illness or circumstances exacerbate what would otherwise be a minor issue at the time of the assessment (i.e. difficulties over and above those that previously approved access arrangements would have alleviated);
  • bereavement occurring more than six months before the assessment, unless an anniversary has been reached at the time of the assessment or there are on-going implications such as an inquest or court case;
  • domestic inconvenience, such as moving house, lack of facilities, taking holidays (including school/exchange visits and field trips) at the time of the assessment;
  • minor disturbance in the examination room caused by another candidate, such as momentary bad behaviour or a mobile phone ringing;
  • the consequences of committing a crime, where formally charged or found guilty; (However, a retrospective application for special consideration may be considered where the charge is later dropped or the candidate is found not guilty.)
  • the consequences of taking alcohol or recreational drugs;
  • the consequences of disobeying the centre’s internal regulations;
  • the failure of the centre to prepare candidates properly for the examination for whatever reason;
  • quality of teaching, staff shortages, building work or lack of facilities;
  • misreading the timetable and/or failing to attend at the right time and in the right place;
  • misreading the instructions of the question paper and answering the wrong questions;
  • making personal arrangements such as a wedding or holiday arrangements which conflict with the examination timetable;
  • submitting no coursework or non-examination assessment at all, unless coursework or non-examination assessment is scheduled for a restricted period of time, rather than during the course;
  • missing all examinations and internally assessed components/units;
  • failure to cover the course because of joining the class part way through;
  • a disability or learning difficulties (diagnosed or undiagnosed) unless the disability or circumstances exacerbate what would otherwise be a minor issue at the time of the assessment, i.e. difficulties over and above those that previously approved access arrangements would have alleviated;
  • failure by the centre to process access arrangements by the published deadline.

Allowances for Special Consideration

The size of the allowance depends on the timing, nature and extent of the illness or misfortune. The maximum allowance given will be 5% of the total raw marks available in the component concerned, including coursework/non-examination assessment. This adjustment is reserved for the most exceptional cases, such as terminal illness or the death of a member of the immediate family within three months of the examination.

The most common category of allowance is illness at the time of the examination, such as glandular fever. You might expect a 2% adjustment of the total raw marks.

A 1% allowance is reserved for more minor problems, including unacceptable and on-going noise during an examination or a minor upset arising from administrative problems.

The decision made by the awarding body will be based on various factors, such as the severity of the circumstances and the date of the examination in relation to the circumstances. The adjustment might also vary from one subject to another depending on the nature of the assessment.

Absence and Missed Components

When a candidate has missed a timetabled component/unit for acceptable reasons and the school is prepared to support an application for special consideration, an adjustment may be made to the grade. Importantly, you must meet certain thresholds to receive a grade. For example, you need to have completed at least 40% of the exams to obtain a grade in GCSE Mathematics and GCSE English.

Statement of Results

To protect your privacy, there will be nothing on the provisional statement of results indicating that special consideration has been given. The school will have a report which shows who have been given special consideration, so you can check this with the Examinations Officer if you want some clarification of the process.


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