What is Exact

What is Exact

Exact is a fully computerised, UK nationally standardised suite of literacy tests for the age range 11 years 0 months to 24 years 11 months. It can be used by Access Arrangements Assessors as an integral part of their assessment of students who may require examination access arrangements and the results from Exact can be entered into Part 2 of JCQ Form 8.

The Exact suite comprises standardised tests of the following areas of attainment:

  • Word recognition
  • Reading comprehension and reading speed
  • Spelling
  • Typing to dictation
  • Handwriting to dictation

Exact has been specifically designed to meet the need for a group of tests that assess whether examination candidates should have access arrangements, such as extra time or use of a reader or scribe in written examinations. They are particularly aimed at GCSE and A-level examinations and the requirements of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents awarding bodies based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, some of which offer qualifications to overseas centres. Assessors should note, however, that Exact does not provide ALL the evidence required by JCQ when applying for exam access arrangements. Indeed, there is no single test currently on the market that can provide all the information necessary for the full completion of JCQ Form 8, which depends on a range of specialist assessment skills as well as thorough familiarity with current JCQ regulations, and calls for information from various sources. Exact provides a substantial amount of the assessment information required for Form 8. 

Why are the tests in Exact speeded?

All the tests in Exact are speeded – i.e. they are performed against time limits. There are good reasons for this. From age 11 onwards the underlying skills in reading and writing should be largely automatic so that the mental focus can mainly be on understanding what is read and on conveying clear meaning in writing. Unless individual words in text are read quickly and effortlessly, it is extremely difficult to retain morphological elements (words, phrases, sentences) in working memory so that the overall text can be understood.2 Similarly, unless the mechanical production of written words (letter formation, spelling, organisation, layout) can be carried out quickly and effortlessly when writing, it is extremely difficult for the writer to retain in mind a clear idea of what they intended to get down on paper. Hence, untimed tests are likely to give a misleading impression of the capabilities of students in secondary school and beyond. In particular, when students with specific learning difficulties are placed in the situation of a timed examination, their literacy skills are likely to be much worse than would be predicted from untimed measures of those skills.3

Arguably, writing to dictation (as in the Exact handwriting to dictation test) provides a purer and more reliable measure of writing speed than free writing because it is uncontaminated by the student’s ability to create ideas. Research has shown that free writing speed is influenced by the topic chosen, teacher and administrative factors, and the extent to which students want to (or have been encouraged to) produce a really good piece of writing.4

2 Lyon, G.R. (1998) Why reading is not a natural process. Educational Leadership, 55(6), 14-18.

Perfetti, C.A. (1985) Reading ability. New York: Oxford University Press.

3 Lesaux, N.K., Pearson, M.R. & Siegel, L.S. (2006) The effects of timed and untimed testing conditions on the reading comprehension performance of adults with reading disabilities. Reading and Writing, 19(1), 21-48.

Runyan, M.K. (1991) The effect of extra time on reading comprehension scores for University students with and without learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24(2), 104-108.

4 Ferrier, J., Horne, J. & Singleton, C. (2013) Factors affecting the speed of free writing. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 13(1), 66-78.