Separate Exam Room
Supporting you in your request for a separate exam room for a pupil with ADHD
A separate exam room can be a very significant reasonable accommodation for someone with ADHD.
To support individuals in their request for a separate exam room we’ve created a downloadable letter for you. Click here or the document image to download it.
You can also read the full text below.
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Share your experiences to help us lobby for change
I got distracted by people coughing or blowing their nose and it took me ages to get my focus back. I never had time to finish my papers. I didn’t know I had ADHD at that time but knew I had difficulties that others didn’t have. I asked to do my exams in a quiet room but I was put in a special room with people who all had significant difficulties and made continuous noises so that impacted me even more negatively than the exam hall, it was a total and utter nightmare.
I still have flashbacks to exam halls days and feel dread anytime I have to do a test, just knowing I had to be still quiet and not distract others or you’ll be removed and fail the test was all I could concentrate on taking me out of what I was supposed to be answering, the only thing it taught me was I could force myself to “act normal” for others or in an exam situation, I would explode once I got out of the hall.
Distracted by everything, people clicking pens, erasing words, invigilators walking up and down, people getting up and leaving etc.
Literally impossible to concentrate
Perpetual distraction: neither quiet enough to focus nor loud enough to become ‘background noise’. The sound of invigilators pacing, people tapping pens, turning pages etc. constantly interrupting my thinking or reading so I’d get stuck reading the same thing multiple times. And the mental pressure of not fidgeting in a way that could be deemed a distraction to other students. Also the constant worry of running out of time – looking up and the clock and having to work through what time the exam had started, what time it was now, how long we had in total, how long we had left. And every time a student around me appeared finished, total panic.
Distracted by noises from other people. Aware of movement around the room, concerned that other people had finished and I had not, leading to self doubt. The feeling of being watched and a rising sense of guilt and imposter syndrome. Needing to stim [Movement or behaviour to help manage emotions and cope] but being unable to and the perpetual anxiety accompanying this.
Whenever there was a distraction (someone coughing/sniffling, pencils/pens scribbling, chairs creeking it made me stall (zone out) for about 5 minutes each time. Because of losing time and it caused me frequent panic attacks in exam halls. If there was a quiet room available for people that struggle with this, with ADHD, I should think it would vastly improve their marks and also improve their general anxiety levels.
To whom it may concern,
Re: ADHD and a Separate Exam Room.
This letter specifically addresses the challenges individuals with ADHD may experience under exam conditions and talks to the value a separate exam room can have.
ADHD is legally recognised disability and as such individuals with ADHD are legally entitled to reasonable accommodations under the 2010 Equality Act. This letter aims to support a request made under the Act for the accommodation of a separate exam room.
ADHD is underestimated by many in its severity and impact. The challenge of ADHD is expressed by the significantly increased risk of suicide. 1 in 10 men or boys with ADHD will at some point try to take their own life. 1 in 4 women or girls with ADHD will at some point try to take their own life. Until recently the majority of funds to this charity were donated from parents whose children had taken their own life. This letter is not saying that the person about whom this letter is about is in such a situation. The inclusion of these statistics to inform you of how hard having ADHD can be. Alongside those individuals are a substantial number not in a place of considered suicide but finding life extraordinarily difficult.
There are a significant number of people with ADHD having issues with exam conditions. Those issues can then have a negative grade, and consequently lifelong impact. The challenge of ADHD is substantial and long-term. It is therefore essential we don’t add to that burden, and the life consequences, by failing to provide effective exam accommodations.
Individuals with ADHD can find it extremely difficult to focus, to control their focus, and to regain their focus once lost. They can have issues of hyperactivity (a need for movement) and impulsivity.
Exam halls offer a number of unique challenges for someone with ADHD. Exam conditions are generally unfamiliar situations, with high stress, and with (usually) large numbers of individuals in them. All those present (those sitting the exam and invigilators) provide their own individual opportunity for distraction to someone with ADHD. Consequently, for someone with ADHD, exam halls would not commonly be considered low-distraction environments.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the impact of the behaviour of others presents potentially catastrophic consequences for the focus of individuals with ADHD. Distractions that are innocuous to individuals without ADHD may result in someone with ADHD losing their focus and their ability to answer questions. More serious distractions – such as a disruptive pupil – are more obvious to all but the assumption that the pupil with ADHD can then quickly and easily regain their focus is patently false.
No invigilator team or school have absolute control of the examinees or the situation. It is not possible to predict everything every individual will do nor the impact those actions will have on someone with ADHD. That can mean common exam conditions can be seen as gambling with the future of someone with ADHD based on the assumed behaviour of others.
Individuals with ADHD can often benefit from being able to move, even while seated. This is a common coping strategy for many with ADHD to help them focus and refocus when concentration is lost. However, this movement is usually against the exam hall rules. We often see pupils using one or more bathroom breaks as a forced (and sub-effective) coping strategy for them to vent their energy or to use movement to help them re-focus. It can be significant to provide a setting for individuals with ADHD that allows some freedom of movement; movement with shorter lost time than a bathroom break and that doesn’t risk distracting others. Repeated bathroom breaks can also bring accusations of cheating or anxiety of such accusations.
In consideration of the above issues we strongly suggest that the only way to successfully fulfil the obligations under the 2010 Disability Act for Reasonable Accommodations with regards to ADHD is to provide a separate exam room for an individual with ADHD. The risks and consequences of not doing so represent a significant potential lifetime cost to the individual with ADHD.
Organisations do have the right to refuse such a request under the Disability Act 2010; however, the onus is on them to provide evidence that it is not a reasonable accommodation. That evidence can then be challenged within a legal process.
Please note that this is a separate discussion to any extra time discussion. We do specifically note that the issues mentioned, and in particular the varying duration and impact of those issues, mean that time alone cannot ameliorate them.
We are passionate in our view that a separate room is a reasonable accommodation for an individual with ADHD. We, therefore, do offer our backing to request and appeal any such request. We would also offer support in any legal challenge should any individual, parent, or caregiver be minded to pursue such an avenue.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
 Definitions of disability under the Equality Act 2010. https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010
 The Dark Side of ADHD. Archives of Suicide Research. 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13811118.2020.1856258?journalCode=usui20