Exams now allow for the use of computer software and digital examination papers to assist students with special needs. This means that Claro Software can help you set and take exams.
Briefing: Using Computer Readers in Exams:
Claro Software and Exams
Claro Software’s ClaroRead, ClaroPDF and Claro ScanPen programs can be used as computer readers, enabling users to work independently and with confidence using text-to-speech to review their work or listen (as many times as they like) to question papers. ClaroRead Plus can also be used to convert inaccessible scanned images and PDFs into accessible text so you can make your exam papers suitable for use by computer readers.
Note that there is no “Approved List” of software which may be used: you are responsible for complying with the requirements set by the examination authority and are otherwise free to choose to use ClaroRead, ClaroPDF or ScanPen so long as you do so comply. Contact us if you need to match your regulations with our software, we’ll be happy to help.
We recommend that all students receive assistive software during their course and prior to examinations, so they have experience and understanding of how the reader technology can assist them during learning and examinations.
Setting up digital exams
The type of software allowed in exams varies from exam board to exam board (and from country/state to country/state): you should contact your examination authority for definitive information. However, the following information should be a useful start, especially for UK schools and universities.
- The CALL Scotland group at Edinburgh University are experts in digital exams and have developed a dedicated site: Adapted Digital Exams.
- The Joint Council for Qualifications represents most of the English exam boards (SQA, AQA, OCR, Edexcel, City & Guilds) and has extensive information on digital exams, particularly the latest Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments document. Here is an excerpt from the 2017-2018 version:
Computer software which accurately reads out text, (including synthetic speech software stored on a memory stick) but does not decode or interpret the paper, may be used as a computer reader.
A computer reader will be allowed in papers (or sections of papers) testing reading.
In cases where a computer reader is unable to recognise and thus read an individual word, a reader may read out the particular word to the candidate.
Where an application for a computer reader is approved, the centre is permitted to open the question paper packet in the secure room within 90 minutes of the published starting time for the examination. This is specifically to scan the hard copy question paper into PDF format. Any infringement has the potential to constitute malpractice.
However, where an application for a computer reader is approved, it is strongly recommended that the centre orders a non-interactive electronic question paper (see section 6.7, page 79).
- The British Dyslexia Association Technology Committee has extensive Examinations resources featuring examples, issues and software.
- The Jisc education technology charity has published two guides on guidance for exam centres and on using Adobe Reader for exams.
Our software is successfully used with all sorts of exams, but maths exams pose particular challenges:
- Many exams require the candidate to recognise the mathematical symbols used as one of the skills under examination. This means you cannot use our software to read these symbols. You could use it to read the instructions, or the word parts of the question, but not the mathematics. Generally this works quite well: our software will skip over the maths by default. But if you need it to read the maths itself this is not suitable at all.
- Digital question papers do not generally include digital maths. Scanning and OCR is not effective for maths equations. This means that you may have to painstakingly edit maths papers so they read as you want them to read. This is perfectly possible with our ClaroRead Pro software for Windows but is very time-consuming.
By default, then, Claro programs are great at reading the text of maths exam papers, including questions, but not the maths itself. You should think carefully about what this means for your exams, and test out the software with previous maths papers to get a better understanding of what is best for your set-up.
Using ClaroPDF and Claro ScanPen in Exams
Two of our iPad and Android Apps are particularly useful in exams.
ClaroPDF for iPad and iPhone
We use [ClaroPDF] in our board of Education with students for EQAO tests. It reads PDFs in multiple languages, and students can use the annotation tools to complete their answers. ClaroPDF review, Canada.
ClaroPDF reads back exam papers in PDF format with high-quality speech. Candidates can listen to questions over and over until they are happy, working independently. Every candidate hears the same speech in every exam - no switching between different human readers with different styles and abilities. This is perhaps the most common use of ClaroPDF - reading back exams.
But ClaroPDF can also be used to answer exam questions:
- If your exam is a PDF form – that is, it has boxes in which you can type answers – then these can be completed with ClaroPDF too. Candidates can play back what they have typed into the entry boxes to ensure it is right.
- Whether the PDF is a form or not, you can still use ClaroPDF’s annotation features to “typewrite” onto the exam paper. So whatever the format of the PDF, candidates can enter their answers on it and read them back.
- You can also "hand-write" onto the PDF exam paper. This is super-easy with a stylus, and a great solution for answers requiring maths. Candidates can write equations into the PDF exam paper.
Answers are all saved on the PDF file as completely standard PDF annotations, which work on any machine or PDF reader. Annotations made during the examination are kept in the PDF even if the iPad is shut down or the App closed.
ClaroPDF does not come with a spellcheck function, dictionary or grammar lookup. It does not require an Internet connection to work, and can be put into iOS Guided Access mode, restricting the user from using any other iOS App or device function.
Claro ScanPen for iPad, iPhone and Android
Claro ScanPen lets you take a picture of an exam paper and instantly select text on the paper to read it back. This is great if you do not have accessible PDF versions of an exam which would read in ClaroPDF. You do not even need electronic versions of the paper - you can work straight from a paper printed version.
There is no preparation required, because the App only does one page/photograph at a time, to keep it super-simple. The rapid and simple technique – photograph, select, hear – makes it great to use in exams when people are stressed and short of time. You can also (on the iPad and iPhone version) photograph an exam paper in advance and access all the pages rapidly without having to re-photograph them.
Claro ScanPen does not come with a spellcheck function, dictionary or grammar lookup. It does not require an Internet connection to work, and (on iPad) can be put into iOS Guided Access mode, restricting the user from using any other iOS App or device function.
Using ClaroRead for PC in Exams
ClaroRead for Windows PC can read aloud digital exam papers (in Adobe Reader or Acrobat Reader DC) and read back candidates' answers, so it is great for exams. All the features of Adobe Reader - like PDF forms - work with ClaroRead. Candidates can work independently, reading questions over and over until they are happy they understand them, without the stigma of asking a human reader to repeat themselves. You can know that every candidate is getting the same reading experience in every exam, with their preferred voice and rate of speech.
ClaroRead also reads back text in Microsoft Word, so candidates can again use it to check over their answers and read exam papers in Microsoft Word format. You could provide candidates with the exam paper in Adobe Reader PDF and they could complete their answers in Microsoft Word.
ClaroRead for PC also comes with spellcheck features, but these may be forbidden in some exams. Any school, college or university with a site licence of ClaroRead can obtain a copy of ClaroRead SE from us: ClaroRead SE does not have a built-in spellcheck, dictionary or grammar lookup so may be used in some exams where ClaroRead might not. We also provide ways to disable spellcheck in ClaroRead for invigilators and network administrators.
ClaroRead SE is available as a site licence for your school or college, and if you get a site licence we will provide you with a discount code allowing parents and students to purchase personal copies at at 80% discount, allowing them to benefit from the software in their own work and studies but also become familiar with it, so when they use it in exams they will be comfortable and confident and will achieve their best.
Finally, our ClaroRead Plus and ClaroRead Pro versions of ClaroRead can convert a scanned PDF image into an accessible PDF text file, and retain the original image layout of the document, so could be used in advance of a test to make an electronic accessible version of an exam paper. You can even scan in paper printed versions into electronic PDF or Word documents to work from. You might combine ClaroRead SE or ClaroPDF for your exams with a copy of ClaroRead Pro to let to convert printed exam papers to electronic versions to use in the exams, or to make sure your digital versions from the exam board work well with computer readers.
Other Claro software
Claro PDF BookReader for Windows PC can read aloud digital exam papers without needing Adobe Reader and read back users’ answers, so it is great for exams. It does not come with a spellcheck function, dictionary or grammar lookup. It does not require an Internet connection. Contact us for more information.
- Get started with understanding the software by checking out a 15-day demo of ClaroRead SE for Windows, trying the free version of ClaroPDF , or even using the free 15-day demo of ScanPen for Android.
- Download some example digital exam papers to experiment with how they can be read out aloud and completed using Claro software.
- Read our Computer Readers Briefing.
- Explore the CALL Scotland Adapted Digital Exams website - focused on Scotland but includes technical, product and process advice.
- Contact us with any questions!