There is a great need in South Africa to provide students who have concessions with a better exam writing experience.

As logistically difficult as it is for schools, it is equally hard for the students. Imagine if students with reading disorders could be tested very similarly to every other student.

We discovered a cost-effective software program called Exam Portal which claims solve all these problems and more. To find out if this software actually does what it claims, we chatted to Edgemead High School, who have been using Exam Portal for some time now.

Q1) Why did you decide to use Exam Portal?

Over the past 5 years, we have experienced a significant increase in the number of learners applying for concessions for a reader or amanuensis (reader & scribe). This was becoming logistically and practically difficult to manage.

Using Exam Portal means that we can accommodate all the learners across all the Grades in the Computer Lab. This eases the demand on the number of personnel needed to invigilate as well.

Q2) How does Exam Portal help your students who have concessions?

These are the main reasons how Exam Portal helps out students:

  • It gives the learner more autonomy and control.
  • Learners can easily select a male or female voice. The accent and the speed gives them far more control when compared to a human reader.
  • It can be embarrassing to ask a human reader to repeat something over and over. With Exam Portal, they can highlight the sections they want to read and can repeat the same lines as many times as they need.

Q3) Is the Exam Portal software easy to use?

It is extremely user-friendly – our learners pick up the system quickly and easily and generally only need one training session. They have the option to type their answers on the computer or hand-write on a folio.

Q4) What are your favourite features of Exam Portal and how does your school utilize them?

Definitely the system reader. The learners can choose if they would like exam paper or their answers to be read back to them. They can customise the voice and speed of the reader.

The teacher can also pre-setup the language the exam paper must be read in. It’s great to see that all Official South African Languages are supported and available for selection.

Q5) Has Exam Portal saved your school money?

It is general policy that parents pay for human readers and scribes. Our standard rate is R120 per exam in Gr 8 & 9; R150 in Gr 10-12. This becomes hugely costly for the parents and many of ours need the school to subsidise these costs.

We are able to charge a nominal, affordable fee to parents when they select to use Exam Portal which covers our licence fees.

Q6) Have you received good support from the V-Soft Technologies team?

The Exam Portal support team is always available when our IT teacher needs some advice or when some hiccups arise. Even though we are not based in the same city, their response time and service is excellent!

Q7) Would you recommend Exam Portal to other schools and why?

We would. With Inclusive Education, schools are going to need to accommodate learners with barriers. And, as mentioned earlier, there is a significant increase in learners presenting with reading barriers such as dyslexia and sensory processing difficulties.

A noteworthy advantage of Exam Portal is that the integrity of the exam process is assured. With human readers, there is always the risk that the learner is unfairly advantaged by the interaction with the human reader who can easily influence via body language and tone of voice.

Thinking of using Exam Portal in your school?

It seems there is a way of improving the exam writing experience for students who have concessions and the solution is Exam Portal. It’s no surprise that the IEB (Independent Examinations Board) has been using Exam Portal for 5 years for their NSC exams.

Setting up Exam Portal is easy. You can either install it locally on the School Server and on computers in the computer centre or simply use the web-based version if you’d prefer not to install the software. Note: The web-based version does not yet support Text-to-Speech (this feature is planned to be supported by 2019).

If you would like to chat to V-Soft Technologies (the company responsible for Exam Portal), leave your details below and they will contact you.