Is it a Fair RACE? Validity of Exam Accommodations, Eligibility Criteria, and a New Spelling Test for the Republic of Ireland

  • Kate James

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology


    This collection of five papers explores the validity of exam accommodations in the Ireland, in particular the spelling and grammar waiver, an accommodation unique to Ireland.

    A review of the literature relating to each accommodation is followed by two papers investigating the validity of the spelling and grammar waiver. A spelling and grammar waiver can be granted to a student with a specific learning disability who attains a standard score of 85 or below on a spelling test. Two groups of students were compared- those who had or had not been granted a waiver, Mock exam scripts of both groups were marked both with and without a spelling and grammar waiver by experienced markers. When a spelling and grammar waiver was applied, the scores of both groups significantly increased. The ‘boost’ received by students who had been granted a waiver was not significantly higher than the ‘boost’ received by the other students, suggesting that the spelling and grammar waiver gives an advantage to all who receive it.

    Examiner markings were re-examined in a follow up study to investigate possible examiner bias. Results found that elements of the marking scheme, which should not have been affected by a spelling and grammar waiver, were marked more leniently when the examiner marked students’ scripts which had a spelling and grammar waiver applied to it. These studies suggest that the spelling and grammar waiver is not a valid accommodation.

    In the following study, three spelling tests commonly used by teachers to apply for accommodations were compared. Significant differences were found among the scores. Students scoring below the cut off point for a spelling and grammar waiver ranged from 5.8% to 43.8% depending on the test used. These significant differences in scores across the three tests highlighted the need for an Irish normed spelling test. The final paper details the creation and standardisation of a spelling test in the Republic of Ireland.

    Limitations to each study and areas of further research are addressed. Suggestions to improve the validity of the spelling and grammar waiver by using an alternative marking scheme and teacher training are discussed.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBeth Hannah (Supervisor) & Shirley Hill (Supervisor)


    • Reasonable accommodations
    • Access arrangements
    • Spelling and grammar waiver
    • Spelling
    • Leaving certificate

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