DLSS Marking Guidelines

Guidelines for Examiners When Marking Scripts from Students with a Disability Who Have a Reading, Writing, or Spelling Difficulty

A student with a disability who has a reading, writing, or spelling difficulty can be disadvantaged when assessment takes the form of a written, timed examination. Student’s written work may contain:

  • Surface errors in spelling and grammar such as inaccuracies in the use of tense, grammatical agreement, plurals, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Structural flaws including weak sequencing of ideas, paragraphs, and sentences; unclear expression of cause and effect; lack of competence in using abstract language or lack of awareness of writing genre


The following guidelines should be taken into consideration when marking the examination script of a student with a reading, writing or spelling difficulty:

  • First, read the script quickly to judge the student’s underlying understanding of the topic; then, assess their performance against the learning outcomes. If the script contains all the required elements but does not introduce them in a clear logical order, avoid penalising the student for a lack of structure in their writing unless this is a stipulated competency being assessed.


  • Errors in spelling do not necessarily mean that the student is confused about the meaning of the word or its function in their writing. Generally, such errors do not lead to ambiguity and should not be penalised when subject knowledge is being assessed.


  • Lexical errors, such as “coarse” for “course,” do not mean that the student is confused about the meaning of the words. This kind of error should not be penalised unless it leads to ambiguity.


  • Grammatical errors, like incorrect tense endings, lack of subject-verb agreement, and incorrect word order may not affect the meaning of the sentence.


  • Students with difficulties in reading, writing and spelling might not always use punctuation as a tool to clarify meaning. Scripts may contain long sentences that are difficult to follow with indiscriminate punctuation or no punctuation at all. Very short sentences or fragments of sentences might also be produced.


  • Some students may have restricted vocabulary and use a far more limited range of words than one would expect. Avoid penalising students who may have an immature style of writing, unless written communication is a specified learning outcome.


  • Where grammar and spelling are core competencies of a course, a student’s work must be marked on the basis of accuracy in the language and therefore these marking guidelines will not apply.


  • In all subjects, if a student’s errors make a material difference to the meaning of their work, it will not be possible to classify them as surface errors that do not incur penalty. For instance, if a nursing student writes hypertension instead of hypotension, this will affect the mark awarded.


  • In all subjects, if the surface errors or structural flaws make the student’s work so ambiguous that it is impossible to decipher the meaning, then this diminishes their ability to demonstrate the module’s learning outcomes and this would be reflected in the marks awarded.





  1. These guidelines are not applicable to Modules or Programmes, where specific core competencies in assessment of language skills, include spelling & grammar (e.g. Business with French, Journalism etc.)
  2. In response to guidelines from the Institute of Education and Fiontar agus Scoil na Gaeilge the exam candidate is permitted a waiver in 'spelling and grammar' in Gaeilge 'Language Methodology Modules'. In the case of 'Language Skills Modules' the spelling and grammar waiver does not apply, however examiners should still remain cognisant that the candidate has a Specific Learning Difficulty/Dyslexia when assessing the script


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