Guidelines for exam scribes

A scribe, sometimes referred to as an amanuensis, is a term used to describe someone who transcribes the answers for a student in university exams. The student may be unable to write or have difficulty in producing clear text or diagrams for many different reasons. A scribe should be able to write legibly and at a reasonable speed. These guidelines are intended to give advice to people undertaking this role.

Please note these important rules:

  • You are not allowed to have any factual or academic input into the student's answers. You must transcribe the information provided by the student strictly in accordance with their instructions.
  • In the vast majority of cases, students will be given extra time in their exams. This will be confirmed with you, prior to the start of the exam.
  • All information regarding the exam and student should be kept confidential. Where there is a perceived breach of exam regulations or conditions you should contact the invigilator.

Before the examination

You are encouraged to meet with the student prior to the exam period to discuss the best methods of working. We advise you to practise writing an answer dictated by the student at this stage.

You should decide how to dictate punctuation, what line spacing to use, how to set out diagrams and sketches, the layout of answers, whether you want to use an essay plan, the notation of quotations and case law, if appropriate. This will save time during the exam and keep any misunderstandings to a minimum.

You will be advised about the time and place of the exam by the Faculty Registry Office.

During the Examination

  • You should write clearly and only write down the information that is provided by the student. You should not indicate when a mistake has been made nor offer information for use by the student.
  • You should only speak to the student if there is a problem, for example, if you did not hear their answer or they are speaking too quickly.
  • The student may wish to proofread the answers that have been given. The student may wish to do this or you may be asked to read the answers back for them. You should not proofread the work on their behalf.
  • If the student wishes to write sections of the answers themselves or draw diagrams, this is acceptable and you should allow them to do this.
  • If you have any concerns regarding the conduct of the exam, you should inform the chief invigilator at the time of the exam so that these can be noted.
  • You must not give factual help to the student or offer any suggestions.
  • You should not advise the student regarding which questions to do, when to move on to the next question, or the order in which the questions should be answered.
  • You should write down answers exactly as they are dictated. Students must be asked to provide spelling of specialist or technical terms.
  • However, if requested, the scribe can give the spelling of a word which occurs on the question paper.
  • You should draw or add maps, diagrams and graphs strictly in accordance with the student's instructions.
  • You should write in any corrections if requested to do so by the student.
  • You should ensure the student's details are filled in correctly. At the end of the exam, the invigilator will collect the exam scripts, and inform you when you can leave.
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