Providers and partners

Reader assistance for deaf or hearing-impaired students

Deaf and hearing-impaired students, who have been granted a ‘Reader’ as part of their entitlement to NZQA Special Assessment Conditions, will be affected by a range of hearing loss and may use a variety of communication modes. The communication will range from primarily oral through to primarily visual modes i.e. New Zealand Sign Language.

The mode of communication for students may also vary between their expressive and receptive ability. For instance, a student who is profoundly deaf, may be a cochlear implant user and will primarily speak but require that others use sign supported English to make clear what is being said.

Assessment Assistance

Some deaf and hearing-impaired students may have a lower reading age than their hearing peers. When deaf and hearing-impaired students have been granted a ‘Reader’ by NZQA as a Special Assessment Condition, a combination of the following reading techniques may be used by the reader:

  • Read each assessment question aloud using Clear Speech techniques.
  • Point to script as they read aloud.
  • Sign supported English to accompany what is being said.

Examination Centre

Exam Centre Managers hosting a number of deaf and hearing-impaired students who use sign (New Zealand Sign Language or Sign Supported English) should, with the permission of NZQA, endeavor wherever possible to employ a ‘Signing Supervisor’ i.e. a supervisor who is competent in these modes of communication. This is to ensure that:

  • students who sign can make themselves understood in case of an emergency or a problem during the examination.
  • students are not unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged during the examination by the signs used by the readers (for example if the reader uses NZSL inappropriately).


New Zealand Sign Language is a native New Zealand visual language with a complex and unique linguistic structure that is different from English. The signs that are used convey meaning through hand-shape, orientation, movement and location. Accompanying these signs are facial grammar, expression, use of space, a system of body posture and usually the absence of voice.

Sign supported English is defined as an oral mode of communication with the addition of key signs. These signs provide an additional visual avenue of meaning. The signs are borrowed from New Zealand Sign Language and are used simultaneously with speech to provide the most meaning during communication. The linguistic structure of Sign Supported English is English.

Clear Speech techniques include the reader speaking words and sentences in a precise, accurate and fully formed manner. It is normally a little louder and slower than everyday speech. (Thus the need for separate accommodation to ensure other students are not disturbed)

NB: There is no reader assistance available for a hearing-impaired candidate for a listening component in an exam. Being able to hear the passage is an integral part of the assessment.

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