A STUDENT who 'spoke', rather than wrote, all his A level exam answers using voice recognition technology has achieved three A grade passes.
Aidan Clancy, a pupil at Ripon Grammar School, in North Yorkshire, has severe dyslexia and dyspraxia and his performance suffers if he has to write exam answers in the conventional way.
So while his friends were in the exam hall, Aidan was in a separate room wearing a headset linked to a laptop and speaking into a microphone for his A levels in classics, economics and history.
He was one of many students celebrating at Ripon Grammar School where more than three quarters of grades were at B or better. The school recorded Yorkshire’s best state school A level results last year.
"The technology allows me to put down on paper what's in my head," explained Aidan, 18, of Ripley, who was identified as being dyslexic at primary school and was prescribed an occupational therapist.
"I tried to take my AS exams last year in the normal way because it had worked OK for my GCSEs. But A levels are a big step up. After the AS exams, which included three in one day totalling five hours and 47 minutes, my hand was aching really badly, I was exhausted and I really under performed.
“I chose my subjects because I'm interested in them. I had the dilemma of choosing short answer subjects instead but they're not what I enjoy. The possibility of speaking answers to a scribe was mentioned, but I thought it would be really difficult to be able to go back over what they’d written.
“We thought there must be a solution using technology. We found out about the voice recognition software and I re-sat my ASs using it and did so much better. I’m nowhere near as tired after an exam and no longer get the headaches.
“The school has been great. I soon as they were made aware this was an option they, along with my occupational therapist Michelle Rundle, fought for it for me to use it.”
The laptop Aidan used in the exams cannot be connected to the internet. The software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, recognises the spoken words and translates them into a word document, allowing the speaker to check them and cut and paste and paragraphs if necessary.
Over time, it recognises the nuances in individual speakers and it is even possible to select different accents.
But it isn’t infallible. Aidan explained: “In one history essay I had to say the Temple of Hephaestus and that came out as the Temple of Her Feistiness.
“I’m really happy with my results. It’s so frustrating when you know you’re capable but that’s not reflected in how you’ve done. It must be even worse for young people who haven’t been diagnosed.
“I hope my experience shows them that there is a solution.”
Aidan, who’s dad is a surveyor and mum is a housewife, is now going to Newcastle University to read history.