Parliamentary Question

Annotating Examination Certificates


20 Feb 2017



Ms Chia Yong Yong, Nominated Member of Parliament



To ask the Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) (a) what is the rationale for annotating examination certificates to indicate that examination accommodation has been given; (b) whether he can assure the House that such annotation will not result in discrimination against the student in future studies and/or future employment; and (c) whether it is now time to remove such annotations.



  1. To cater to students with Special Educational Needs, long-term or temporary medical conditions, the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) extend access arrangements, which may range from exemption from specific components of the examination and provision of extra time to provision of a separate room or enlarged print. For such students, standardised testing conditions may result in them being unable to take the examinations altogether, or if they can, an incomplete or inadequate assessment of their abilities.

  2. Examinations are meant to certify academic achievements of candidates. From an examiners’ point of view, a key principle is to ensure that results are fair. Therefore, in any standardised examination, it is expected that the testing conditions would be similarly standardised to ensure fairness of the results. When access arrangements have been granted,  annotation may be done to indicate factually that the candidate has taken the examination under conditions that are different from the standard prescribed conditions. This is to uphold the integrity of the system.

  3. In Singapore, SEAB’s policy is to annotate only where there are significant modifications of the examination, such as exemption from specific components and provision of extra time to complete the examination. Annotation is neither intended to indicate a disability nor to discriminate against the candidate. Our approach is similar to the practices of overseas examination boards such as in Hong Kong and the US.

  4. When our autonomous universities, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) consider admission applications, they do not take into consideration the annotation of access arrangements in the certificates of the students during the admissions process. Employers are also expected to abide by the principles of fair and responsible employment set out by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

  5. To the candidates concerned,  according flexibility of access arrangements benefits deserving candidates, as it enables them to still sit for the examination and have their abilities adequately assessed. To the larger candidate population, annotation serves to ensure transparency and fairness. While annotation indicates the non-standardised conditions - without any details - it may also positively suggest that these candidates have overcome challenges to achieve the results. At the same time, annotation discourages non-deserving cases from unfairly securing access arrangements, as the assessment of whether to extend this flexibility is not always straightforward.

  6. My Ministry has not come across cases of discriminatory hiring due to annotations of access arrangement given. But we will continue to work with the PSEIs and community agencies, such as SG Enable, to monitor feedback from graduates.