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ExamReader and ReaderPen – Text-to-speech technology to help secondary students with reading difficulties

It’s been a strange 12 months. Numerous new learning environments to adapt to, altered assessment criteria, many students working virtually and a huge climate of uncertainty surrounding the very idea of a classroom return have all had an impact on students and educators.

It’s not been the most stress-free school year, to put it lightly, and many of us are excited at the prospect of a little progress in the direction of normality.

But following the disrupted nature of last year’s GCSE and A-Level results, it’s likely that even in the wake of a widespread return to our classrooms many students up and down the country are looking at their own assessments this summer with a lot of anxiety.

There have been changes made to exams and where they take them, with many exams being turned into coursework or general assessment tasks; and social distancing requirements have made exam conditions look almost unrecognisable.

There’s been a lot to get used to very quickly, and although every student is feeling the pressure a little right now, learners with dyslexia or reading difficulties could be looking to summer term with more than a little trepidation.

That’s why in 2021, reading support is more important than ever.

Our ExamReader can help alleviate some of the stresses that come with testing environments, and allow students with weaker literacy levels to walk into assessments feeling confident that their skills will have the same chance to shine as those of their peers.

Held like a pen, it scans lines of text and uses our award-winning text-to-speech technology to read exam questions aloud in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese to support multiple language learners.

It also comes programmed with a variety of language and accent audio choices so that learners can personalise their reading experience to the one that works for them.

ExamReaders are portable and pocket-sized for ease of use, and are designed with an inbuilt headphone capacity so that testing environments aren’t disrupted for other learners too – and there’s also no need for wifi connectivity in any form.

We’ve also made sure that the device has an 8-hour battery life, to help make sure it’s always there when students need it.

These devices can provide a vital bridge between the page and the pupil when it comes to assessment scenarios. We’ve seen a large uptick in grade attainment when using the ExamReader: in data collected from the City Academy, Norwich, 91% of students improved their grades with the ExamReader, with 74% of those improving by 3 grades or more.

ExamReaders have been approved by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) for use in exams. This means that students who have reading difficulties like dyslexia can independently take control of what might have been a previously daunting exam experience without special support requirements and work through testing independently.

There’s no audio or notation function, so it’s impossible to store data on the device which could compromise an exam scenario, and it simply reads the text on the page and relays audio via speaker or headphones.

For non-exam conditions, we’ve also designed the ReaderPen. The ReaderPen is a major technological breakthrough for anyone learning in English, Spanish and French; and it’s a lifesaver for those readers who have literacy difficulties.

Just like the ExamReader, the device scans text and reads it aloud, facilitating a reading experience that understands conditions like dyslexia and supports students on their terms.

It’s totally portable and pocket-sized, and features a lot of additional functionality: from built-in dictionaries to a handy voice recorder, ReaderPens approach the act of reading as something that might need support on a number of levels, rather than simply providing an audio stimulus.

Whether they’re filling out a worksheet or reading exciting novels, for us, it’s all about making sure that everybody can read without anxiety.

Both ReaderPens and ExamReaders are part of a growing toolkit by Scanning Pens created to sustain learning outcomes whilst maintaining social distancing and overcoming the need for in-person reading support.

It’s been a difficult period to learn in, and many parents and educators might be worrying about levels of engagement and how the switch to remote learning might have affected students with different educational needs.

We want to actively combat this by providing a support mechanism to help students reduce their exam anxiety and feel more independent in their learning.

Approaching assistive technology is a great way to create a more accessible classroom for all, and making sure that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t lead hundreds of thousands of children worldwide to feel left behind in education.

Our award-wining text-to-speech technology helps thousands of schools sustain reliable reading support for their students, and we’re committed to nurturing a love of reading that can kickstart an educational experience and make learning accessible and fun.

That’s why we’re offering all schools and parents the opportunity to try out our reading support devices for free.

Find out if it’s right for your students at


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