Sitting Exams When You’re Chronically Ill

I had the misfortune of getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in year 11, otherwise known as the GCSE year. This made revising a lot harder, as I kept forgetting what I had just read and got tired very easily. My OCD also kicked in around this time, which meant my anxiety was incredibly high and concentrating was almost impossible. However, there were several ways in which my school made things easier for me, including letting me drop from 10 to 8 GCSEs and letting me start my study leave a month earlier than everyone else.

I got these accommodations because we got my GP to write a letter to the school, asking for me to get extra time, rest breaks and to use a laptop. It can cost money to get your doctor to write a letter for you, but it often isn’t very much (mine charged us £10). The school agreed with two of these (I wasn’t allowed extra time), which made sitting my exams so much easier than it would have been without this help.

I was able to stop and have breaks when I got too tired or to have a think when my mind had gone blank. The laptop meant I didn’t have to try and write by hand (handwriting makes my muscles cramp and my joints hurt, and it is really difficult to keep my handwriting legible), and being in side room made it easier to concentrate, as there were no irritating background noises. I honestly don’t know if I would have coped without those accommodations.

So, using my own experience, these are the things your school can do to make your exams easier for you to cope with:

  • Let you take study leave early
  • Let you drop a couple of subjects so you have less work to do
  • Let you have rest breaks
  • Let you sit the exams in a side room
  • Let you use a laptop instead of writing by hand

It is possible to also get extra time, but this is a lot harder to get. The exam board didn’t think I needed extra time, despite having a letter from my doctor. Still, it is possible, so there isn’t any harm in trying.

So it is possible to do well at school when you’re ill; you just have to take things slowly and get the help you deserve. And this post ends with a success story, because I came out of high school with 1 A*, 4 As and 3 Bs!


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