Test Taking

Test taking poses challenges for most students. However for individuals with disabilities, test taking can present specific obstacles. Student needs vary greatly, depending on the disability and type of test. Students themselves and disability service personnel are the best sources of information about strategies that work best.

General strategies for accommodating students with disabilities in testing activities include:

  • alternative, quiet testing locations and distraction-free rooms
  • alternate formats (e.g., oral presentations, projects, essay instead of multiple choice; written paper instead of oral presentation)
  • well-organized tests with concise instructions
  • alternative test formats
  • extended test-taking time
  • providing reading or scribe services
  • use of a computer to complete tests

Accommodations for Specific Disabilities 

Blindness 

Students who are blind cannot read printed tests. 

Typical test-taking accommodations for students who are blind include: 

  • readers and/or scribes 
  • recorded tests 
  • extended test-taking time 
  • tests in computer format to allow the conversion to speech output 
  • tests in Braille

Health Impairments 

Some students with health conditions may have difficulty attending in-class exams. They may also fatigue easily. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention. 

Typical test-taking accommodations for students with health impairments include: 

  • scribes 
  • exams delivered and submitted via the Internet 
  • extended test-taking time 
  • alternative time and location for test-taking

Hearing Impairments 

Students who are hard of hearing or deaf may not have difficulty with printed tests. However, they may have difficulty when questions arise or with verbal instructions given prior to the test. An important test-taking accommodation for students with hearing impairments is clear and detailed written instructions. Sound amplification systems, sign language interpreters, real-time captioning, or other appropriate accommodations should be provided for student interaction with the instructor or test proctor. s

Learning Disabilities

Students with some types of learning disabilities have difficulty completing tests within time limits. Some test formats may pose extra challenges. For example, essay questions may be more difficult to organize and respond to in a limited amount of time than multiple choice or short answer questions. Students with learning disabilities may also be easily distracted in large group test situations. Students with specific disabilities may have difficulty reading text (e.g., Dyslexia) or completing math problems (e.g., Dyscalcula). Students with writing disabilities (e.g., Dysgraphia) may have difficulty completing essay tests.

Typical test-taking accommodations for students with learning disabilities include:

  • extended test-taking time
  • alternative testing locations in a quiet room with fewer distractions
  • tests in alternative formats
  • oral exam, project, and presentation options
  • use of a computer to complete tests

Low Vision 

A student with low vision may have difficulty reading standard print on tests. Her ability to read material may also be impacted by fatigue, lighting, and glare.

Typical test-taking accommodations for students with low vision include:

  • readers or scribes
  • recorded tests
  • extended test-taking time
  • alternative test locations if lighting is problematic
  • enlarged print text (by using a computer or a photocopier)
  • CCTV (closed circuit television) to enlarge print and graphics

Mobility Impairments 

Physical access to the test site must be ensured for a student with a mobility impairment. A student who has difficulty using her hands will also have difficulty taking written tests.

Typical test-taking accommodations for students with mobility impairments include:

  • accessible seating
  • scribes
  • electronic version of the test on a computer with assistive technology if needed
  • extended test-taking time

Psychiatric Impairments

Students with some psychiatric conditions may have difficulty with in-class exams. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention.

Typical test-taking accommodations for students with psychiatric impairments include:

  • exams delivered and submitted via the Internet
  • extended test-taking time
  • alternative time and location for test-taking
  • quiet non-distracting room for test-taking

Check Your Understanding

Consider the following situation: A student with blindness needs to take an organic chemistry exam. What accommodations would be needed to help the student complete the exam? Choose a response.

  1. Provide a scribe.
  2. Provide extended examination time.
  3. Provide a copy of the test in Braille.
  4. Give the student an oral version of the test.

Responses:

  1. Provide a scribe.
    A scribe would be an appropriate accommodation. However, the student will still need to access the exam material. The scribe could serve a dual role as a reader if the exam is in standard print format. A reader would not be necessary if the exam is in Braille. Extended examination time should also be considered as an additional accommodation.
  2. Provide extended examination time.
    Extended examination time is an appropriate choice. Students who need a reader, for example, may take up to 2-3 times longer to complete the test. However, this accommodation alone does not provide access to the exam content and materials.
  3. Provide a copy of the test in Braille.
    If the student reads Braille, this is an appropriate accommodation. Adequate planning to transcribe the material in a timely manner is essential. Scientific and technical material typically requires a special form of Braille called Nemeth code Braille. A discussion with the student and disabled student services counselor would be important to organize this type of accommodation. The student may also need assistance writing the exam, therefore a scribe and/or extended exam time would be additional accommodations to consider.
  4. Give the student an oral version of the test.
    An oral version of the test is an option, but may be challenging because of the scientific content. The student will need access to all of the scientific material on the exam.

More Information

Explore DO-IT Publications, Knowledge Base articles, and websites on this topic at Accommodation Resources: Test Taking. To learn about accommodations for a specific disability, select from the list below.