FAQ test-taking

(Used with permission from DO IT:Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking & Technology doit@u.washington.edu University of Washington)

Test taking poses challenges for most students. However for individuals with disabilities, test taking can present insurmountable obstacles. The students needs will vary greatly, depending on the disability and type of test. Students are the best source of information about strategies that work for them. The campus disabled student services office determines reasonable accommodations based on documentation that each student provides.

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 (e.g.: computer, presentations, take-home open-book or demonstration of skills).
  • Extended test-taking time.
  • Providing reading or scribe services


Q. EXTENDED TIME: When extended time on tests is determined to be a reasonable accommodation for a specific student, how is the specific amount of extra time needed for a test determined?

A. Educational Testing Services recommends 150 to 200 percent additional test-taking time depending upon the test and type of disability. When a student needs to use a reader, up to 300 percent above the allocated time may be needed. Consideration must be given to both the type of test and the specific disability. Decisions regarding the amount of extra time needed for a student with a disability are usually made by the campus accessibility resource service staff after reviewing the disability-related documentation presented by the student.

Q. BRAILLE TRANSLATION: How do I produce my test in Braille?

A. Your campus accessibility resource services staff will help you produce a test in Braille. Some colleges have the in-house capacity for producing short and simple Braille documents. This is done using Braille translation software and a Braille printer. More complicated documents, such as those that include mathematical symbols, should be produced by a Braille transcriber certified by the Library of Congress. If a certified staff member is not available on campus, transcription can be contracted out. When a blind student is enrolled in your class, examination papers should be prepared as early as possible so that there is enough time to make the conversion to Braille. When accuracy is crucial and a certified transcriber is not available, some colleges develop the test in Braille and the instructor or proctor has a printed copy to provide clarification if questions arise. Another option to consider is to send the examination via e-mail, allowing the blind student to take the test using speech output.

Q. COMPUTER ACCOMMODATIONS: A student in my college course needs computer accommodations for test taking. Doesn't this give her an unfair advantage over other students?

A. If the student has a documented disability, is registered with the campus disabled student services office, and requires the adaptive technology to access the test, using a computer is an accommodation not an advantage. The student and disabled student services staff can work with you to assist with setting up the test accommodations, determining the test location, and providing a test proctor if needed.

Q. TEST SUPERVISION: A college student needs a computer accommodation to take her exam. How can I assure the test is properly supervised?

A. Discuss the exam format, location, supervision options, and time limit with the student and disabled student services staff. You or a teaching assistant could arrange to supervise the test or the disabled student services office could provide a test proctor as an accommodation.

Q. EXAM PROCEDURES: Do I need to change my exam procedures to accommodate a student with a disability?

A. The exam must be accessible to the student with a disability. If the exam in its existing format is not accessible (e.g., a printed exam is not accessible to a blind student) you are required to work with the student and disabled student services staff to provide appropriate accommodations (e.g., a reader or scribe, a Braille or electronic version of the test).