Creating accessible examinations and assessments for disabled students

Alternative timing of assessment

There are many justifications based on students' impairments and the task in question for altering the timing of assessments. Students may require additional time to read and understand questions in an examination paper, or material to be mastered for an essay or presentation. Alternatively, they may need additional time to complete their responses, or to perform the practical tasks, which are being assessed.

"To me it doesn't matter when the exam starts. What matters is when the next exam is."

The scope for such adjustments are related to the purposes of the assessment, and what is being assessed. An Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) used in many medical courses typically requires students to work on a range of tasks within a limited time frame. Where speed is of the essence in the administration of some medical procedure being tested, it is likely that additional time to complete the activity would be inconsistent with the objective of the test. This contrasts with the likelihood that additional time to complete a reflective essay on medical ethics will be less likely to conflict with the purpose of the assessment.

Extra time may be needed because an alternative way of meeting the demands of the assignment requires it. Completing an examination with the aid of an amanuensis usually takes more time, as does the use of access technology such as speech-to-text. Or the need might arise because the student has difficulties with reading, or writes at reduced speed, perhaps because of a lessening of stamina, impaired manual dexterity, or the consequences of medication. Clearly, however, additional examination time can exacerbate symptoms of fatigue. In some instances, this might be alleviated by providing rest breaks. In other cases, consideration might be given to asking the student to do part of the examination under exam conditions, and complete the remainder in his/her own time, when able to do so.

In the case of continuous assessment, additional time might be needed following periods of ill health, or more general difficulties around accessing the relevant materials for working on an assignment. In all cases the amount of extra time will need to reflect the practical difficulties experienced by the student in such a way as to allow a fair assessment of attainment or performance to be made. It may well be that the student him/herself will be in the best position to suggest how much time would be necessary, and how it should be structured, perhaps on the basis of a mock assessment.

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