How to Get the Testing Accommodations You Need in College

Testing accommodations can level the field for students living with disabilities. Learn how to get the testing accommodations you need in college.
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  • Higher education institutions can provide students with testing accommodations.
  • Access to testing accommodations can help level the field for students with disabilities.
  • Disability services can help students set up testing accommodations.
  • If denied a testing accommodation request, there are steps you can still take.

Students living with disabilities can successfully navigate higher education, regardless of their unique challenges. One barrier to success many students with disabilities face in college is testing. However, testing accommodations can help.

The results can measure what students have learned by having students take the same test in as close to the same environment as possible. However, standardized tests don't work for every student.

The law offers testing accommodations to students who need them. Keep reading to learn about testing accommodations and how to get them in college.

What Is a Testing Accommodation?

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. One ADA requirement is that testing entities, including colleges and universities, offer exams that are accessible to people with disabilities. Testing accommodations make this possible.

Testing Accommodations Definition

What exactly are testing accommodations? Here's what an ADA requirements resource page says:

"Testing accommodations are changes to the regular testing environment and auxiliary aids and services that allow individuals with disabilities to demonstrate their true aptitude or achievement level on standardized exams or other high-stakes tests."

Testing Accommodations Examples

Common testing accommodations include:

  • Using a screen reader
  • Having someone record your answers, notes, or essays
  • Using a Braille test booklet
  • Having more time to take the exam
  • Testing at a wheelchair-accessible location
  • Testing in a distraction-free room
  • Taking medications during the exam

How to Get Testing Accommodations in College

Getting testing accommodations in college is different from getting them in high school. Here's how to start:

1 Register With Disability Services

Colleges have disability services centers to help their students succeed and ensure the school meets legal requirements. If you need testing accommodations, you must register with your school's disability services office.

Colleges have different processes for getting disability accommodations. Generally, you must register as a student with a disability on campus and provide legal or medical proof of this disability to a person qualified to make a decision about your access to these accommodations.

2 Prepare to Meet With Disability Services Representative

Gather documentation — like a recent medical report or psychological evaluation — stating your disability and a list of accommodations you'll need that can help you succeed in college.

If you already hold proof that you meet that definition of disability under the ADA, you'll come to the meeting with a letter from your doctor or lawyer proving this.

Along with this documentation, you can share with the disability services representative how your disability impacts your learning and daily life.

These representatives are typically not the ones who make the decision to approve your requests and testing accommodations. Some may have that authority. But these representatives are usually there to administer how the decision — typically made off campus — is met, fulfilled, or accommodated.

3 Determine What Testing Accommodations You Need

If you had an individualized education program (IEP) up through 12th grade, just remember that your IEP does not follow you to college, as it's not an approved plan at the postsecondary level.

But, it can be a jumping-off point with the doctor, lawyer, or qualified campus staff member who helps you assemble your list of requested accommodations on campus.

Then, at your meeting, you can discuss and review your list at your meeting with your school's disability services representative.

4 Notify Your Professor of the Test Accommodation If Needed

It's essential every professor you have is aware of your approved test accommodations.

Disability services may notify your professors, or they may not. Should the latter be the case, you will need to provide your professor with the documentation from disability services stating your required accommodations.

Either way, remind your instructors before each test that you need testing accommodations. You want to avoid surprises on test day should they forget.

Additionally, some disability offices may require you to bring in a request before each test should you need them to provide a separate testing space.

What If Your Testing Accommodation Request Is Denied?

If your request for testing accommodations is denied, don't give up. Take the following steps to help ensure you get the support you need.

1 Find Out Why Your Request Was Denied

First, ask disability services why your request for testing accommodations was denied. You'll want an explanation since you have already shown your professional designation letter — from a doctor or lawyer, stating your legal right to ADA accommodations.

Ask for details. Also, ask what you need to do to have the request approved. Get specific instructions. For example, you could have simply missed a step throughout the application process.

2 Reapply for the Testing Accommodation

Don't be afraid to reapply for the testing accommodation, as it is your right! Remember, the ADA is a law that protects the rights of people with disabilities.

Determine if you need to submit new information that supports your request or share previous information differently. Or if you need to obtain paperwork from off-campus doctors or lawyers to prove that you meet the definition of disability under the ADA.

For instance, maybe you supplied a photocopy of a scanned medical document when your college only accepts documentation mailed directly from medical offices.

3 Reach Out to Your State Advocacy Agency

If disability services continues to deny your request for the testing accommodation after you have reapplied, it may be time to reach out to your state advocacy agency.

State Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) fight for your rights as a student with a disability. You can find your state's program in this list of P&As.

4 File a Complaint Under the ADA

If you meet the definition of disability under the ADA, the school cannot deny your reasonable testing accommodation requests. If it does, you may decide to take further action.

If it comes to it, you may need to file an ADA complaint with a federal agency. Most likely with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Complaints can take up to three months to be reviewed — so don't count on this as a quick fix to getting testing accommodations.

To learn more about filing a complaint with a federal agency, visit the ADA's File a Complaint webpage.

Suppose a student goes to the campus disability office without a letter that explicitly states the student meets the definition of disability under the ADA and tries to obtain it there. In that case, that is a different process. If the campus does not have these qualified individuals, they will send the student to consult with external professionals who can, like doctors or lawyers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Testing Accommodations in College

Is it hard to get accommodations in college?

Since colleges are legally bound to offer certain disability services to students who meet the definition of disability under the ADA, getting testing accommodations should be straightforward. Furthermore, many of your instructors are passionate about teaching. They will likely be happy to provide testing accommodations to help you succeed.

However, if you find the process complicated, advocates are available to help you secure accommodations.

Why are test accommodations important?

You will invest your money, time, and energy into your education. Testing accommodations are incredibly important because you need your test scores to accurately reflect the knowledge and skills you gain from a course.

You don't want to retake a course just because you didn't have the testing accommodations you needed.

What are common testing accommodations for students with disabilities?

Some common testing accommodations include extended time to take an exam, screen readers, people to record your answers and quiet rooms.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should consult with their physician to obtain advice with respect to any medical condition or treatment. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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