Test accommodations are any modifications made to tests or testing conditions that allow students with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or limited English-language ability to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a testing situation.
Common modifications include extending the amount of time students are given to complete a test, reducing the number of test items, having someone else write down test answers, or listening to questions read aloud by text-to-speech conversation software. Students who are still learning the English language are also eligible for accommodations such as bilingual glossaries or test questions presented in their native language. The accommodations may apply to both standardized tests administered to large populations of students, including high-stakes tests used to make important decisions about students, and to the assessments that teachers use to evaluate what students have learned in a particular course.
The general goal of providing testing accommodations is to create a level playing field for students whose disabilities or language abilities may adversely affect their ability to show on a test what they have learned. A few obvious examples include offering Braille-based exams to blind students, providing written rather than oral instructions to deaf students, or making a testing location wheelchair accessible for wheelchair-bound students. There are, however, less obvious—but often equally necessary—accommodations, such as extended testing time for students with documented learning disabilities or neurological conditions that may cause them to take more time to process certain kinds of information. In addition, students with disabilities may also be eligible to complete alternative forms of assessment rather than sitting for a test—one example would be submitting a portfolio of their work that is then evaluated by educators.