Frequently Asked Questions About Requesting Accommodations
- If I have a disability, why can't I automatically receive the testing accommodations I want?
ETS grants reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act ("a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities"). Not every physical or mental impairment meets this definition. Second, even if a person is found to have a disability, this does not automatically mean that the nature and severity of the disability warrants testing accommodations.
- Why do I need to be reevaluated if a learning disability is lifelong?
Although learning disabilities are lifelong, the impact they have on current functioning changes over time. Therefore, your documentation needs to reflect the current status of your functional limitations, and explain why you need the testing accommodations you requested. If documentation is more than five years old, it is not current and must be updated. Note that the currency requirement may differ for other disabilities. For example, for ADHD, the standard is generally three years; for psychiatric disorders, the generally accepted standard is an update that is not more than six months old, submitted with the underlying evaluation report. See Documentation Update on LD/ADHD for more information.
- Are the ETS disability documentation guidelines in compliance with the ADA?
The ADA requires institutions to provide equal access and opportunities to individuals with disabilities. However, its regulations state that each institution can establish its own standards or guidelines for practice. In the case of ETS testing programs such as GRE® or Praxis™, the ETS documentation guidelines are designed to comply with the intent of the ADA, as well as to ensure fairness to all test takers, while maintaining the integrity of the test.
- May I make a special request for accommodations that I need for a medical condition, even if these accommodations aren't listed on the request form?
Yes, on Part II, "Accommodations Requested," you can write in the accommodations you need for a medical condition. These requests will require documentation from a qualified professional, such as a medical doctor. With proper support, ETS may permit test takers to take additional rest breaks for snacks or medication or to use the bathroom. A footstool, earplugs, water in a closed capped container, a simple magnifying device, special lamps, an adjustable table and chair or felt-tip pens might also be permitted, if warranted.
- If I need to monitor the glucose levels in my blood during a test, may I go to my locker during the break period and test my blood sugar levels?
Yes, you may monitor your blood sugar levels during a designated rest break. However, if you think you might need to monitor your blood sugar levels unexpectedly during a test, then you should apply for accommodations in advance so you will be permitted to take breaks as needed during the test. Approved extra breaks do not count against the testing time; the clock is stopped during approved extra breaks.
- If I want to bring snacks or a bottle of water into the test center to help me deal with some of the side effects of my medications or with other health-related needs, may I do that, or do I need special approval?
Snacks and beverages are not routinely permitted in test centers for security reasons. If you have a medical condition that might warrant eating snacks and/or having a closed beverage container in the testing center, then you should seek prior approval. Please read the ETS Bulletin Supplement for Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-related Needs for information about how to apply for accommodations.
- May I request a paper-based format for a test that is usually given only in computer-based format?
Yes, you may request a paper format as an accommodation, but you must have a documented disability (not a preference) that supports a legitimate need for a paper format. You will need to submit documentation for review that meets ETS's Documentation Criteria.
- May I take to the test center any assistive technology device(s) that I ordinarily use in school or at work?
You may request the use of assistive technology device(s) by submitting appropriate documentation to ETS for review. The documentation must support the claim that the assistive device or technology is warranted based on the nature of the disability. ETS may be unable to grant such a request if it is determined that it infringes upon test security requirements or, in the case of computer-based tests, that it is incompatible with ETS's existing computer test delivery hardware and software.
- I heard that ETS is no longer flagging test scores that are reported to score recipients. Is this true?
ETS has discontinued flagging almost all scores for tests that are taken with accommodations. For example, if a test taker receives additional time or extra breaks, the score will no longer be flagged in the reporting. In rare instances, ETS will flag the score report as a "nonstandard administration" if the test is significantly altered.
- Is there an additional fee for test accommodations?
No, ETS does not charge for testing accommodations.
- What can I do if I cannot afford the cost of getting an evaluation or an update of my last evaluation?
ETS is not responsible for the cost of an evaluation, but resources are available that might be able to help you. If your disability documentation is dated or inadequate, you can contact the local Division of Vocational Rehabilitation office and meet with a counselor. This is a free service available to any individual with a documented disability. You can also contact your DS coordinator or counselor on campus. See Documentation Update on LD/ADHD for more information.
Review Process Questions
- Who reviews my documentation at ETS, and is it treated in a confidential manner?
All disability documentation is reviewed and processed by ETS Disability Services staff and qualified ETS consultants. In every instance, confidentiality is assured according to ETS confidentiality policy. ETS will not discuss any aspects of your request with anyone except those you have given ETS authorization to contact.
- Why does it take so long to process my accommodation request?
ETS strives to review requests for accommodations as quickly as possible. Given the large number of requests we receive, it is important that you submit your request as early as possible to ensure receiving a decision before the test date.
ETS reviews requests for accommodations in the order in which they are received. The specific approval process may differ depending on the nature of the request. For example, if you seek a minor accommodation, such as a footstool to support an injury or a test break to permit you to take medication, a letter from your medical professional will suffice, and usually evaluation of such a request requires only a short time.
If you have been approved for accommodations within the previous two years and your documentation is still current, you may expedite your request by using Part II of the Applicant Request for Nonstandard Testing Accommodations form found in the Bulletin Supplement for Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-related Needs. The Bulletin is also available in screen reader text.
If you submit a Certification of Eligibility (COE) found in the Bulletin Supplement for Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-related Needs (also available in screen reader text), it will take approximately two to three weeks to process your request. If you must submit documentation for review, the process may take up to six weeks, or even longer.
If your documentation does not support your request for accommodations, you will receive a letter of explanation. In such instances, you may choose to address any deficiencies in the documentation and resubmit your request. To prevent delays, be sure that your documentation meets ETS's Documentation Criteria. For persons with learning disabilities, ADHD, physical disabilities or psychiatric disorders, ETS has policy statements that specify documentation requirements. To guide optometrists and ophthalmologists in supplying us with the documentation we require for visually impaired test takers, ETS has developed the ETS Vision Documentation Report. The report is also available in Word format. This document may also be obtained by contacting ETS Disability Services.
- What can I do if I am denied accommodations or disagree with the accommodations that are granted to me?
ETS will send you a letter of explanation if we deny a request. If the denial results from inadequate documentation, you may correct any deficiencies and resubmit your request. In some instances, the documentation may be sufficient but may show us that the nature and severity of the disability does not warrant all or some of the accommodations requested. If you have any complaints about ETS's procedures, you may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to ETS Disability Services, P.O. Box 6054, Princeton, NJ 08541-6054.
- What should I do if my request for accommodations is turned down because my documentation does not conform to ETS's Documentation Criteria?
In some circumstances, it may be possible to update or supplement relevant portions of your documentation and avoid a complete reevaluation. Whenever possible, Disability Services staff will provide test takers with specific information about the ways in which their documentation is inadequate and how it should be updated or supplemented. See Tips for Evaluators for more information.
Certification of Eligibility (COE) Questions
- What is the purpose of Part III — the Certification of Eligibility (COE) form?
As a shortcut for many applicants who currently receive certain accommodations in college or on the job, ETS has created a form called the Certification of Eligibility (COE). The form is available in the Bulletin Supplement for Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-related Needs, which is also available in screen reader text. ETS reviews each request for testing accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Given the sheer volume of requests and the nature of our business, we cannot interact with each applicant personally. ETS reserves the right to request actual documentation even though an applicant submits a COE.
The COE must be completed and signed by a qualified professional at your school or place of employment who is familiar with your disability status. This person must certify that the documentation on file meets ETS Documentation Criteria and supports the testing accommodations you are receiving. If appropriate, you may have the form completed by a representative of a local vocational rehabilitation office.
- Why can't I use the COE form to request all of the accommodations I want?
The COE is designed to be a shortcut to full documentation review and is limited in scope, covering only common testing accommodation requests, such as time and one half and additional rest breaks.
- Why can't the professional who diagnosed my disability sign off on the COE?
ETS requires that a neutral party verify that the documentation is legitimate and conforms to ETS policy. ETS also seeks verification that the institution or place of employment granted you the accommodations and that you are using them.
- If I send my disability documentation along with a signed Certification of Eligibility (COE), will I have a better chance of receiving testing accommodations?
No. As long as the completed COE meets the ETS Documentation Criteria, DO NOT send both the COE and your disability documentation. Doing so will delay the review process because the documentation will have to be reviewed by our panel of experts.
- What does ETS mean by a "substantial or functional limitation in learning?"
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), not every impairment is a disability. In order for an impairment to qualify as a disability under the ADA, it has to be "substantially limiting" to a major life activity (e.g., seeing, talking, hearing, learning, walking, etc.). Thus, having a disability or a diagnosis alone may not be sufficient to support the need for testing accommodations. For ETS testing programs such as GRE® and Praxis™, the documentation needs to clearly establish that the disability significantly impacts the way a person performs a major life activity compared to the "average person" before an accommodation can be considered.
- Why is there a need for test takers to send in cognitive and achievement testing for disabilities such as ADHD or psychiatric disabilities?
A disability or a diagnosis alone, such as ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder or a generalized anxiety disorder, is not sufficient to support the need for testing accommodations. The ADA requires that the disability result in a substantial limitation to learning. For ETS purposes, this means that the current functional impact of the disability on test taking must be clearly indicated. Objective cognitive tests that measure information processing, memory, and organizational and sequential thinking skills under both standard timing and extended-time conditions can be very helpful in supporting the need for the requested accommodations. While the disability may not disappear over time, current academic achievement measures are necessary to determine whether the functional limitations in learning persist despite remediation, intervention or treatment.
- What does complete disability documentation look like?
Tips for Evaluators discusses in greater detail what comprehensive documentation might look like. For our purposes, the documentation should include the following: 1) a specific diagnosis and rationale for it, supported by the diagnostic battery and/or clinical assessment that meets the DSM IV criteria or ICD code; 2) historical information – developmental, educational and/or medical information that includes information on response to treatment (if applicable) relevant to the diagnosed disability; 3) evidence that alternative explanations are ruled out (e.g., differential diagnoses, motivational factors, personality issues); 4) evidence of the current functional limitations resulting from the disability as supported by objective data from quantitative testing and qualitative self-report; and 5) an appendix of actual score summaries of standard or scaled scores and percentiles for all subtests, including index and cluster scores for LD and LD/ADHD documentation.
- Does the documentation recency requirement also apply to test takers who are legally blind or deaf, or who have physical disabilities of a permanent and unchanging nature?
No. If a disability is a physical or sensory impairment of an unchanging nature, e.g., blindness or congenital deafness, documentation does not need to be updated.
- I have a type of reading problem called scotopic sensitivity syndrome (SSS) that affects my reading ability. As an accommodation, will ETS allow me to use a plastic overlay that I can place on top of a page?
Scotopic sensitivity syndrome is a controversial visual processing problem that may or may not be due to a learning disability. In rare instances, ETS will approve the use of colored overlays on paper-based tests if the documentation supports the need. If the test is a computer-based test, then for some tests the test taker may be allowed to request selectable screen background and foreground colors.
- What is the new policy regarding LD and LD/ADHD documentation shelf life?
Educational Testing Service is aware of the cost borne by test takers with learning disabilities whose documentation may exceed the five-year limit and who are seeking accommodations for our tests. At the graduate- and professional-school levels, these individuals often do not have insurance to cover the cost of diagnostic reports. To address this concern, ETS adopted the following policy, effective November 1, 2005.