Tips for Test Takers with Disabilities

Taking a test is an opportunity to demonstrate what you really know and can do. By honing your test-taking skills, you will be better able to manage the anxiety that often accompanies the test-taking experience.

Strong test-taking skills will not guarantee you a perfect score, but they will help to ensure that your scores reflect what you know. The more familiar you are with the format of a specific test and the types of questions that will be asked, the more successful you are likely to be.

ETS has a wide range of practice materials that can help ready you for your test. The following checklists will also help you arrive at your testing site feeling confident and prepared.

Before the Test

Preparing Your Documentation and Test Application Packet

  • Make sure your documentation is current according to ETS guidelines.
  • If your documentation is not current, check the appropriate ETS disability documentation policy statement to see what is required. You may not need to submit documentation if you have a properly completed Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History (COE).
  • Provide your doctor or evaluator with a copy of the appropriate ETS guidelines if you need an updated report.
  • If you are requesting a reader or scribe for the test, be sure to read over the ETS guidelines for a test reader or a test scribe.
  • Speak with your campus disability services contact, vocational rehabilitation counselor or workplace human resources representative to consider how accommodations you currently use will transfer to the test situation.
  • Be sure to read over the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for answers to a variety of disability-related questions.
  • Plan IN ADVANCE, and expect the application review process to take up to six weeks.

Guidance in Asking for Reasonable Accommodations

  • If your disability has an impact on a specific test format or interferes with how information can be delivered (auditory vs. visual), or with how to express your answer, contact ETS to see what accommodations may be available to you.
  • Keep in mind that your documentation must provide a strong rationale for any disability-related accommodations.
  • Plan to ask for extra scratch paper if you think it will be helpful.
  • Remember that, in most cases, additional breaks do not affect the time allowed for responding to test questions. The testing clock will stop during your breaks.

While You Are Waiting to Hear from ETS

Learn About the Test

  • Is the test paper delivered or computer delivered?
  • Familiarize yourself with the specific test you must take:
    • Read about the test in the appropriate ETS Information and Registration Bulletin.
    • Review the content covered by the test.
    • Go through sample questions to help you identify areas where you need improvement.
    • Practice answering questions like those that will be on the test. This will tune up your test-taking skills, help you learn how to pace yourself and give you an idea of how you can expect to perform on the actual test.
    • Create a study schedule for the next four to six weeks to prevent a need for last-minute cramming.

Use Practice Tests to Your Advantage

  • Know how the questions will be presented (e.g., multiple-choice, essay, computation) and the timing for each section.
  • Learn the directions for each question type so you do not have to spend time familiarizing yourself with them on the testing day.
  • Try out your approved accommodations ahead of time as you practice the sample test questions.
  • Also while you practice, try to increase the number of questions you can complete correctly within the time limit.
  • For a computer-delivered test, practice working in a split-screen environment.
  • Consider using ETS-endorsed study materials, as available.

Once You Hear from ETS

  • Double-check the accommodations letter to be sure you understand what accommodations will be provided. You don't want any surprises on the day of the test!
  • If you are planning to take a computer-delivered test with accommodations, you may not schedule a test appointment until you have received an approval letter and voucher number from ETS.
  • If you have any questions regarding your accommodations or test site, contact ETS Disability Services by email at stassd@ets.org or call 1-609-771-7780.

Test Sites Differ — So Check Them Out!

  • Remember to consider the amount of driving time needed to get to your test site — including the volume of traffic, given the time of day. Ideally, test takers should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to testing time.
  • Are the test site's restrooms, water fountains, telephones, emergency exits, etc., accessible?
  • How many carrels are in the area where you will be tested?
  • How many other test takers will be in the area where you will take your test?
  • Do all tests begin at the same time?
  • Does the test site provide earplugs?
  • Can test takers purchase food and beverages at the site? Note that food and beverages are not permitted in the actual testing room.
  • Are lockers available to store personal items?
  • Cell phones, personal digital assistants, cameras or other electronic equipment are not allowed for security reasons.

Right Before the Test

  • Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night during the week leading up to the test.
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast the morning of your test.
  • If you are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine, monitor your consumption.
  • Bring any necessary paperwork with you to the test, as indicated in the Information and Registration Bulletin, such as a photo ID with signature and the ETS registration forms.
  • Don't worry about having sharpened pencils, erasers and scratch paper. They will be made available.
  • Complete a few warm-up questions the morning of the test, allowing you to get into test-taking mode.

Tips to Use During the Test

  • Read the directions carefully, making certain that you understand exactly what is expected.
  • Read each question carefully and note key words and phrases so you only have to read the question once.
  • Always read multiple-choice questions carefully. First pause and try to predict the correct answer before looking at the answer options.
  • Do not read into the question what is not there.
  • If you are still unsure about the correct answer, reread the question and try to eliminate one or two choices that are clearly wrong so that you can make an educated guess.
  • Remember: On some computer-delivered tests, you cannot skip a question; you must answer each question before you move on to the next. Also, on some ETS tests, you cannot go back once you've locked in your answer.
  • Budget your time, allowing yourself enough time to answer all parts of the test.
  • Pace yourself and work carefully; do not allow yourself to become stuck on any one question.
  • Remember that all tests are timed, even those with accommodations.
  • Use all of the allotted test time if you need to. There is no prize for finishing before the time runs out.
  • Remember that taking an authorized break STOPS the clock.
  • On a paper-delivered test, use scratch paper to help track lines of print or mask distracting print.
  • If you have time left over, avoid changing answers because it is more likely that you will make the wrong choice.
  • If there is a rest break between test sections, try to relax and avoid second-guessing your performance on the exam.

After the Test

  • Reward yourself for completing the test.
  • If you feel you did not do as well as you would have liked, give yourself sufficient time to relax and regroup before planning your next attempt.
  • Assess what you think you may be able to do more efficiently.
  • Worrying and stressing about your scores until they arrive will not alter the outcome so take a deep breath and go about your daily routine.
  • For some ETS computer-delivered tests, you can review your multiple-choice scores on the spot. This is a preliminary score only; your final score report may differ.