Disabilities and Health-related Needs
It is hoped that this fourth edition of the "ETS Guidelines for Documentation of Learning Disabilities in Adolescents and Adults" will be helpful to individuals with disabilities as well as secondary school personnel, professional diagnosticians and postsecondary disability service providers.
ETS acknowledges that individual situations vary given the severity of the disability, the standardized test being taken and the accommodations requested. The objective of this revised document is not to be overly prescriptive, but rather to provide test takers, as well as their evaluators, with guidance about the specific information that is needed to support requests for accommodations on high-stakes tests. Furthermore, this expanded online format and the accompanying appendices will allow evaluators to easily search for relevant information by section as it applies to individual test takers.
Office of Disability Policy
Educational Testing Service
Princeton, NJ 08541
Educational Testing Service (ETS) recognizes the importance of periodic review of policy statements to ensure they reflect current practice, developments in the field and recent guidance from the Department of Justice. This fourth edition (2017) of ETS Guidelines for Documentation of Learning Disabilities in Adolescents and Adults incorporates previous revisions and introduces other changes based upon many years of experience with test takers with learning disabilities.
ETS is committed to providing reasonable testing accommodations for candidates with documented disabilities as recognized under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). We treat requests for accommodations on a case-by-case basis according to established policies and procedures, which ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to our tests. This document contains information to guide test takers with learning disabilities in requesting accommodations. It also includes information to guide evaluators in documenting learning disabilities and in providing their rationales for testing accommodations.
Please note that there are differences between the laws that govern accommodations in K–12 education and those that apply to postsecondary education. ETS adheres to the ADAAA, the law appropriate to postsecondary education, emphasizing equal access to educational opportunities, while K–12 education places the emphasis on student success. Because of these differences, a person may not be eligible for the same accommodations that were received in the past in a different educational setting. Based upon the information provided, ETS may approve some, all or none of the accommodations requested. Of the many thousands of applicants who request accommodations every year, most ultimately receive accommodations.
You may refer to our "For Test Takers" page for helpful information on requesting accommodations, registering for a test and scheduling a test date. You can also use the For Test Takers page for a list of common accommodations, information on where to find bulletins for the test(s) you plan to take, how to submit documentation to ETS in support of requested accommodations, and how to register, pay for and schedule the test(s).
To provide more information for your evaluators, please direct them to our "For Evaluators" page.
ETS adheres to its policies regarding its responsibility to maintain confidentiality of your documentation and will not release any part of the documentation without test-taker informed consent or under compulsion of legal process.
Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities, but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other disabilities (e.g., sensory impairment, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance) or with extrinsic influences (e.g., cultural or linguistic differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences. Adopted from the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (2016).
A qualified professional, with demonstrated training and experience in the assessment of learning disabilities in adolescents and adults, should conduct the evaluation. A licensed clinical or school psychologist, neuropsychologist or other comparably trained expert is generally considered qualified to evaluate and diagnose learning disabilities.
The name, title and professional credentials of the evaluator should be clearly stated in the documentation. This information should include licensure and/or certification, as well as the areas of specialization, employment, and the state or province in which the individual practices. All reports should be on letterhead, typed in English, dated, signed and otherwise legible.
The provision of reasonable accommodations and services is based upon clear evidence of the current impact of the disability on academic and test-taking performance. In most cases, this means that a diagnostic evaluation has been completed within the past five years. Ideally, this evaluation would have been completed when the test taker was at least 16 years of age.
The Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History form (COE) may be used as an alternative to receive a decision from ETS. When using the COE, test takers can expect a decision in approximately 2–3 weeks rather than the 4–6 weeks required for a full review of documentation. If the COE is used, documentation should not be submitted, as it will cause delays in receiving a response.
Test takers can use a COE if:
The documentation must validate the need for accommodations based upon the test-taker's current level of functioning and how that level of functioning may impact test taking. The documentation should include:
If documentation is older than the five-year general guideline, a complete reevaluation or a documentation update may be submitted.
A documentation update is a brief report by a qualified professional. It should include a summary of the disability history and the original documentation findings, as well as a clinical update that reaffirms the learning disability diagnosis and introduces any new factors related to the functional limitations of the disability. It is essential that the professional address the current functional impact on the test taker and, more specifically, its potential impact in the test-taking situation.
The update should also include a current rationale regarding the need for any requested accommodations. While documentation from a professional is required, any information from the applicant that helps to clarify and/or illustrate the current need for the requested accommodation(s) is also welcome. This might include a statement from the test taker that explains how the disability affects learning, test-taking and performance. The evaluation instruments selected for the update may require only those tests and scales that illustrate the nature of the test-taker's disability and its impact on learning and test taking.
The following are general recommendations about information to provide in a documentation update:
There is no exact combination of factors that ultimately determines whether a comprehensive reevaluation or documentation update would be the most appropriate documentation to submit. The following factors should be considered by test takers and the professionals with whom they work to make this determination:
ETS is committed to providing equal access to our assessments for all test takers. If you have been diagnosed with a learning disability and believe you need accommodations for equal access during the standardized testing process, ETS will individually evaluate the information that you provide and will work with you to identify any additional documents we require to make a timely determination of your eligibility for accommodations. We welcome the opportunity to engage in discussions with test takers who have disabilities to determine reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis.
If you have questions or need additional information, contact Disability Services.