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Frequently Asked Questions for Test Takers

View frequently asked questions for test takers with disabilities and health-related needs.

General questions

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 Amendments Act, or ADAAA ("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 doesn’t automatically mean that the nature and severity of the disability warrants testing accommodations.

Why do I need to be reevaluated if my disability (such as a learning disability, ADHD or autism spectrum disorder) is lifelong?

Although these 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 5 years old, it isn’t current and must be updated. Note that the currency requirement may differ depending on your particular disability or disabilities. For example, for ADHD, the standard is generally 5 years. For psychiatric disorders, the generally accepted standard is an update that isn’t more than 12 months old, submitted with the underlying evaluation report. See Updating Documentation for LD/ADHD for more information.

Are the ETS disability documentation guidelines in compliance with the ADAAA?

The ADAAA 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. The ETS documentation guidelines are designed to comply with the intent of the ADAAA 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. 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.

Are there any items I can take into the Prometric® test center?

Yes, view the list of Testing Accommodations Pre Approved Personal Items (PDF) which can be taken into the Prometric® test center.

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’ll be permitted to take breaks as needed during the test. Approved extra breaks don’t 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 aren’t 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’ll need to get prior approval. Please read the Bulletin Supplement for the test you’re taking to get information about how to apply for accommodations.

Are accommodations available for those who are pregnant or nursing?

Minor accommodations are available to those with documented health-related needs, including individuals who are pregnant or nursing. Such minor accommodations may include extra breaks for trips to the restroom, access to medication, snacks/beverage and pumping. A separate room isn’t available as an accommodation to nursing mothers due to constant video recording, surveillance and open access windows that are an integral component to a secure testing environment in every separate room. We recommend that you reach out to your test center in advance of your test appointment to inquire about any areas available to pump.

Please review the Bulletin Supplement for information regarding required documentation and how to request accommodations.

Documentation for pregnancy should include the expected due date so we may determine how long the requested accommodations will be needed.

May I request a paper-delivered format for a test that is usually given only in computer-delivered format?

Yes, you may request a paper format as an accommodation, but you need to have a documented disability (not a preference) that supports a legitimate need for a paper format. You’ll need to submit documentation for review that meets ETS's Documentation Criteria.

May I bring any assistive technology device(s) that I ordinarily use in school or at work to the test center?

You may request the use of assistive technology device(s) by submitting appropriate documentation to ETS for review. The documentation needs to 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-delivered tests, that it is incompatible with ETS's existing computer test delivery hardware or software.

Does ETS no longer flag test scores that are reported to score recipients?

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 report. In rare instances, ETS will flag the score report as a "nonstandard administration" only if the test is significantly altered.

Is there an additional fee for testing accommodations?

No, ETS doesn’t charge for testing accommodations.

What can I do if I can’t afford an evaluation or an update of my last evaluation?

ETS isn’t 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 Disability Services coordinator or counselor on campus. Also, many colleges and universities with strong school psychology programs perform evaluations at a reduced fee. See Updating Documentation for 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. A panel of 36 outside experts review testing accommodations requests for graduate and professional programs administered by ETS. Members of this review panel include college disability service providers and ADA compliance officers, as well as psychologists, neuropsychologists, medical doctors, psychiatrists and special education faculty. In every instance, confidentiality is assured according to the ETS confidentiality policy. ETS won’t discuss any aspects of your request with anyone except those you’ve given ETS authorization to contact.

How long does the review process take?

If you submit a properly completed Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History (COE) form without documentation and you’re eligible to be approved for accommodations through this process, it will take approximately 2–3 weeks to process your request. If you must submit documentation for review, the process may take about 4–6 weeks.

If you’re requesting the same accommodations approved within the past 2 years, you can expedite the process. See how to request previously approved accommodations.

If your documentation doesn’t support your request for accommodations, you’ll 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.

Why does it take so long to process my accommodation request?

ETS strives to review requests for accommodations as quickly as possible. The review process is highly individualized and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Given the large number of requests we receive, it’s important that you submit your request as early as possible to ensure receiving a decision before the test date.

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 don’t approve a request. In some circumstances, it may be possible to update or supplement relevant portions of your documentation and prevent the need for 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. You may correct any deficiencies outlined in the letter and resubmit your request. If you have any questions about ETS's procedures, you may contact us.

See Reasons Why Documentation Is Deemed Insufficient by ETS for more information.

Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History

What is the purpose of Part III — the Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History (COE) form?

The COE, available in the Bulletin Supplement, serves to verify any accommodations that you’re currently using or have recently used. It can also be used as a shortcut for many applicants who currently receive certain accommodations in college or on the job, which significantly reduces the wait time for a response from ETS. See Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History.

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’re using them.

Should I send my disability documentation along with a signed COE?

No. Sending disability documentation when it isn’t required will cause a considerable delay in processing your request due to the time needed to review your documentation. If you’re eligible to be approved for accommodations on the basis of the COE, send only the appropriately completed COE without documentation.

Documentation questions

What does ETS mean by a "functional limitation?"

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), not every impairment is a disability. For an impairment to qualify as a disability under the ADAAA, 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. The documentation needs to clearly establish that the functional limitations resulting from a disability significantly impact the way a person performs a major life activity, compared to the "average person," before an accommodation can be considered.

Why is cognitive and achievement testing for disabilities such as ADHD or psychiatric disabilities sometimes needed?

A disability or diagnosis alone, such as ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder or a generalized anxiety disorder, isn’t sufficient to support the need for testing accommodations. The ADAAA requires that the disability result in a substantial limitation to a major life activity. For ETS purposes, this means that the current functional impact of the disability on test taking needs to be clearly indicated. Objective cognitive tests that measure information processing, as well as memory, 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. Results from objective cognitive tests are especially important in determining the need for 100% extended test time. While the disability may not disappear over time, current academic achievement measures may be necessary to determine whether the functional limitations in learning persist despite remediation, intervention or treatment.

What does complete disability documentation look like?

Guidelines for Writing Diagnostic Reports 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 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
  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 deaf or legally blind 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 doesn’t need to be updated.

What is the policy regarding LD and LD/ADHD documentation that is no longer current?

ETS is aware of the cost borne by test takers with LD or LD/ADHD whose documentation exceeds the 5-year limit and who are seeking accommodations for our tests. These individuals may not have insurance to cover the cost of diagnostic reports. To address this concern, ETS has adopted a documentation update policy.

A documentation update is a report by a qualified professional that includes a summary of the original disability documentation as well as additional clinical data necessary to establish the test taker's current eligibility and the appropriateness of the requested accommodations. An update typically verifies the continuing strengths and weaknesses identified in prior evaluations and includes a discussion of current impact on academic performance in general and on test taking in particular. It should also include a history of the types of accommodations received and used and a discussion of the appropriateness of the requested accommodations. The updated evaluation need not include IQ measures if the previous IQ measures were obtained on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-IV) or a comparable measure.

Will ETS be relaxing their documentation requirements based on the ADAAA and the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) guidance?

ETS makes every effort to not be burdensome in our requests for documentation. However, we don’t have the same opportunity as college disability services personnel to meet and speak to each of the 12,000 test takers who request accommodations each year. ETS's documentation process is compliant with the ADAAA. The AHEAD document provides guidance and doesn’t have the authority of legal regulations.

We have instituted a number of shortcuts, such as the COE, by which test takers can be approved for certain accommodations without the need to submit documentation. If the documentation date is beyond the limits stated in our "shelf life" policy, the test taker should submit the outdated material for our consideration. We will make every effort to help the individual find a less costly way to obtain the necessary update. The disability services provider can also assist the test taker by providing a letter that explains why, in their professional opinion, the person needs the accommodations approved for use at their institution. In this letter the disability service provider should also describe how frequently the individual uses the accommodations and how effective those accommodations have been. We encourage test takers to submit a personal statement as well.

Why does ETS not accept documentation from a medical doctor for the diagnosis of ADHD?

Most medical doctors don’t perform assessments that will show the functional limitations resulting from ADHD in a test-taking situation. However, some psychiatrists perform such assessments. Checklists of symptoms and the effectiveness of pharmacological interventions simply don’t provide sufficient information to determine the amount of extended time required or what other accommodations a test taker may need.

What documentation is needed if a test taker has multiple disabling conditions?

It’s always best to provide the most complete packet of information possible when multiple disabling conditions are identified. A complete packet would be documentation of each of the conditions.

Is academic achievement testing required for all disabling conditions?

If the test taker is requesting devices such as a calculator or a spellchecker, achievement testing is necessary to determine the individual's functional limitations in the relevant academic area.

Why is documenting Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) so complex?

Documenting ASD is complex because individuals with ASD often have co-occurring psychiatric manifestations (e.g., anxiety, depression, etc.), ADHD and/or learning disabilities (LD) that may go along with their primary diagnosis. Often, individuals with ASD exhibit behaviors affecting communication and social pragmatics. In addition, the use of medications has become increasingly common in the treatment of ASD. Disability documentation needs to address a variety of these co-occurring conditions that may impact the test-taking process. See Documentation of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adolescents and Adults.

Is an IQ test all I need to document intellectual disabilities?

Intellectual functioning is assessed using a comprehensive measure of intelligence, typically the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-IV) or some other measure of intellectual ability. In addition to a test of intellectual functioning, adaptive behavior must also be assessed in three domains: conceptual, social and practical. See Documentation of Intellectual Disabilities in Adolescents and Adults for more information. See Appendix B for a list of clinical instruments in common use for documenting intellectual disabilities in adolescents and adults.