Timing and Scheduling Assessment Accommodations

What are timing and scheduling assessment accommodations?

Timing and scheduling accommodations change the allowable length of testing time and may also change the way the time is organized. Timing accommodations give students the time and the breaks they need to complete a test. Other changes may include the particular time of day, day of the week, or number of days over which a test is administered. 

Who can benefit from timing and scheduling assessment accommodations?

Timing accommodations are most helpful for students who need more time than generally allowed to complete a test. Extra time may be needed to process written text (e.g., a student with a learning disability who processes information slowly), to write (e.g., a student with limited dexterity as a result of arthritis), or to use other accommodations or equipment (e.g., audio tape, scribe, assistive technology). 

Students who cannot concentrate continuously for an entire testing period or who become frustrated or stressed easily may need frequent or extended relaxation breaks. It may also help to schedule tests in the morning for students who have greater difficulty concentrating and staying on task as the day wears on. Scheduling changes might also be helpful for students on medications that affect their ability to stay alert for a test. 

Some students with health-related disabilities may have functioning levels that vary during the day because of the effects of medications or diminishing energy levels. For example, blood sugar levels may need to be maintained by eating several times a day at prescribed times. These students could be accommodated by scheduling testing around the eating schedule or by allowing food to be taken into the testing setting. Students who fatigue easily may need to take tests before rather than after a physical education class or recess or may need to minimize extra physical activity on test days.

How are specific timing and scheduling assessment accommodations administered?

Extended time
Extra testing time is commonly referred to as extended time. Not all tests are timed; however, even untimed tests still have some time limits for practical purposes for example, to clear the cafeteria for lunch or to catch buses at the end of a school day. 

Timed tests usually require students to request a fairly specific amount of extra time. For most test-takers, the standard extension is time and one half. This means that for a test that normally takes 60 minutes, a student may be allowed 90 minutes. Double time may also be allowed. Decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind the type of accommodations being provided, the disability involved, and the type of test. For example, if a reader or scribe is used, double time may be appropriate. Usually unlimited time is not appropriate or feasible. 

Sometimes students who request extended time end up not needing it because of the reduction in anxiety just knowing that plenty of time is available. Students who have too long a testing period may lose interest and motivation to do their best work. 

Multiple or frequent breaks
Students who need frequent breaks may not be allowed to leave the testing area or may be required to have someone accompany them to a different room in order to maintain test security. Breaks may be given at predetermined intervals or after completion of a subtest. Sometimes test booklets are divided into shorter sections so that students can take a break between sections of a test (often referred to as short segment test booklets). Sometimes a student is allowed to take breaks when individually needed. If the length of a break is predetermined, a timer might be used to signal the end of the break. Test administrators should document the frequency and length of breaks or rest periods. 

Change testing schedule or order of subtests
If possible, schedule tests at the time of day when a student is most likely to demonstrate peak performance. The schedule needs to be determined before a test is given to make sure that rooms and test administrators are available.

Test over multiple days
Sometimes students are allowed to take tests over multiple days completing a portion of a test each day. This is usually done to reduce fatigue. Great care needs to be taken to protect test security. The schedule needs to be determined before a test is given to make sure that rooms and test administrators are available.