Student Wellness Services

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Extra Time on Exams

This accommodation permits students additional time beyond the amount of time set by instructors for the exam. Extra time for exams is intended to replace time students use during exams coping with functional limitations or barriers they experience because of their disability. 

Extra time is not intended to help students improve their exam performance, although many do perform better once barriers are removed. It is not intended to reduce stress typically associated with exams (e.g., having extra time “just in case”).  Nor is it intended as an academic advantage for students to think more carefully about their answers, check their work for errors, or otherwise polish and refine responses.

Extra time on exams is the most frequently requested accommodation at Queen’s University.

Who Receives this Accommodation?

Extra time can be used to address a wide variety of barriers that students with disabilities experience while writing timed exams.  Examples include students with:

  • Reading or information processing disabilities, who require more time to read and comprehend exam questions
  • Written expression disabilities, who require more time to formulate and convey their responses
  • Mental health disabilities who need additional time to use strategies for symptom management, such as calming or breathing techniques
  • Chronic pain, concussions, or other physical disabilities where pain may slow cognition and focus
  • Attention deficits, concussions, or autism which may interfere with concentration and focus
  • Vision loss requiring the use of adaptive technology or individualized support (e.g., reader or scribe) to access exam content and/or communicate their responses
  • Medical needs requiring monitoring such as blood sugar levels or pain
  • Temporary injuries, such as hand or arm injuries, where graphomotor abilities may be hampered

How Much Extra Time do Students Get?

The amount of extra time students receive as an accommodation is informed both by their disability documentation and lived experience of a disability.  Considering this information in the context of academic requirements, advisors try to grant students just enough extra time to address the barriers that students experience, without giving them academic advantage. 

QSAS observes findings from current research which suggests that up to 25% extra time (e.g., 15 minutes per 1-hour exam) is sufficient to address MOST exam-related barriers experienced by university students with disabilities  (Lovett & Lewandowski, 2014).  On a 3-hour final exam, this amounts to an additional 45 minutes.  

Students with more significant functional limitations may be granted up to time and a half (e.g., 30 minutes per 1-hour exam or 4.5 hours for a 3-hour final exam).  Only students with very significant functional limitations or access barriers well supported by detailed documentation receive double time. 

Accessible Exams and Universal Design for Learning

More instructors at Queen’s are adopting universal design principles in their courses, specifically for in-class tests, quizzes, and midterms.  Building extra time into their exams for all students is one important way instructors are reducing barriers.  Using this approach, the access needs of most students with disabilities are met without requiring individualized extra time accommodation. 

In Practice: Last year, a biology instructor administered weekly 10-minute quizzes in classes. Only students with extra time accommodation received additional time. This year, the instructor still gives 10-minutes quizzes, but allows the whole class 15 minutes. The quiz is now accessible to most students, including all students with extra time accommodation up to time and a half. Only students with more than time and a half require individualized time accommodation.

Note: Instructors using this approach to exams must still arrange other exam accommodations listed on a student's Letter of Accommodation, such as separate space, breaks, reader/scribe support, etc.

Lovett, B.J., & Lewandowski, L. J. (2014). Testing accommodations for students with disabilities:        Research-based practice.  New York, NY: American Psychological Association.