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Designing a Test for Students With Learning Disabilities

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 4/22/2015

Do you have students in your classroom with learning disabilities? What can you do to help them succeed on tests? Here are some suggestions for creating a test to meet their specific needs.

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    Test Design Suggestions

    Many students have learning disabilities. Among the students in your classroom you will undoubtedly find several different types of learning disabilities. No matter what those disabilities are, you will have better success at measuring the students' level of learning if you take care with your test design. The tests taken by your mainstream students will be too overwhelming for the learning-disabled or special ed students.

    You can give them a modified version of the test without watering it down. Let’s take a look at some things you can do to design your tests to meet the needs of these students.

    • First, make the directions very simple and easy to follow. Try to avoid lengthy directions, and get right to the point. For example, instead of saying “circle the letter choice that corresponds to the correct answer,” say "circle the right answer.” You do not want to confuse the student with obscure and wordy directions.
    • Design the test so that it can be completed in one class. Students with learning disabilities generally get extended time to complete tests; however it may still take them a lot longer to complete. Try reducing the amount of material on the test. Test them on only key concepts; make every effort to eliminate unneeded information as much as possible, or present it in another test on another day.
    • The type of test questions utilized is an important area in which modifications can be made.
    • Multiple choice questions are great, but give them three choices instead of four.
    • Fill-in-the-blanks should always be accompanied by a word bank.
    • When using a word bank, avoid putting extra words in the bank, and alphabetize it.
    • For matching questions, break them up into groups of five. Don’t create a section of matching where you have 25 or so choices, they will be manageable if they are sectioned into smaller groups.
    • If you have to do an essay section, allow students with learning disabilities to give you a bulleted list. They have difficulty formulating sentences, so let them just write down their thoughts.
    • Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that you should allow students to write their answers right on the test. If they have to transfer their answer to an answer sheet, they may make errors, so eliminate that altogether.

    Hopefully the end results of these changes will be a test that's easier for the student to take. You aren’t making the material easier, but you are making its presentation simpler.

    Many students with learning disabilities have trouble retaining information and become very anxious when taking tests. Teachers need to try to eliminate unnecessary stress. Hopefully, the next time you are creating a test design, your learning disabled students will find the test just a little bit easier.