Standards for Accommodating Exams for Students with Disabilities

Student Disabilities Services (SDS) is the office designated by the Provost to determine reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.  Students requesting accommodations are required to submit documentation of their disability according to the SDS Documentation Guidelines available on our website at:  https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/lrc/sds/index.php. The SDS Documentation Review Committee reviews all documentation to determine reasonable accommodations.  The process is deliberate and thorough in order to ensure consistency of the process and access for students while maintaining the academic integrity of the University. 


SDS encourages faculty to provide exams to students approved for accommodations, however if this is not feasible, SDS is available to administer exams.  The SDS staff works diligently to provide accommodations and has developed very strict standards to protect the security of exams and ensure academic integrity while facilitating reasonable accommodations.  In order to create a consistent system for students receiving accommodations, we request that professors and academic departments administering accommodated exams use the standards below that are used by SDS when accommodating exams. 


  1. Students are accommodated only after receiving written approval of accommodations from SDS. Instructors receive a letter verifying the specific accommodations for each student.  In certain graduate programs, the process is centralized and written approval of accommodations is sent to a designated individual in the program. 
  2. Students are expected to arrive at the exam site at least 10 minutes prior to the exam.
  3. Students are required to read and sign the Penn Code of Academic Integrity prior to receiving their exams. 
  4. The beginning and end times of the exam are recorded and students are informed about the end time prior to the beginning of the exam.   Students are given notice five minutes prior to the end time of the exam.  Students who refuse to return their exam on time are considered in violation of academic integrity and are reported to the professor. 
  5. Students are required to leave phones, IPods, computers, backpacks, coats and other materials with proctors.
  6. Students will not be permitted to take their exams without written approval from the professor if they arrive more than 15 minutes late for exams.  Time missed by arriving late is not added to the remaining exam time.
  7. Students must be proctored.
  8. If there are any irregularities with student behavior, the details are immediately reported to the professor.
  9. Exams are returned to the professor or contact person designated by the professor.  A signature from the person receiving the exam is required.


Definitions of Specific Accommodations:

  • Alternative test location (not a separate room) - refers to the provision of a testing environment that is less distracting than the main classroom.  SDS fills rooms to 1/3 of capacity with a maximum of 15 students.  The space must be quiet and is proctored at all times.
  • Separate room - students will have a room alone (with a proctor) or a proctor in visual contact at all times.
  • Extended time (25%) (50%) or (100%) more time for in-class tests and quizzes
  • Ability to write multiple choice exams directly on the test (no Scantron forms)- If Scantron forms are required, a proctor can complete the form, but the copy of the exam must remain with the Scantron to verify that it was correctly completed.
  • Computer access for essay exams - The computer being used should only have access to a Microsoft word document with the thesaurus and grammar check disabled.  Access to the internet or any other program is blocked.  The student's personal computer should not be used.  Students may have access to Power Point or Microsoft Excel, Windows Media Player or VLC Media Player if required by the professor as part of the exam administration.  If you cannot provide a computer that meets these specifications, the student must be accommodated at SDS.
  • Permission to record lectures on audiotape with professor's approval - Professors must give the student permission to record the lecture to protect intellectual property rights and confidentiality of classmates where appropriate.
  • Use of basic calculator - the basic elements of the exam must not be measuring basic math computation.   Calculators that are programmable or that have memory storage will not be permitted without the approval of the instructor.
  • Access to voice activated software (Dragon Naturally Speaking) - available on computers at SDS.  Student must be familiar with the software prior to the exam.
  • Reader - a proctor will read exam questions or read selections in the exam for the student.  The proctor will not answer any questions.  The student will require a separate room with the proctor.


The Student Disabilities Services staff is available to answer questions by calling (215) 573-9235.