At my university, the Office of Disability Services has a disability services testing center that students can use to take quizzes and tests assigned in the classroom, as well as midterms and final exams. There are single rooms with CCTVs and long tables, small cubicle-style areas, as well as other small-group testing rooms. This is an awesome service for students who need a modified testing area, and I am really grateful that I have access to such place to take my exams.
Over the course of the last five semesters, I have learned a lot about what to bring to the testing center, and what to leave back at my apartment. I’ve gone from bringing an entire backpack worth of materials (read more about what’s in my bag for class here) to just carrying a few items. Here are five of the items that I always bring to the testing center with me, and five items I leave in my apartment.
What to bring
Student ID and Government Issued ID
For all exams at my school, the student must bring their student ID so the instructor can verify their identity and student number. The same is true for testing in the disability services testing center. For a couple of my classes, I have been required to bring a government-issued ID card in addition to my student ID. Since I don’t have a driver’s license, I obtained an ID card from the DMV and use that.
Colored Pens/Scented Markers
I use colored pens instead of pencils when taking my exams, since gray pencil lead on white paper provides very poor contrast. I like to bring several colors with me, typically blue, pink, orange, green, and other bright colors. I also bring four different colored highlighters with me for marking multiple choice questions. My pens of choice are Sharpie ultra fine pens/markers, as the rich colors provide great contrast against any color of paper.
I started working with scented markers while studying for my math exams and found that I was able to see numbers more clearly than when I would work with the fine-tip pens.
Why do I use scented markers? Originally, I used them because I got them for free with an online order, but an interesting thing I discovered is that my brain would recognize the scents from the markers I used while studying, and help me remember things I practiced. This is actually a proven study tip- read more about it from Penn State University’s website here..
When working with pens and markers, it’s easy to have ink bleed through to the other side of paper- or worse, transfer to a surface. I request that my test be printed on single-side paper, and I use cardstock paper, sized 8.5″ x 11″, in order to do scratch work. If cardstock is not available, I just put an additional piece of paper between my paper and the desk. I attach all of the materials that I wrote on at the end of the exam, numbering the pages and writing my name at the top so they don’t get separated.
While the disability services testing center provides these for students to use, I like to bring my own pair of comfortable earplugs that help cancel out random noises outside. The pair I use feels very similar to earbuds/headphones without wires. Here is a link to them on Amazon.
A note on white noise
For those who like having a small amount of noise, many testing centers provide white noise machines by request for students. They can be requested when signing in to take the exam. Another friend at a different college told me that they were able to request classical music during their exam that was played on a university-provided CD player, and this helped a lot with their concentration.
Professor Contact Info
I bring a small index card to each exam with my professor’s name, email, office location, and phone number. I get this information from either the syllabus, school database, or from the professor directly. The index card also has my name, student ID number, class name, and class section. This has come in handy many times when the test wasn’t in its correct location, or the proctor had to call the teacher for further instructions.
What not to bring
While cell phones can be stored in a locker at the testing center, I prefer to leave my phone in my apartment. Since I live a two minute walk from the testing center, I don’t find it necessary to carry with me. Why would I carry something just to lock it up?
Backpacks, purses, and other bags can be difficult to store at the center and locate after the exam is over. I prefer to get out of the testing center as quickly as possible, so I don’t bring anything that I have to check in.
One time, I organized everything nicely in a pencil pouch to bring to the testing center. For security reasons, it all had to be dumped into a clear plastic bag once I got to my exam. It’s okay to bring these to exams, but don’t expect that you will be allowed to keep it with you in the testing center.
I have been advised not to bring my own portable CCTVs/video magnifiers because of the potential that the devices can store screenshots of the exam. The testing center provides their own assistive technology devices for students to use, and I have never had any issues using their devices. I made a note in my file that I prefer to use the Onyx CCTVs when testing because the older models can have issues with flickering, which is not good for someone that has photosensitivity.
While it makes sense to take an exam on a familiar device, personal technology is not permitted in the testing center. My recommendation is to write down all of the common settings used and show it to the testing coordinator, who can enable those settings on a testing computer if needed. The university assistive technology department allows students to carry a flash drive that contains the settings they use for common accessibility software, like JAWS and ZoomText, so that students can plug the flash drive into any computer with the software and have the settings that they need.
For more testing-related information, check out these posts below!