Recently, I was telling one of my friends about how my high school would enlarge state standardized tests for me using an overhead projector so that I could see them better. My friend, who also has low vision, had the same experience with taking standardized tests using a projector because they had trouble reading graphs on the math and science portions of the test. Since our school districts had limited funding and resources for assistive technology, we were able to make do with the projector method, and I’ve since found ways to improve it. Today, I will be sharing my tips for using an overhead projector for standardized testing.
When I talk about state standardized tests, I am referring to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. In Virginia, these standardized tests have no impact on my final grade, but I would have to pass a certain number of tests in each subject area to graduate high school. Since the online test does not support screen magnification or other assistive technologies, my school district would order a large print paper copy of each test for me.
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Why not just use a large print test?
- For many standardized tests, there isn’t the option to customize a font size or size of images, all students receive a large print exam in the same font size, which may not be large enough for them to read.
- I have fluctuating vision, so there are days that I need larger print and image sizes so that I can access materials, and I can’t necessarily predict when those days will happen.
- For non-standardized tests, teachers would sometimes forget to enlarge the test and I would take them with my case manager using this method so that I didn’t have to wait to take the test.
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My ideal accommodation
My ideal accommodation would have been having access to a video magnifier or portable CCTV, so I could magnify my test to a greater degree on a smaller screen, with the same ability to change the contrast of the image. Having access to a video magnifier would also help to minimize the flickering effect that some overhead projectors can have. However, this option was not available for me, so the standardized projector was a good substitute.
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Getting accommodations approved
When filling out accommodation requests for the SOL tests, we would request a large print copy of the exam to be taken in a small group/individualized setting. During the test, I would have access to an overhead projector that was not connected to a computer or the internet, and that would project the exam directly onto the whiteboard screen. Since this accommodation did not use any specialty/assistive technology or personally owned devices, it was approved fairly easily.
Setting up the testing environment
I took my standardized tests in an otherwise empty classroom with at least one proctor, if not two. The test sat on a large desk underneath the projector, and there was two desks pushed together at the front of the room with a chair, scratch paper, and pens. In order to increase readability of the projected image and decrease my photosensitivity, overhead lights were dimmed.
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Using the projector itself
One question at a time would be displayed on the projector screen. I would verbally ask the proctor to adjust various settings on the projector or flip between questions and various images, as well as adjust contrast settings. If a question was too difficult to read, I would have it read out loud and then write it down in larger print on the whiteboard or on a separate page. I was free to stand up, sit down, or move around the room to work through the problems.
Filling in information on the test
Typically, I would work through the problem on the whiteboard or scratch paper, and write the letter of the answer on the paper or board. After that, I would walk over to the paper copy of the text and circle my answer in the answer booklet, as well as write the letter next to the question. This was helpful when it came time to transcribe my answers to the bubble sheet, which was done by an additional proctor.
Did the projector help me increase my score?
Having access to an overhead projector definitely helped me increase my test score because I was able to clearly see different images and distinguish words more easily than I could just by reading them on a page. I had to take my Geometry SOL several times, and the projector was a tremendous help with enlarging different graphs and formulas that I would need to use. While I ultimately did not receive a passing score on my Geometry SOL, I did come very close to doing so when I had access to the projector.
While using an overhead projector for standardized testing is not always the most ideal accommodation, I’m grateful to my school district for providing me with a tool so that I could magnify my tests to a greater percentage without developing intense eyestrain. For students and teachers in a similar predicament with limited funding for assistive technology, the overhead projector can be a great solution for increasing font and image sizes on standardized tests without altering the test itself.