Alternative Testing Guidelines

A core expectation at MSU involves faculty control and responsibility for testing in their courses. Most students with disabilities can take their examinations in the usual manner, along with everyone else, and RCPD staff encourages them to do so. But occasionally, a student in a class will need to arrange an alternative method for taking course examinations due to a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability.

Course instructors--in collaboration with the appropriate administrative unit (College/Department/Program)--are responsible for providing testing accommodations in accordance with the RCPD VISA and in consultation with students and RCPD specialists. Students are expected to present the VISA document to faculty at the start of a semester or at least 7 days prior to the need for the accommodation, and are expected to confirm alternative testing arrangements with the instructor well in advance of each separate exam thereafter.

In cases where accommodations are intensive including: time allocations exceeding 50%, cases where assistive technology is prescribed on the VISA document, or where private testing rooms are stipulated (such as when requesting a reader or scribe), RCPD has seven (7) testing spaces reserved on a priority basis to facilitate accommodation.

Given RCPD space limitations and the University's continued goal towards inclusion, students with disabilities will primarily remain in or near the classroom or department for which they are taking an exam.


Eligibility for Alternative Testing:

  1. Talk to professor or TA about getting accommodations well in advance of each separate exam. Your instructor is responsible for providing your accommodations, so you should remain with/near them for exams whenever possible.  
  2. If all options have been explored and your instructor/TA cannot provide your accommodations, you may submit an online request with the RCPD office to reserve an alternative testing room. This request will go into a queue for processing and approval. Please remember that the RCPD is a backup option for alternative test proctoring, and space is limited.
  3. Exam requests to the RCPD office may be submitted online via and must be entered no less than 7 days in advance (14 days for final exams).
  4. Once the RCPD has reserved a room for you, you will receive a confirmation email (you are also copied on a confirmation email to your instructor). Read carefully and follow any further instructions in this email.

Tools for Accommodation:

Sometimes students with print-related disabilities (severe learning disabilities, blindness, low vision, the inability to use their hands) are allowed access to technology to complete an exam. RCPD can facilitate the use of adaptive equipment such as computers with screen readers or voice input, talking calculators, electronic text magnifiers, Braille writers, and digital book players). A student registered with RCPD is often allowed extended time when using such equipment. When a student is using assistive technology for an exam an electronic version of the exam is often necessary.

Alternative Testing Environments:

In most cases, students should be required to take a test in the same classroom at the same time with the other students. If an accommodation demands the exam be administered in a place other than the regular exam site, efforts should be made to provide a setting free from interruptions and distractions. The location should also provide adequate privacy for working with a reader, scribe, or adaptive equipment if necessary. Proctoring should be provided. A student should not be expected to cope with distractions in hallways and other public areas. A good option is a vacant classroom or departmental office. In rare situations where an appropriate testing site cannot be arranged by the instructor, the student may reserve an alternative testing room with the RCPD office.


Whatever testing procedure is adopted, it is important that it measures the student's knowledge of the course content and not the student's disability. If unsure of the student's disability status or in need of clarification on individual accommodations, faculty may contact RCPD.

Students are expected to speak with faculty regarding testing accommodations when they present VISAs, and should confirm alternative testing arrangements with the instructor well in advance of each separate exam thereafter. Working collaboratively with the student is the best way to implement testing accommodations. Students must request testing accommodations with a reasonable advance notice: RCPD requires 7 days (14 days before a final exam), and faculty are encouraged to mention any such deadlines in their course syllabus.

Often, faculty members have understood presentation of a VISA as evidence that tests should be administered at the RCPD. In an attempt to correct this misconception and to provide guidance to faculty and student alike, RCPD offers the following clarification:

Testing Formats:

  • Reader
  • Scribe
  • Enlarged Print
  • Braille

Testing Accommodations:

  • Extended time: Student is allotted a specific percentage of additional time on tests/quizzes/exams (i.e. on a 1 hour exam, a student with 25% extended time receives an additional 15 minutes, for a total of 1.25 hours on the exam).
  • Reduced Distraction Seating: Location where distractions are minimized. This can be facilitated with strategic classroom seating and student provision of distraction reducing aids such as earplugs.
  • Separate Testing Room: Nature of student's disability may necessitate providing a testing room which is separate from the classroom. Separate Testing Room does not always indicate the need for a completely private room, and it may be possible to situate students with similar testing needs within the same alternative testing space. Instructors are encouraged to discuss options with students and to seek guidance from RCPD to clarify specific needs and determine the degree to which specialized assistance may be needed.  When a reader/scribe is needed, RCPD can send these individuals to a designated room on campus under your supervision (personal office, departmental conference room, etc.).

Solutions for Supervising Exams

  • Begin exam before regularly scheduled test time so student finishes at the same time as the class.
  • Split extended time by beginning exam early and staying later.
  • Finish and/or take the exam in a departmental office or conference room suitable for testing.
  • Be flexible- allow the student to take an exam at a different time and/or date if appropriate.
  • Check with Classroom Scheduling (517-355-4622) to identify a neighboring classroom without a subsequent arriving class where the test can be administered.
  • Allow TAs to proctor exams in a separate room for students requiring testing accommodations.

(View Complete Testing Guidelines)