Written by Amanda Conway, Careers Consultant at The Careers Service
We all get nervous about taking a test, it’s only natural, but for some students a particular health condition or disability may pose an additional challenge and mean they are unable to give their best performance on the day. Although many employers and test publishers are used to providing adjustments for students with disabilities taking tests, not all students are familiar with this support; what adjustments are available or the best ways to ask for help.
Not sure whether you need any adjustments?
Are you unsure what adjustments are available to you or whether they could help? We recommend taking practice tests available on various sites such as Graduates First. After completing the test, use the results to see how you perform in the time available. It may give you an idea of whether you are able to take the tests on an equal footing to other candidates. It is entirely your decision whether to declare your particular disability to an employer, there is no obligation to, but it’s a good idea to request adjustments in advance so you are not at a disadvantage. The adjustment needs to be appropriate for you/your condition, so we recommend you engage in a conversation with the recruiter to discuss your needs.
When to ask, and what to ask for
Employers are unlikely to be able to predict that you need additional help from your application – even if you have completed an online equal opportunities monitoring form (as this is often processed separately). Applications should provide a box to tick if you require adjustments; if not you will need to contact the employer directly and request additional support. You will also need to do this before you begin a test, and ideally in time for any adjustments to be discussed and put in place.
It’s common for employers to offer additional time in a test (typically an additional 25%) but other adjustments are possible. The employer may have supported an individual before and have experience of what might be appropriate for your condition. Alternatively feel encouraged to make some suggestions yourself too, as you understand your condition better than anyone.
For example, it can be challenging for a student with autism to interpret the hypothetical nature of situational judgement questions or interpret the emotions displayed in facial images in a games based assessment. Discussing these things with your employer could help them explore an alternative configuration to the tests others will face. Other examples of adjustments include:
- Text-to-speech software of larger text modifications available
- Access to a reader or scribe
- Example answers which clarify what the employer is asking/looking for
- An alternative format to an assessment (e.g. a written question or a video chat as opposed to a test)
- Offering extra time or having the time limit removed
Lowering the pass mark for a test is not likely to be offered as an adjustment.
Are some employers more informed than others?
Some employers may be more informed than others; there are no clear trends between larger versus smaller employers or those operating in different sectors. It may depend upon their previous applicants and whether they have been asked for adjustments beforehand. Be aware though that employers are required by law to provide adjustments if requested, so if you need them, ask.
You could look for employers who have signed up to the “Disability Confident” Scheme – they may be more informed about the adjustments that are possible and how they can help applicants. Look for the Disability Confident logo on the recruitment section of their websites or look on the Government’s website to find employers who have signed up to the Scheme.
You can also assess an employer’s awareness by checking out their webpages relating to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which may provide more information on support in the recruitment process.
Alternatively, it is worth consulting the websites or helplines for any charities or support organisations that are related to your particular disability. Similarly, general webpages for disabled student career support sites or your University’s Careers Service and Disability Advisory and Support Service and University of Manchester Assessment Centre (DASS) can also share insights with you too.
The employer may need to refer to the test publisher for guidance, and devise the most appropriate plan of action between themselves. There is more information about test taking on the British Psychological Society’s Test website.