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The importance of extended writing time

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Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

As a Swedish university, Lund University needs to ensure that students with disabilities find themselves in a comparable situation with other students. Course coordinators or examiners may need to make adjustments so that the digital teaching and examination is accessible to students with a disability.

Some students may have a disability that impairs working memory and automation. What eventually comes naturally to most people can take longer to learn and to also recall from memory, for example buomas (word recognition), formulas and multiplication tables. Because of this, the student may need longer time for an exam.

Many text assignments require that the student retain and process information in their working memory, while also reading and trying to work on the assignment based on the new information they obtain. An impaired working memory means it takes significantly longer perform such tasks compared to students without such an impairment.

When it comes to mathematics, it is also important to have a well-functioning working memory. To be able to perform a mathematical calculation, you first need to understand the task, and then keep the information in working memory while you perform the calculation step by step. The student will need to spend a lot of time going back to revisit the original information in order to be able to proceed in the task and to obtain adequate tools from memory to be able to solve it.

When the student is required to write text, the writing does not happen automatically either, instead extra time and effort is required into making sure the right letters and words are written down.

For some students, it is the ability to concentrate that is impaired. The student needs to circle their thoughts several times, which means that the time they need to finish a task increases.

Examination on equal terms

Giving these students extended time on exams compensates for the extra time it would take them to complete the exam. The extended time can be absolutely crucial for the student to be able to participate in the examination on equal footing with their classmates.

A student who needs an extended time period for a physical in person exam will also most likely need extra time for online and home exams; because of impaired working memory, lack of automation and or lack of ability to concentrate are also of concern.

If time is not a decisive component in the exam, you as a teacher can allow for extended time for all students. Then no one will need to ask for extra time and students who have the need for it, but are unaware of any information about educational support, can also get the time they need. It is important then to think about to not add anything extra to the exam to fill out the time, as this will defeat the purpose of adding extra time to the exam.

“…. My disability, Dyslexia, means that I need more time to read the exam question – I often need to read the question several times to have a grip on what is being asked, with an extension I have time to both read and answer”

“…. Getting extended time allows me to concentrate better on the assignment at hand to be written. With ADHD, I need a while before I am “in place” mentally and can start structuring how to write my answers“

“…. I live with Bipolar and sometimes suffer from anxiety and depression which means that I neither sleep nor eat properly. This means that all forms of exams are difficult. Online exams with extended time work quite well but I think Zoom monitoring is problematic because it triggers my anxiety, as I experience it, watched”

“…. Online exams with extended time suits me well. Then I can stay in my home environment that does not require much social interaction with other students. As a student with Autism, I need clear instructions for the online exams!”

By Christina Rowa & Carina Argelius, Accessibility Officers. 

“…. Online exams with extended time suits me well. Then I can stay in my home environment that does not require much social interaction with other students. As a student with Autism, I need clear instructions for the online exams!”

“…. My disability, Dyslexia, means that I need more time to read the exam question – I often need to read the question several times to have a grip on what is being asked, with an extension I have time to both read and answer”

“…. Getting extended time allows me to concentrate better on the assignment at hand to be written. With ADHD, I need a while before I am “in place” mentally and can start structuring how to write my answers“

“…. I live with Bipolar and sometimes suffer from anxiety and depression which means that I neither sleep nor eat properly. This means that all forms of exams are difficult. Online exams with extended time work quite well but I think Zoom monitoring is problematic because it triggers my anxiety, as I experience it, watched”