AAC Fair Testing Practices: Test Materials

October 28, 2021 by - Leave your thoughts

AAC Fair Testing Practices: Test Materials
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For individuals with AAC needs to be able to demonstrate what they know in assessment situations, we need to think carefully about the test materials and consider what adjustments are needed. In this continuation of our series on AAC Fair Testing Practices, we’ll explore this in some detail.

TOPIC 9: Test Materials

There are two categories of test materials for us to consider: those that are part of the assessment process for all learners and those that may be needed primarily by students who use AAC. In both cases, teams should discuss what is relevant, fair, and helpful to a particular student. Detailed notes should be kept to aid in replicating the set-up for re-testing at a later point in time or for use in other assessments. 

Additionally, teams will want to keep the purpose of the assessment in mind as they address this topic. Knowing why we are conducting this particular assessment helps us make informed decisions about the materials. Changes in test materials can potentially alter the nature of the assessment, so this is an important factor for teams to consider.

Here are some questions that can help teams make thoughtful decisions about how to proceed.

What materials are needed? Many students who use AAC need nothing more than the standard test materials and their AAC devices in order to participate to the best of their abilities. For others, additional materials can make the test-taking process easier. 

Here are some materials that teams may want to consider:

  • Slant board or easel to hold the test plates/book at an angle that allows the AAC user to see it clearly
  • Sticky notes to mask out particular sections of a test plate or call attention to a particular section of the stimulus material
  • Highlighting tape to draw attention to a particular part of a response form, such as a key word in the question
  • Pointing aids to make it easier to indicate a choice and clearer to determine which item the person is pointing to
  • Visual supports, such as a first/then board or picture schedule

Who will prepare those materials? Teams should discuss who will ensure that the needed materials are ready and available for testing. This can be a shared responsibility so that not everything falls on the shoulders of the assessor, but this is something that teams should decide in advance.

What vocabulary is needed on the student’s AAC device? Individuals who use AAC should have constant access to their communication supports so that they can communicate before, during, and after testing. It is hard to conceive of a rationale for removing an AAC device during testing, even if the SGD will not be used in responding to test questions. Restricting access to AAC means that some learners would not be able to ask questions, seek reassurance, get assistance, request a break, complain, indicate a need for the restroom, or many other things available to their speaking peers.

But having access to their AAC tools is not enough. We also have to consider what words and phrases are available on the student’s AAC device. In an earlier post, we discussed situations where new messages or even entire screens are added to the AAC device specifically for test-taking situations. (You can see that post here.

Teams should give themselves plenty of time to think through these options, determine the students’ vocabulary needs, and designate someone to add the vocabulary in the appropriate place.

Who will make sure that it is programmed correctly? It can be very helpful to use a checks-and-balances system to review the programming and ensure that the changes were implemented in the way that the team discussed. Teams may want to review things like whether all the vocabulary that is needed was actually added with the appropriate symbols and organized in a way that makes sense to the communicator.

Here again, teams need to plan in advance so that there is ample time to teach learners how to use the new vocabulary options and so that they have sufficient practice with the additions before teams are expecting the new words/phrases to be used in testing.


Are there other things that should be considered in preparing materials for testing? Please use the comment section below to let us know. In our next post, we’ll look about ways to make the test administration practices fair for people who use AAC. Stay tuned!

You can view previous posts in this series by clicking the links below.

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This post was written by Carole Zangari

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