I have ADHD (real, diagnosed ADHD, not just "I-say-I-have-ADHD-because-it's-trendy" ADHD). I have never taken the extended time exams that are offered for ADHD students, because I have never needed to, and it was diagnosed just a year ago. However, exams do stress me out and I am certain I would do better on them with some more time - but this is true for almost anyone, not just ADHD students. Thus, would it be unethical to make use of the ADHD services offered to me?

(Edit: You might ask - why would you want to / feel it is justified? Well, hypothetically say ADHD students only achieve 75% of their "non-ADHD" potential in a standard-time setting. Maybe, even though I am doing well, I would be doing even better if I did have the extended time or didn't have ADHD, i.e. due to my exhaustive preparation, even with the disadvantage of my ADHD I am still managing to get a high score. But, with a "level playing field" [extended time for me], I would be at the top of the class. However, I still don't know if this is logical / ethical.)

  • 27
    I've had a student on the autistic spectrum whose policy I really respected: he would always try to prepare and give the best he could, and would ask for the extra time if he felt that his medical condition had prevented him to fully expressed his potential in spite of that. At any rate, the answer to your question is crystal clear: it is perfectly fine to accept extra time for a medical condition.
    – Olivier
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 7:50
  • 3
    I would caution you against using extra time instead of really learning the material well. You might get a better score but end up less informed. (Hopefully you're taking classes that mostly cover things you really want to know or which are useful to know.)
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 19:03
  • @Olivier Why didn't the student just ask extra time each time? It seems that the student would have saved time and energy during the exam (no need to get up, walk up to professor, speak, go back to seat)
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 12:35
  • @JackBauer He didn't ask the extra time when he felt his condition had not impinged on his performance. I guess he did so because he didn't want his work (and himself, perhaps) to be systematically viewed in the context of his special needs. As for the direct material remark, in my university, students only have to keep woking at the end of the normal schedule and we go to them to check that they have a receipt (given to them at the beginning of the semester by an independent office) offering extra time, so no energy is wasted in not mentioning it to the teachers beforehand.
    – Olivier
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 23:03
  • @patterson this was a noble question, and warming paragraphs after it! (after the title) of that! Best wishes to you & to everyone else - hope nobody has corona. //Will. Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 16:31

5 Answers 5


Absolutely not. If you meet the full requirements set up by your University, it is perfectly ethical to use all of the resources made available to you. ADHD is a real medical condition and medical experts and policy makers have decided that special test accommodations are the fairest solution. Accommodations like this are based on medical decisions, not whether you are doing well in the course. Take the extra time if you want it. There is no need to feel guilty about doing so.


I would say it is definitely not unethical. Those are the rules, there is nothing wrong with taking full advantage of them.

I am dyslexic and would never think of not taking my extra time (fortunately no more exams for me!). There have been some cases where I didn't need it (school level maths mainly) I either asked if I could leave with everyone else or sat for 15 mins and reread my answers/twiddled by thumbs.

It is important to remember most exams aim to test your understanding not reading/writing speed (or why ever else people need extra time).

I agree giving people extra time is a pretty blunt tool and not ideal in that pretty much everyone gets the same amount extra irrespective of their particular needs but I think that is a more logistical issue with how the system is setup and would be quite hard to fix and assess.


The purpose of an exam is to measure how well you understand the material. Giving you extra time should make this measurement more precise, so you should take it. Keep in mind that if you really didn't know the material, more time wouldn't help, anyway.

I say this as someone who got extra time throughout school because of a physical disability and now does curriculum development at the college level.

  • 12
    But following this logic, why not give everyone extra time?
    – Bitwise
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 14:19
  • 10
    At UCLA, final exams are three hours long for that reason (and to allow them to be comprehensive). But the idea is that someone with a disability is more disadvantaged by time pressure than other students, even if they're doing OK. By analogy, a really fit person may run a mile in a decent time carrying a 50-poind backpack, but it's a worse test of their running ability than running without the backpack.
    – jaia
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 3:35

I have dyspraxia sometimes known as developmental coordination disorder. Most of the problems I have extra time cannot make up for, but I do get extra time if I want it. The reason I get extra time is I write extremely slow it takes me much much longer to write things out and even then my handwriting is barely legible this is due to the small motor skill problems that are a part of my particular brand of dyspraxia. I believe that in cases where you would genuinely struggle or you might not do as well as you could have because of your condition that's when it's ethical to take your time.

In my case this means on any exam that requires short answer questions or essay questions, but not for example a multiple choice exam. I actually did an experiment this term I tried to take my midterms without extra time in both of my classes, because of the nature of the first exam which did not require long answers I was barely able to finish. However, the second exam required longer answers and by half way through my hands were screaming from the pain of trying to write fast enough to finish. I did not do as well in this exam. I have decided for the second one to ask for extra time for the final exam mostly due to the pain from trying to write fast enough, but not ask for extra time on the final exam for the first class.

Each class is different the decision of whether to take your extra time to compensate for having ADHD in order to be ethical should be made on a class by class basis taking into consideration how much you believe your ADHD will effect you on the exams for that particular class. No one can make these decisions for you they are personal judgement calls.

  • Old people or pregnant women should think about accepting reserved seats in trains or using priority lanes in shops on a case-to-case basis?
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 12:39
  • I have dyspraxia too, but I had the right to use a computer (aka typewriter) or a secretary for exams so that what I write is legible. and on top of that I had a 1/3 time bonus. You might want to ask for that if you still are in education. I always asked for 1/3 time, but didn't always use it, as like you short answers were easy, but long ones tiresome. (the secretaries were for writing essays)
    – satibel
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 12:18

It depends on the subject matter. In math and physics, you are typically given way more time than you need. Most 3 hour exams can be completed in one hour or less, if you have mastered the subject perfectly. The reason why some exams are 3 hours is to minimize the failure rate due to trivial problems, like making a mistake somewhere, and then having to backtrack and start the exercise anew, causing you to not finish on time and possibly failing the exam. Only the students who don't study well will experience the time pressure during an exam.

This is why I would not ask for extra time, unless I had an handicap that causes me to to take way more time to read the problems and/or write up answers.

  • That very much depends on the time allocation policy, which varies widely among lecturers.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 20:17
  • -1 This answer seems to imply that anyone who cannot finish the exam in one hour either “d[id]n't study well” or is “handicap[ped]”. This is insulting. Some people are simply faster at answering exam questions than others, just as some people are faster at any other task. This is true regardless of their medical conditions (or lack of). Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 10:29

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