Many (most?) universities have a system of allowances for students with particular medical conditions/learning difficulties including dyslexia, dyspraxia and others. The most common allowance is extra time in exams. Sometimes this can be an extra half or whole hour but in other cases can be, for example, 8 hours allowed for a 3 hour exam.

There are various arguments in favor of giving this extra time but of course the merits of doing so can also be debated.

When the student graduates, as far as I know no universities include a record of this extra time on their official transcript. This appears to hide an important piece of information from a potential employer and also makes it very hard to compare one set of grades with another or to interpret the significance of any particular set of grades. Of course an employer might not care how long it takes a student to solve a problem or write an essay as as long as they do it well. But for some employers it might make a crucial difference.

Why don't universities provide this information on the official grade transcript that a student gets?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Note that comments can only be moved once; further discussion will be deleted. Comments asking for clarity on the question are always welcome.
    – eykanal
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 16:00
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    I removed the pros/cons from your question; if you want to post about the pros and cons of this from your point of view, you can write an answer your own question. That way people can vote on the answer and offer constructive criticism on it, separately from the question. (I have also deleted the comments in which people engage in debate about those pros and cons; feel free to use the chat link above for that.)
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 0:27

16 Answers 16


Since nobody seems to have mentioned it yet,

it is very likely illegal

In the US, at least, several laws (including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act) prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also prohibits unauthorized disclosure of a disability or presumption of disability without the express permission of the person in question. It could be argued that marking those who received accommodations for a disability is disclosing their status as disabled, thus violating this law.

And while it may be helpful for an employer to know if a prospective employee is disabled, this is generally only helpful if the employer wishes to discriminate. Why else would they need to know of the disability during the application process? If an accommodation is needed, this can be taken care of after the application process, once the possibility of discrimination has been severely reduced. Of course, one does need to disclose a disability to receive accommodations for it, but only if one wants accommodations. For example, as a disgraphic, I cannot write legibly and type most of my work. If I were working as say, a software engineer, I would not disclose because I need no accommodations (and the disability is therefore irrelevant to my job).

This source explains it far better than I can, but it seems

Under Section 504 and Title II, recipients and public entities may not provide different or separate aid, benefits, or services to individuals with disabilities, or to any class of individuals with disabilities, unless such action is necessary to provide those individuals with aid, benefits, or services that are as effective as those provided to others.
Essentially, because notating use of accommodations is not related to to providing "aids, benefits, or services" to help mitigate the students' disabilities, it is prohibited by law as discrimination on basis of disability.

Incidentally, the College Board and ETA got in trouble for this exact action a few years ago. source 1 source 2 - note that SAT flagging was removed after the article was published

On a further note, many feared this would allow abuse of the accommodations system, but these fears proved unfounded. In fact, many students, including me, were not able to get the accommodations they needed in a timely or even any manner. They've supposedly reformed that this year, but we'll see how that works out...

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    BrianDHall did mention this in his answer, but it’s worth repeating. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 3:17
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    +1 Very informative citations. Wish this was the topmost answer. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 8:07
  • This is very interesting and thank you BrainDHall too. If I understand correctly there is currently no case law relating directly to universities?
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 10:14
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    If this is the case, I would interpret OP's question as "Why is it illegal?" - It stands to reason that anybody who requires extra time in an exam may also require extra time in completing tasks for their employer, enduring a higher cost to them. If someone is going to take longer to complete a task than someone else, does an employer not deserve to know of this before hiring them, seeing as it will cost them more money?
    – ESR
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 11:29
  • @EdmundReed The same arguments are generally levied against hiring women because they might get pregnant. General opinion seems to be fire a person because they not performing their task at the expected level, not simply because they are disabled so may have issues going forward.
    – SGR
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 14:08

You already gave the actual reason: to hide it from employers. Why? Because it is irrelevant.

Diplomas/grades from university are the same, for all students. Period. It does not matter how you acquired it, the university recognised you meet the criteria (skills, know-how, ...) for having this diploma. That's all the employer needs to know.

Edit from comments:

The employer just has to know the grades/diplomas are assumed to be given objectively.

Time is irrelevant, because extra time allowance is here to level the student impairments to give him a fair chance at proving his/her skill on the subject. Time is usually a factor because there has to be a point where it's finished. The duration is not a factor of evaluation. Diplomas and grades are the same for all students because they evaluate the skills/knowledge of the students and not his/her performance.

If an employer needs someone who can do things in some timely manner, they are the one who needs to test candidates on that criteria. Universities just don't do this.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – eykanal
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 13:37
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    Does your argument suggest that when employers carry out tests for applicants, as suggested in your question, they should provide time extensions for applicants with disabilities or not?
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 19:33
  • "Duration is not a factor" is easily disproved - students regularly do not complete exams in time and so it is obvious that some students would get more marks if given extra time. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 7:04
  • Duration is not a factor of evaluation. Teacher do not grade student differently depending on whether they had extra time or not, as this would negate the purpose of it. Timely completion of an exam is definitely a factor though, but all students are given the appropriate time to do so.
    – M'vy
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 8:34

College degrees are not a tool for evaluating employment eligibility.

Despite the way it has been used in recent times, college diplomas are a certification of higher education in a particular field - they were not designed to be a measure for employers to look at and evaluate for hiring employees, and they still aren't designed that way.

There is a strong association between having a higher education degree and getting a job - and that is because employers do look at the higher education their prospective employees have.

This doesn't obligate the school to modify their curriculum for those employers. While there is an incentive, because schools that have a high number of graduates find employment in their field of study are far more popular, this is a secondary goal of education, and always has been.

You can argue otherwise if you wish, and some academics may even agree with you, but the point is they don't have to agree with you, and they don't have to disclose additional personal information about a student just because it would be convenient for you. And that includes any 'extra time' they may need to complete course materials.

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    I don't mean you specifically - I mean the generalized 'you' that would argue that disclosure of this type of information would be desirable.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 18:58
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    Speaking anecdotally from the perspective of hiring in industry, I've never paid any attention to the listed GPA of an applicant, even when hiring recent graduates. The presence of a degree is just used as a first-pass filter to reduce the volume of low-quality applications. Grading standards are highly variable between institutions and even departments, so a GPA tells me very little. Even if it did, a good student is not necessarily a good employee. Finally, once a candidate has just a few years of relevant work experience, the GPA (and largely, the degree) is completely ignored.
    – Dan Bryant
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 23:05
  • @DanBryant How do you decide who to interview if you don't look at the grades of recent graduates? A lot of people have degrees of one quality or another.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 10:21
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    @Lembik, I'll give some small weight to the reputation of the institution they attended, but mainly I'm looking for work experience (even if it's part-time) or extracurricular activities that relate to the job. In evaluating those activities, I'm less concerned about technical skill (they won't have much yet): rather, how well will they work with others?
    – Dan Bryant
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 13:55
  • It would mark people as having some type of disability, which the university may not be allowed to disclose. Noting on the transcript that the student used extra time is equivalent to disclosing that the student has some form of disability that allowed them to receive this extra time.
  • It is tedious to keep track of which students are allowed extra time and which of them actually used it and more importantly, for which subjects. E.g. I have dyslexia, but do not recall ever using extra time (note: this is not true for everyone with dyslexia).
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 0:29

Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against University Interests

Disability accommodations serve the interests of the University in a variety of ways, and anything that penalizes, prevents, or causes students not to seek appropriate accommodations (such as fear of forced or unauthorized disclosure, or an "asterisk" on their grades) is harmful to these interests. Just a few of these interests:

  • legal and ethical obligations to serve disabled students (Americans With Disability Act of 1990 in the US, FERPA, civil rights laws, among multiple others, and many more in other nations). Office of Civil Rights gives very specific, related advise on what should and should not appear on a transcript in primary/secondary education, which is similar in many respects to post-secondary education:

May special notations, including asterisks or other symbols, appear on a transcript for a student with a disability who received accommodations in general education curriculum classes? In general, no. Because the use of accommodations generally does not reflect a student’s academic credentials and achievement, but does identify the student as having a disability, it would be a violation of Section 504 and Title II for a student’s transcript to indicate that the student received accommodations in any classes. For example, a notation indicating the use of Braille materials is not related to whether that student mastered all the tenth grade objectives for her literature class. The only purpose of such a notation is to identify that student as having a visual impairment. Because accommodations are generally understood to include aids and adjustments to enable a student with a disability to learn and demonstrate knowledge, this notation could identify the student as having a disability and therefore constitute different treatment on the basis of disability.

  • legal and ethical obligations to protect private medical information (dozens of laws restrict and control medical information in most parts of the world)
  • ethical obligations to assist under-served and at-risk populations (unemployment rates of the disabled are often twice that of the general population, due to both unavoidable restrictions from the disability and unlawful discrimination)
  • practical interest of the University in having more enrolled students (tuition, etc) would be reduced by not sufficiently accommodating disabled populations
  • practical interest of the University in having access to the best and brightest students, regardless of disability status - losing a brilliant and talented student because you didn't provide a wheelchair ramp, or testing accommodations for someone with dyslexia, or a reader for someone with other vision impairment, would be purely counter-productive
  • practical interests of ease of assessment for instructors. Most tests are designed as "power tests", where time should be more than sufficient for all students, and having more time would not improve your score (you either know the material or you don't). Practical issues of room availability and class scheduling limit the time slots available, so rather than give everyone 4 hours when most don't need it, holding the room and instructor (and possibly torturing students who will not benefit from the extra time, but feel compelled to stay until the last minute to review and obsess over answers), it's simply easier to only give extra time to those who really need it to be assessed fairly.
  • revealing accommodations would have the de facto perverse incentive of discouraging students from getting assistance that would help them succeed in University, and hopefully also in life beyond, as they would correctly fear this private information would be required to be disclosed, potentially harming their future careers. They would thus be positively encouraged by the University to suffer and be more likely to fail, in violation of all of the above reasons for the University to provide appropriate accommodations in the first place.
  • as a simple matter of marketing, it would be hard to imagine how the University would want to risk it being known that they will take your money for years, claim to accommodate you and give you an equitable education, and then mark your transcript in such a way that it could make it harder for you to find a job
  • Universities often report and are judged partly on their placement rates (unemployment) of their own alumni, and providing any information on their graduates that could risk making it hard for them to find an retain gainful employment - especially by making it easier to discriminate unlawfully against their own alumni - would be a remarkably self-destructive stance to take without a compelling good reason

It's just better for the University, selfishly, to provide appropriate accommodations - even if you remove legal compulsion to do so. Of course, you can't actually ignore that - there are laws at multiple levels that restrict how a University must handle such things as medical records, including anything that would disclose a medical condition or disability. Saying that the transcript would only be disclosed on student request does not magically absolve them of their responsibilities, or legal and ethical duties under the law.

Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against Business Interests

Requesting transcripts is generally safe under the law as it is easily defended as having a legitimate business interest, while at the same time not exposing the business to information they are legally prohibited from considering. Adding an indicator of disability accommodation to a transcript would have a perverse incentive of making it legally dangerous and inadvisable to accept or consider transcripts at all.

Why? At least in the US, employers are partially protected from discrimination claims by making it clear that they did not have access to, request, or accept information that could be used to engage in unlawful discrimination, such as receiving medical diagnosis data, disability information beyond disclosure of a requirement for reasonable accommodation under the law, etc. Heck, even credit reporting agencies must take steps to mask medical collection data to prevent disclosing anything related to a diagnosis. Simply having an indicator on a transcript means that the business can be expected to conclude, by any reasonable person standard, that the applicant must have had (or now has) some form of disability that previously required an accommodation. Their decision making is now tainted, and they cannot plausibly claim they didn't even know about the disability and thus couldn't be discriminating on that basis.

When it comes to information you are legally prohibited from considering, it is simply better that you not have the information. Otherwise it is far easier to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, exposing your enterprise to very real penalties and expense. It would thus be wise for the business to stop accepting transcripts entirely, to avoid even the possible appearance of impropriety.

Finally, as a practical matter, it is not in the interest of business itself to discriminate when reasonable accommodations in the current workplace were in fact 'reasonable' or not necessary at all. It is simply better that agents do the best they can to pick proper employee placements, and giving them access to information they should not consider (legally, ethically, or practically) harms their ability to make good decisions that are in the best interests of the business itself.

Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against Student Interests

Disability disclosure is a difficult decision (where, when, who, and if to disclose at all) that is hard for anyone with a disability to make. If anyone, such as the University, will be revealing that information to others - or de facto revealing it to others by stamping official transcripts with such identifying information, even if not fully specific - then students must reasonably struggle with whether or not they should disclose to the University at all. This makes it harder for them to make a decision that is best for them, and makes it harder to get accommodations that would benefit their education, lives, and careers.

Further, a de facto required further disclosure of such medical status to attempt to seek employment effectively robs the student of a measure of their basic human right to privacy, dignity, and self-determination. You could say that an employer might want to use the information to further their own agenda, but you must inevitably admit that this is explicitly done to reduce the effective power and control of individual students over their own disclosure and records. Whether you think that is an acceptable trade off or not, it is clear that this would be against the interests of students with disabilities at the very least.

If the business has a compelling reason to care about how fast someone can complete a given type of assignment, they are absolutely free to conduct or require their own assessment. They would need to be ready to defend it's bona fide business interests, among other legal considerations, but it is a common enough practice if appropriately narrowly tailored to the actual requirements of the business.

Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against Wider Societal Interests

As evidenced by numerous laws protecting the rights of the disabled - and by extension every one of us, as we may all develop such a disability at any time in our lives, temporarily or permanently - there is a wider societal interest in ensuring anyone in need of reasonable accommodations receives them, both in education (at all levels) and in employment, with full dignity and without discrimination. To have capable members of our society rendered unable to contribute for any reason other than inevitable necessity, is a waste of human potential to contribute to themselves, to their communities, and to the whole of our civilization. Morality compels us instead to charity, lest these otherwise capable people be rendered destitute and homeless, which is a far inferior result by any modern measure. The mere possibility of such outcomes as discarding human life and potential also makes real a fear that the very same fate will befall us, as factors outside our control could wrack us at any moment - compelling us to act out of personal interest, if not out of moral compulsion.

It is thus possible that there could even be a compelling business reason for an individual to use medical, disability, or accommodation information to discriminate against a person for their own business's profitable gain; yet this does not mean that we need to enable such a discrimination through our institutions or personal action. There are lots of things that could bring a few people profit at the expense of our society, ethics, and personal/collective rights, and it is part of our job as citizens to decide if we should compel - or even passively permit - such activity. Over the last century, modern societies have consistently ruled that discrimination of this type - even if individual actors might actively want to engage in it - is harmful and should be put down, for the good of all of us (collectively and individually).

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    @Lembik For an example of legal guidance: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/… While this one is about primary/secondary school, it explicitly addresses how a transcript/report card should not contain "unnecessary disclosures of disability status". So, actual lawyers with the Office of Civil Rights seem to think the laws apply, and thus the laws are very much relevant, and the University can most certainly be held legally liable for what they choose to put on a transcript, regardless of who requests it. The law is not so trivially counteracted.
    – BrianH
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 18:53
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    @Lembik Think of it like this - You openly acknowledge that an academic transcript is something that employers would request when interviewing candidates - not being able to produce one would put a candidate at a severe disadvantage. So the information included on such a transcript is not so neutral a matter, to both the student and the university.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 19:04
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    @Lembik As referenced in the link, the authority granted to the OCR - and thus the relevant laws - is from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, among others (IDEA, FERPA, etc). The interpretation is just specific to the context of primary/secondary education - the laws themselves are broad, applying to federally funded programs, employment, etc, and there is no exclusion for Universities (except perhaps religious/private institutes that do not take federal funds). Beyond that, it's quite explicit what is and is not allowed, and what a transcript is for.
    – BrianH
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 20:08
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    Very good answer. The implicit premises of the original question presume a function of colleges and universities that is eminently disputable, and, without which, the question doesn't make sense. Indeed, high-speed solution of contrived problems is not usually the goal of any enterprise, academic or industrial, but it's easy to measure?!? :) Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 22:53
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    Excellent answer throughout. I concur that businesses do not want this information in transcripts, or in anything else related to a job application. This sort of information is only useful to discriminate against disabled people and ethical employers do not even want the appearance of temptation of impropriety in this area. Every interview training class I have taken emphasizes that point very strongly, and I would not want to work with somebody who expressed more than a passing curiosity about such information. The OP’s persistence on the topic is off-putting. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 3:15

Just a minor sub-answer, but to my mind reiterating an important point: although the "school model" of assessment makes limited-time-exams a crucial player, this is artificial, almost entirely for convenience, and to serve certain assumed ends.

For example, it is convenient to assume that being able to do more things in a shorter time frame is a sign of greater competence. But this is (observably, to me, in graduate mathematics and research mathematics) not the case. That is, some very competent people are quick, and some quick people are competent, but there's a very flimsy connection in the first place. So, in principle, I'd give students taking an exam as much time as they wanted... also having observed that having extra time if one is clueless doesn't help anything (for a reasonably structured exam).

In other words, the artifactual aspects of academic assessment are already heavily caricatured (only teach what can be tested?), and the arguable "corruption" of allowing extra time really doesn't change anything (although admittedly would create logistic complications).

True, if "extra time" meant months or years or decades, then, sure, that might be "unfair", ... but, still, if a person did finally understand a thing ten years later, what's the problem?

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    I don't find this argument convincing. Perhaps a model that gives a different perspective is one of language fluency (as opposed to problem-solving). If one is given an open-ended amount of time and a dictionary, and allowed to look up every individual word, then are they usefully fluent? I think the threshold between "yes" and "no" is in hours, not months. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 8:00
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    @DanielR.Collins, whether in languages or in mathematics, a sort of fluency is exactly what I'm interested in gauging, and with questions where a large part of the issue is appreciation of context, it's hard to acquire that appreciation in an hour or two or three. I'd claim that without a substantial understanding of a language, a dictionary is grossly inadequate for understanding, in the sense that a literal translation is often wrong. That kind of thing. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 14:15
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    Well, I'll just say that my example is not theoretical; this a concrete thing that happens with our institution's English proficiency entry/placement testing. And it does indeed suffice for people to pass it after sitting at the test for, say, half a business day or more. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 15:25
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    Mathematics is sort of a bad example. It is essentially immune to extra time because if you didn't understand it to some degree in the first place, you're not going to figure it out in the extra time you're given for the exam. For some exams in other subjects you have a text to look at for reference ("open book") and, given enough time, anyone who can understand the book can get a perfect score. In that case time is an extremely important factor. It is limited with this in mind, so the book is only useful if you know where to look in it. Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 3:20

I think M'vy's answer gets the gist of the issue, but I'd like to expand on that a little.

Essentially, the intent of assigning grades is to summarize a student's knowledge/mastery of the content of a particular course. Adding a rider such as "student received extra time on exams" defeats the purpose of the grade, since you are no longer summarizing.

To take it further, suppose we decide that extra time on exams is a relevant piece of information that should be noted on transcripts. But immediately we can see that there are other factors that could contribute to a student's mastery that aren't already included on transcripts. For example, how much did this student take advantage of study groups or university-provided tutoring? How about outside tutoring, such as paid third-party services? Why not also detail how the student was evaluated? Some professors might weigh homework quite heavily, some might not include it at all. As you can hopefully see, there are simply too many outside factors that contribute to a student's knowledge and mastery of a particular course for all of them to be noted in transcripts. This of course leads us right back to the concept of summarizing all these factors into an easy-to-digest grade.

If an employer needs to hire with a specific emphasis towards one or more of these factors, it is their responsibility to interview with that in mind. This is why some interviewers give practical problems to be solved in the interviews. It's also why interviewers for entry-level positions will often ask questions about the structure of the courses on the transcript, in order to gauge whether the particular skills the employer desires are actually reflected in the final grade for the course.

  • Thank you for this interesting answer. This is slightly tangential to your answer but, I do think there are two views about what an exam assesses. As an example of another view, a major university I know has 8 math questions per paper for their final year undergraduates. An average student could maybe solve 3 in the time and a genius could solve 6 in the time. However an average student could probably also solve 6 in twice the time. So if you give twice the time, what are you to make of their grade? Clearly this depends on the precise detail of their disability.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 18:46
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    @Lembik I could argue that an average student could solve these problems faster than a genius by familiarizing themselves with the materials more thoroughly, while a genius might be pursuing other academic endeavors, such as a double major, and not have the type of time to dedicate to studying the exam. This is also tangential, but makes for 3 competing views on what exams actually evaluate, and shows how complex it is to try to present all these extemporaneous factors into a single college transcript.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 19:01
  • In the history of the university, I would claim no non-math genius has ever solved 6 questions on such an exam. The questions are really hard :) You are of course right however that a transcript is always a summary and can't be exhaustive.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 19:07

Either the accommodation levels the playing field or it does not.

If the accommodation does not level the playing field, the university should not have given it. Since the university did give it, the university believed that it leveled the playing field.

Since the university believes that the playing field was level, there is nothing to disclose. Employers already know that universities do their best to level the playing field. With a playing field leveled to the best of the university's ability, the university believes that all grades have the same meaning.

It is the university's job to determine whether or not people meet the minimum standards required for receiving each diploma they grant. If a person does not meet those standards, they should not get a diploma. If they do, they do not deserve any asterisk or black mark.

In any case where the university feels such a mark is necessary, it should instead evaluate whether the recipient meets the minimum standards or does not. If they can't do that right, they have no business granting degrees.

Surely at least some people who receive accommodations easily meet the minimum standards requires for the degree and even exceed them. Why do those people deserve a black mark? And once you're deciding on an individual basis, as you must to be fair, you're back to just not giving people who don't meet the minimum standards a degree.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 0:30

One interpretation of your question might be "if some students are less good at the material and need more time to write the exam, isn't it true they don't really deserve the mark they earned and employers should be warned they are not as good as they appear?" And the answer is that your premise is flawed. The extra time isn't to compensate for a student not being as good at the course material as others, but not being as good at test mechanics as others. Since most employment bears no resemblance to tests, it's important to test mostly knowledge, and to have test mechanics almost irrelevant to the final mark. That isn't possible for all students.

To elaborate, the student's mark in the course is supposed to reflect their knowledge of the material and, in some cases, ability to perform specific tasks that might be included in a job. So if the course is "introduction to C++" the mark should indicate how well they know the basics of C++ and how well they are able to write and debug C++ applications. Anyone hiring the student will expect that two students with the same mark have a similar knowledge of C++ and would perform similarly on the C++ aspects of a job.

Now the thing is, if one student is very slow when handwriting answers, even though they can type code quickly, and know the language well, then that fact alone might mean they didn't manage to answer the last question on an exam, causing them to earn a mark substantially less than their actual mastery of the material. Giving that student extra time makes their mark accurate once again. Or if a student writes code well, but has some processing issues that make it difficult to "match items on the left with definitions on the right", again their mark may not truly reflect what they know, but instead their ability to handle the mechanics of a particular type of question. As educators, we often don't even like giving marks, but if we're going to give them, we want them to be accurate, otherwise they are pointless. Accommodations, whether in the form of extra time, allowing answers to be dictated to a scribe, omitting certain kinds of questions (eg multiple choice), not taking marks off for spelling when the intent is clear, or whatever, all serve one purpose: making the student's mark accurately reflect what they know, not how they do on tests.

Since almost nobody is employed to answer multiple choice questions or write page long essays on topics related to their education, this works out well for everyone. The student gets a mark that reflects what they know, and the employer gets a mark they can use to help in their decisions on who to hire. Adding the details of what it took to make that mark a fair and accurate measure of the student's knowledge is completely pointless. The point is that it's accurate as-is, and needs no disclaimers or asterisks.

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    I understand the angle you are taking but let's take your slow at writing example. The only way extra time could level the playing field is if the student doesn't think at all during the time they are writing slowly. If this is several hours this seems very unlikely.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 18:01
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    That's a strange assertion. The people at the Disabilities Office are actually trained on this and know how to work out extra time. If the person is so slow at making marks on the paper with a pen that the actual handwriting becomes the bottleneck rather than the thinking, gaining extra time to write out what they have thought of will not generate extra thinking time. It's possible that the student takes an hour longer than the others to write out the answers, but is only given a half an hour extra because they can do some thinking while they are slowly writing. I don't know; this isn't .... Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 19:57
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    ... my specialty so I happily leave it to those who are trained in it. Generally very few of my students use all their time anyway (and the last to hand in typically get the worst marks) so I don't believe that extra hours of thinking would actually raise many marks where the bottleneck is how much of the material you know and can remember. Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 19:58
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    @Lembik - Mozart was able to compose new pieces of music while he was writing up music he had already composed in his head. But Mozart was a genius. Most of us mortals can't do new problem solving while we're writing up the solution to something we've already worked out in our head. Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 16:24
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    @Lembik - Be my guest. It seems like an extreme form of multi-tasking. I don't know anyone who can do it. For example, my spouse has a publications list a mile long and is a sought-out collaborator, very creative problem solver in the lab, but can only do one thing at a time, and will get frazzled if you ask a question while merging into traffic. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 14:43

As many answerers have pointed out, indicating the usage of extra time or any other accommodation is a way of pointing out that the student has some disability, and is a violation of some established regulations, not to mention an invasion of privacy.

It's also not often relevant to an employer. Disabilities come in a broad spectrum, and an asterisk noting that a student "got extra time on x exam" doesn't really offer much useful information to the employer, other than the fact that the student had some recognized disability at the time that allowed them to be given an accommodation. This doesn't mean that the disability was permanent, or offer any sort of information about the type or magnitude of it. The university can't attach that information to the footnote without violating privacy regulations.

For example, if a student received extra time on two exams during their sophomore year of college due to a recognized disability of major depression, and then received treatment and has had no accommodations or disabilities since then, it isn't really relevant to the employer that at one point in their life they had a disability.

If an employer wants to know if a prospective employee has a disability that could impact their job performance, the best (and most legal) way to learn is to ask them. If they're concerned abut whether or not their degree qualifies them for the position, they should evaluate their performance and knowledge in an objective way that they can apply to all employees, because degrees from different schools (even the same school but different professors) offer a different evaluation of the student's performance and knowledge.

Because this information is not particularly relevant to employers, universities don't see a need to start collecting and cataloguing it. Recording who actually used their offered extra time, and communicating that on a transcript, requires time and effort from university staff. Not to mention that if a university is known for publishing that on students' transcripts, students who have disabilities may choose to attend a different school where their disability is not a part of their final transcript, hurting the university's enrollment rate, with no net gain.

  • I agree with much of this but "f they're concerned abut whether or not their degree qualifies them for the position, they should evaluate their performance and knowledge in an objective way that they can apply to all employees, " just moves the problem to a later test doesn't it? Should they also give extra time to dyslexic applicants in this test?
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 17:59
  • 1
    @Lembik That depends on if it's relevant to the skills needed for the job. If the job requires fast, accurate reading, and someone who is dyslexic is unable to perform at the level expected for an entry level applicant, then no, the employer is not expected to give them extra time if the skills being assessed are directly affected by time. However, most job skills are more open ended, and wouldn't require a timed test as opposed to some type of questionnaire or performance evaluation. Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 18:02
  • Almost all tests are timed in the sense that they have to fit into a fixed amount of time for practical reasons. So a logic test that Google gave you, say in an interview or before the interview, would also be timed and if given in a university the same student would have extra time. I am not sure employers routinely give extra time for tests they pose to interview candidates.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 19:15
  • @Lembik In America at least, employers are required to make "reasonable accommodations" for individuals with disabilities. Essentially, if you have a recognized disability that may require you to need some sort of "extra" provision while working that is not standard to all employees, the employer must provide it so long as what's requested is legitimate and reasonable. This does include reasonable accommodations for job interviews. You would still need to have all the qualifications/skills, and the accommodation can be denied if it places a major burden on the employer. Commented May 6, 2017 at 22:16
  • All true but have you heard of a major high tech company giving extra time for an interview or test they set job candidates?
    – Simd
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 5:01

I will pose the following question: What would you do in the case of a faculty member who gives all students unlimited time on all exams, gives them help on the exam if they need it, and allows them to take the exam as many times as they want? The instructor then inflates grades as the final step in this seemingly unending saga.

I don't see any way in which one can effectively monitor how grades are assigned to students regardless of whether they do or do not have disabilities.

  • A pessimistic take :)
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 20:00
  • 2
    And if this process (apart from the asserted inflation of grades) includes all the students learning all the stuff, what the heck is the problem? That the alleged successes "are meaningless" because there were no failures? Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 22:54
  • @paulgarrett: I would think that the "inflates grades" step implies that students did not learn all the stuff. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 8:03
  • Right. What matters is whether or not the grades accurately reflect the students' knowledge of the subject. Universities do their best to ensure that they do. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 9:39
  • @DavidSchwartz One source of confusion/conflation here is between "knowledge" and other sorts of skills that grades might attempt to reflect. Math exams, language proficiency and others test more than the recollection of facts.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 9:49

Without necessary accommodations, we'd be testing the student's disability rather than his mastery of the curriculum. That is, we'd be measuring the extent to which his disability limits his ability to demonstrate what he has learned.

In other words, accommodations are needed so we can test the student, not the disability.

To disclose the existence of the accommodations would defeat this. It would be like saying, "The grade this student with a disability received doesn't count." And there would be no point in providing accommodations in the first place.

A system that doesn't allow a student with a disability to be tested fairly is discriminatory and illegal in the United States. (I would like to hear about how things work in other countries -- see What protections exist in the European Union against discrimination in an educational institution?.)

  • 1
    One question is if "The grade this student with a disability received doesn't count." is really the only way anyone sensible would interpret a description of extra time on a transcript. That interpretation contradicts almost everything said in the comments to this question for example. The general view has been that extra time doesn't in any way invalid a grade. I don't think you can have it both ways unless we believe that everyone involved in grading in universities is morally good but everyone else, be they in academia on hiring panels or employers outside academia is bad or ignorant.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 9:44
  • It would indeed be interesting to understand the legal position outside the US. In fact even in the US it seems there is no existing case law and that the legal opinion expressed here in an answer is (potentially) novel.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 9:46
  • @Lembik re your second comment: my impression is that there is case law about this. // Re your first comment: I'm not sure I understand what your position, or your point, is. What I'm saying is that in my opinion flagging defeats the purpose of providing accommodations. (Not everyone agrees with me. For example, LSAT accommodations are flagged.) Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 16:14
  • a) If you could quote the case law that would be great. b) My position was simply that one of the arguments proposed was internally inconsistent. That is not to say the conclusion was wrong of course. c) In general, I find that the wish to arrive at a fixed (and in my view morally good) conclusion leads a lot of people into muddled thinking in their attempt to justify this conclusion. To borrow from mathematics, the theorem may be correct but the proofs are not. d) Very interesting about LSAT, thank you. I wonder how they justify their decision.
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 19:28
  • @Lembik - Everything I've read I found by googling. Give it a try. If you get stuck, you can write a new question, where you provide specific information about what you're looking for, what you've found so far, and what you're still hoping to find. Here's something interesting to get started with: wrightslaw.com/blog/…, wrightslaw.com/news/09/bartlett.sotomayor.htm. Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 19:34

The is no good case for mentioning the extra time.

The reason is that the work seeker could have contracted their disability after graduation and there would be no record of it on their university report, assuming someone has no disability because they did not have it when graduating shows a gross lack of diligence on the part of the recruiting team.

If they cannot detect the disability in the interview then it cannot be that bad. If they detect it and it matters then what may or may not have been on the report is irrelevant. A bit like hair styles and dress sense in a specific job, they may be relevant but they may have changed since graduation.


Extra time is given to balance the student's disability compared to other students. Thus, if you want a "completely objective" certification (i.e. to prove that the extra time given is appropriate), you would need to quantify the "degree of disability" to compare that with the extra time given. And that's impossible. And without this comparison, it's useless to know the amount of extra time given, unless you want to discriminate the disabled person in question.

  • No, extra time is given to improve the evaluation method, mitigating some of the intrinsic failures of the exams Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 9:00

(if we skip related legal issues...)

An exam is a strongly artificial situation. In real life, most persons never faces a situation where:

  • they can not know nor plan the activity until the moment of start it, and activity is only a few hours.
  • they can not use external resources like internet, books, own notes...
  • they are not in a team or posibility to ask a collegue or team leader
  • ...

These characteristics made exams invalid in lots of situations because they fail in their objective of measure learning stage. In some other cases, exams must be improved: different support media, variable allowed time, etc, in order to still use it in some subjects or with some persons.

I known universities that doesn't use exams at all; in primary and secondary school, continuos evaluation is a rule. We could say exams are deprecated.

Allow me to finish with a joke: I can not imagine any school that adds to its reports "we have need to adapt our obsolete evaluation method to still use it with this person".


Because non-disabled students would likely react negatively to finding out or being reminded that disabled students were given special treatment over them. People tend to like to think that they're the ones getting the special treatment or that everything is fair - not that they're the ones at a disadvantage. And universities generally want to keep their customers happy, like other business.

  • Not receiving extra time is obviously not a disadvantage, since extra time's entire purpose is to reduce or eliminate any advantage held by the abled student.
    – Nij
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 4:00
  • 1
    Having shorter time to finish a timed exercise is quite obviously a disadvantage.
    – user35358
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 22:22

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