Creating Accessible Exam Papers
Helpful and practical guidelines to assist in formatting exam papers to make them as accessible as possible for all users.
These guidelines do not supersede any specific exam adjustments recommended for individual students. These should still be implemented.
This guidance was produced by the Technology Information and Communication Group (previously a subgroup of the Student Disability Committee).
It is impossible to make one document accessible to all users but the following suggestions can assist in making the document as accessible to as many users as possible. This should mean fewer requests for exam papers in alternative formats.
Some general formatting guidelines are:
- Size/Type –minimum font size of point 12 should be used.
- A sans serif type face such as Verdana, Calibri or Arial.
- Avoid underlining and use of italics. It is better to use bold to format documents.
- Ensure documents are left aligned, not fully justified.
- Use a paper thick enough to ensure that the print on one side of the paper is not visible on the other.
- Contrast/Text Colour – a dark text on a light background is best and good contrast between the two for example black font on off white background.
- Use an off white paper which is matt not glossy.
- Number pages to aide with navigation.
- Try to ensure no information is conveyed by the use of colour alone e.g. don’t make most important items red. If unavoidable then put the red items in bold too. This will mean that those with colour blindness can also identify the important items.
- When using abbreviations and acronyms give them in full on the first occasion they are used.
- Make sure charts/tables/images have meaningful labels and follow the principles above.
- Try and make sentences as short and simple as possible, avoiding long paragraphs and blocks of text without simplifying the text. Advice on this can be found at:
Electronic/ Online Exams
Electronic exams are becoming more common and the principles are just the same. The main elements to bear in mind when producing an electronic exam paper are:
- Ensure that there is sufficient contrast between the font colour and the background colour i.e. black font on off white background. Is it clear to readers how they can change the colour of the font and the background colour easily?
- Can you navigate around the document using the keyboard only i.e. without using the mouse?
- Is the document compatible with assistive technology i.e. can it be read by screen readers such as Jaws and with voice recognition software such as Dragon.
- Rich Text format (RTF), Word and HTML are generally regarded as the most accessible formats
- Avoid the use of PDFs
QuestionMark Perception is a specialised system which can create multi-choice type assessments for delivery over the web. The authoring tools offer little formatting choices and for most students these are acceptable. However for those students requiring reasonable adjustments regarding formatting contact the Educational Design and Engagement Team (EDE) as soon as these requirements are known so that they can create a custom template to meet the student’s needs. The team can be contacted via the IS Helpline:
For more information on QuestionMark Perception visit the website: QuestionMark Perception information webpage
Request an alternative format
To request this document in an alternative format, such as large print or on coloured paper, please contact Viki Galt, the Head of Disability Information on the contact details provided above.
BSL users can contact me via Contact Scotland BSL, the on-line British Sign Language interpreting service. Find out more on the Contact Scotland BSL website.