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Timing: Frequent Breaks

An explanation of effective ways to use frequent breaks in assessment.
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Updated on: December 11, 2000
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Timing: Frequent Breaks

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Types of Assessment
Accommodations

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Description

Some students require frequent breaks during testing. This might mean providing a break on one subtest but not another. On long tests, it may mean providing breaks at predetermined intervals.

This accommodation is made by the teacher or test proctor. Usually, a set time for the break is scheduled (e.g., after completing the first subtest). If the student is old enough, he or she may be allowed to signal when a break is needed; however, the IEP would need to determine the appropriateness of this prior to the testing situation.

The decision for when to allow a break should be based on data from the IEP regarding how long a student is able to maintain sustained concentration and involvement in the assessment task. Consideration also should be given to whether the proposed break time interrupts a sequence of items or section of a test - which may, in fact, interfere with the student's performance.

Students should be briefed about the break policy before the test starts (e.g., when it will occur, who will alert the student). The teacher or designated adult should inform the student when it is time to take a break. Supervision during break time is important to ensure that the student actually benefits from the break, as well as to guarantee that no inappropriate supports are available (e.g., student uses a dictionary to define a word on the test).

Some teachers prefer to have students who need this accommodation take the test in another room, primarily for the following reasons:

  • Frequent breaks may distract other students.
  • Students may become distracted by their classmates who are at different places in the assessment. For instance, directions given to other students may interfere with the student's concentration.
  • Some older students may be embarrassed about needing an accommodation and would prefer to keep it private.

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