Discovering Vision Therapy Blog

Seven Ways Vision Problems Affect Standardized Test-Taking

Test-taking can be affected by vision problems


Every year, spring heralds in a new round of standardized tests for college-bound high schoolers.  While it’s a time of great promise, it can also yield surprising disappointment, as a bright student may perform poorly on a test.  These students may not realize that a low score may be due to a vision problem.

Even if a child has 20/20 eyesight, there may be a number of undetected vision problems that can affect his or her ability to take a standardized test.  This applies to children (and adults) of all ages. 

These days, as schools’ performances are coming under increased scrutiny, a student’s performance on tests also impacts administrators and teachers.  More and more schools are being evaluated based on the results of standardized testing.

It’s important that students, parents and teachers understand the six ways vision problems can affect test-taking:

1. Inability to go the distance.  If a student suffers from a vision problem, he or she may still be able to function effectively in a 30 to 40 minute classroom setting.  However, standardized tests can take hours to complete, and an impaired visual system will fatigue.  The student may experience difficulty concentrating, a headache, or sore, watery eyes. 

2. Mis-reading questions.  Students suffering from focusing or accommodation issues may misread questions.  For example, if a child has difficulty differentiating the word “parent” from “patient,” then the answer can be dramatically affected by the mistake.

3. Failing to see decimal points.  Vision problems don’t just occur with word problems either.  The same child who may be overlooking a small word may also fail to see a decimal point or a positive or negative sign.

4. Writing the right answer in the wrong place.  Scantron answers require you to fill in the circle of the correct answer on the answer sheet.  For children who have tracking problems, making sure the answer is filled in within the correct row can be a challenge. 

The difficulty is often increased if the reader skips a question with the intent to return to it and fill it in later.  Remember, one answer written in the wrong place jeopardizes all subsequent answers.

One strategy to overcome this problem is to fill in all the answer circles at once in order to concentrate specifically on that task.

5. Answering too slowly.  Standardized tests are also timed tests, and a child with a vision problem may take an extra long time to read or fill in the answers, especially as the test goes on and they get fatigued.

6. Unfounded anxiety.  The worst part about a child having a vision problem and trying to take a standardized test is that he or she doesn’t realize there is a visual problem. 

In many cases, the student has lived with the vision problem his or her entire life, and simply doesn’t know that the words should not be dancing around on the page, or that it’s not normal to be seeing double.

This results in increased anxiety whenever a standardized test rolls around, which only exacerbates the vision problem.

What can you do about an undetected vision problem?  Because one in four children has an issue that has evaded typical vision screening processes, only a Functional Vision Test conducted by a developmental optometrist will properly identify the issue.

The Vision and Learning Guide

Learn how undetected vision problems can impact a child's ability to learn.  Download your free Vision and Learning Guide.

Posted by   Greg Mischio