A memory aid is an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper on which students write cues to help trigger the answer to an exam question. A memory aid sheet should not contain a synopsis of course material, but rather, it should include acronyms, acrostics, diagrams, rhymes, and /or formulae (in the case of a math-based exam). These cues or triggers enable the student to prompt recall of information previously learned, thus allowing them to answer the question. Without an actual understanding of the material through previous study, a memory aid will not be much use to the student.
Recommended Use of a Memory Aid
Some students have documentation of a medical condition or learning disability that results in a significant memory deficit. These students generally have great difficulty retrieving information from memory even though they have carefully studied and understood the material. A memory aid is intended to provide students with such memory deficits with an equal opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of course material. A memory aid will not be suggested for a student unless we have disability-related documentation that strongly supports the need.
A memory aid should not be used when:
- It is not supported by the appropriate disability-related documentation
- When any or all of the content it includes jeopardizes the integrity of the course
- If the content in the memory aid is such that it would give that student an unfair advantage over other students
The term "essential requirement" has a specific meaning in the field of human rights legislation and is defined as "that which cannot be adapted without compromising the basic objective of the task." In other words, it cannot be done in another way without significantly altering what is intrinsic to the task or activity. If the information, as presented on the memory aid sheet, is deemed to be an essential learning objective or outcome of the course, it should not be allowed. For example, if the learning objective or outcome of the course is to know the formula, it should not be allowed on the aid sheet; however, if the learning objective or outcome of the course is to demonstrate the ability to apply the formula, then it could be allowed on the memory aid.
In the eyes of human rights legislation, sometimes being fair means treating people differently and giving each person what they need to be academically successful. Accommodations for students with disabilities helps to ensure all students have equal opportunities to achieve success by compensating for disability-related symptoms, while at the same time demonstrating mastery of the course content.
- The SAS advisor first reviews the student’s disability-related documentation to see if it supports the use of a memory aid. The advisor explores all options and also reviews whether any other type of accommodation would meet the same need. If this is unclear, the SAS Advisor may request that the student provide additional or updated disability-related documentation.
- Once determined that the memory aid is the appropriate accommodation, the advisor will contact the professor to discuss the essential course requirements and the process of approving the memory aid.
- The advisor acts as a consultant to assist professors and students with the fit of this accommodation for a specific course. The advisor may help problem solve specific challenges, provide sample memory aids as examples and clarify the process involved in using an approved memory aid during an exam.
- Students must approach their SAS advisor and make the request for a memory aid accommodation at the beginning of each semester in which they will be requesting this type of accommodation.
- Students must be registered with SAS in the current semester and have provided to their advisor with any updated documentation required.
- Before creating the memory aid, students must clarify with their professor and SAS advisor what a typical memory aid should look like or include.
- The student must then create their own draft memory aid (single-sided, letter-sized 8.5" x 11" page) and connect with the professor to show them the memory aid they have created. This must be completed by the agreed upon date, which is typically 7 days prior to the exam.
- The student is responsible for making changes as requested by the professor and re-submitting the final copy of the memory aid to the professor at least 5 working days prior to writing the exam.
- The student must follow these steps for each exam to be written in the course if the accommodation continues to be appropriate.
If the memory aid is not submitted to the professor for approval within the agreed upon time frame, it is possible that the student will not be allowed the use of the memory aid for that exam.
If a professor is asked by a student to approve a memory aid for an exam, it is recommended that professor verify the request for memory aids with SAS. The SAS advisor will consult as indicated above. Once presented with the memory aid by the student, the professor reviews the memory aid sheet and chooses one of the following options:
- Approve the memory aid sheet as is;
- Ask the student to edit the memory aid to remove any parts that have been deemed inappropriate and resubmit for approval;
- Disallow the memory aid sheet entirely because the memory triggers on the sheet are deemed to be essential criteria or learning objectives as outlined in the course syllabus.
The professor should always notify both the student and the advisor of any edits that are required, and where time permits, allow the student to submit an alternate memory aid sheet for consideration.
When the professor has approved the memory aid sheet, they must sign it and send a copy of the memory aid over with the student's exam to SAS, or send it by email to the Exam Centre.
After the student completes the exam, the SAS Exam Centre staff will return it and the memory aid sheet to the course instructor.