Alternative mode of assessment

In a nutshell...

Alternative mode of assessment

is a “tool” of study law that students who can provide evidence of having an impairment that directly affects their studies can use. If affected students do not have equal opportunities when completing exams in the specified mode of assessment, it is possible to agree individually on alternative modes of assessment.

Legal framework at the University of Vienna

According to section 59, para. 1, item 12 of the 2002 Universities Act (in German), degree programme students and non-degree programme students with an impairment that directly affects their studies have the right to alternative modes of assessment.

In addition, the Statutes of the University of Vienna specify that there are equal opportunities for people with a disability and/or a chronic illness.

You can find the detailed legal texts on the Accessible University of Vienna portal (in German).

Definition and objective

 Outweighing disadvantages

Alternative modes of assessment allow for exams that

  • cover the same contents;
  • require the same performance;
  • but are held in a different/flexible mode.

The aim is to design exams and courses in such a way that affected students do not experience disadvantages due to their impairment.

An alternative mode of assessment does not mean that

  • the affected students' achievements are not assessed;
  • affected students are given an advantage;
  • the examiners “turn a blind eye” or that
  • studies are made easier for the affected students (“being carried through the degree programme”).

The changed mode of assessment comes closest to the initially intended mode while taking the student’s impairment into account. This is what makes studying for people with disabilities (creating more equal opportunities) possible in the first place.  



Person schreibt auf Flipchart (c) Barbara Mair

Alternative modes of assessment aim to compensate for disadvantages resulting from an impairment. For example, if you cannot see, it is essential that contents written on a flip chart are also presented in another form (e.g. digitally). The student performs the same work as other students, but the mode of knowledge transfer and assessment differ. © Universität Wien / Barbara Mair

Exam types and examples

 Types of exams

Any type of exam and proof of performance can have an alternative mode of assessment. This includes exams that take place on site as well as in digital or hybrid form.


Exams in the form of a single exam

  • Oral exams
  • Written exams
  • Multiple-choice tests
  • Combinations


Courses with continuous assessment

In courses with continuous assessment, assessment takes place for the duration of the entire course. Therefore, partial achievements in courses with continuous assessment can also be modified. For example:

  • Mid-term exams
  • Presentations
  • Active participation (e.g. discussion)
  • Lab work
  • Submissions (e.g. term papers, theses)
  • Excursions, field trips, museum visits, etc.


When does an alternative mode of assessment make sense?

  • Written exam instead of oral exam: e.g. speech impairment, speaking anxiety
  • Oral exam instead of written exam: e.g. visual impairment, impaired fine-motor control of the writing hand
  • Prolonged exam duration in written exams: e.g. for students with dyslexia, impaired graphomotor skills or pain, students on the autism spectrum
  • Appointment of Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS) interpreters or speech-to-text interpreters: in oral exams for students with a hearing impairment
  • Use of technical assistance, such as a laptop: e.g. for blind students, impairments of the writing hand, dyslexia
  • Exam in a separate room: e.g. for students with attention or concentration deficits, agoraphobia
  • Other alternative mode of assessment:
    • Written paper instead of participation in an excursion (e.g. for students with reduced mobility or a chronic illness)
    • Written paper instead of giving a presentation (e.g. for students with social phobias)
    • Other type of achievement to compensate for frequent absences (e.g. for students with a chronic illness)
  • Extended submission deadlines: e.g. due to acute episodes/worsening of an illness or prolonged hospitalisation (e.g. rehabilitation, therapy)

Procedure for claiming an alternative mode of assessment

Exams can be modified in two ways to meet your needs based on your impairment:

  • Direct communication and an agreement with the lecturer/examiner (option 1)
  • Submitting an application to the directorate of studies (SPL) [JP1] and presenting this application to the lecturer/examiner (option 2)

In some cases, submitting a formal application (option 2) can make more sense and/or be necessary. Please discuss your situation with your teachers/examiners and/or the Accessible Studying Team or the responsible directorate of studies. Please read the regulations by the individual directorates of studies (SPL) (links below) and check whether your SPL recommends one of the two options.

Consider which alternative mode of assessment might be most useful and effective for you to outweigh the disadvantages you experience.

Option 1: Direct communication with the lecturer or examiner

Piktogramm Sprechblasen

  1. Discuss the necessary alternative modes of assessment – as soon as possible – with your lecturers/examiners directly and agree on the practical implementation.
  2. Together, record what you agreed on in writing (e.g. via e-mail to ensure that all parties involved are well-informed and that the agreement is also transparent for others in the future).
  3. If you are asked to provide evidence of your impairment because it is not obvious, please read the information about the provision of evidence (in German).

Option 2: Submission of an application to the directorate of studies (SPL)

Piktogramm Dokument

  1. For your application, you require a medical certificate providing evidence of your impairment issued by a medical specialist: Decide if you
    • wish to submit this certificate to the Accessible Studying Team. On the application form, the Accessible Studying Team will note the relevant impairments in section 1.
    • wish to submit this certificate as an attachment to your application to the SPL.
  2. Complete the application form.
  3. Submit your application to the responsible SPL.
    • The directorates of studies provide information on their websites about how (in what form) and to who you have to submit your application.
    • You have to submit a separate application for each degree programme (as well as for each extension curriculum (EC) and teaching subject) to the responsible SPL (for example, separate applications for the degree programmes in Chemistry, Sport and History).
  4. Wait for possible enquiries and/or a notification e-mail informing you about the decision.
  5. When your application has been granted, you can agree on the practical implementation of the alternative mode of assessment with your teachers/examiners.
    • Please contact them as soon as possible.
    • Together, record in writing what you and your teachers/examiners agreed on (e.g. via e-mail to ensure that all parties involved are well-informed and that the agreement is also transparent for others in the future).

Regulations by individual directorates of studies (SPL)

Procedure for individual degree programmes, extension curricula or teaching subjects

Overview and contacts

SPL 01, SPL 02, SPL 03, SPL 04, SPL 05, SPL 06, SPL 07, SPL 08, SPL 09, SPL 10, SPL 11, SPL 12, SPL 13  (FUSK), SPL 14 (AF), SPL 15, SPL 16, SPL 17, SPL 18, SPL 19SPL 20, SPL 21, SPL 22, SPL 23, SPL 24, SPL 25, SPL 26, SPL 27, SPL 28, SPL 29, SPL 30, SPL 31, SPL 32, SPL 33, SPL 34, SPL 35, SPL 36, SPL 37, SPL 38, SPL 39, SPL 40, SPL 41, SPL 42, SPL 43, SPL 44, SPL 45, SPL 46, SPL 47, SPL 48SPL 49

Letter of recommendation by the Accessible Studying Team

Until February 2020, the SPL and the Accessible Studying Team issued a so-called “letter of recommendation” in many cases. These letters of recommendation remain valid, provided that no changes are necessary. If the content has to be changed, you have to complete the application procedure specified above.

Reporting your needs in due time

If your application is granted or if you received a “letter of recommendation” (issued until February 2020), your teachers/examiners are not automatically notified and you are not automatically registered in the relevant university system.

A granted application merely confirms your right to the alternative mode of assessment and provides a solid basis for communication. You have to independently contact your lecturers/examiners in all your courses/exams and inform them that you require an alternative mode of assessment. This is also due to reasons of data protection. Furthermore, some impairments occur in episodes or phases. Therefore, affected students might not have the same needs at all times. An automated system could not take this into account.

Therefore, contact your lecturer or examiner as soon as possible to discuss your needs.