What is a Memory Aid or “Cue Sheet?”

A memory aid, or cue sheet, is a testing accommodation used to support students who have documented challenges with memory. It is a tool used to trigger information that a student has studied but may have difficulty recalling due to cognitive processing deficits associated with memory and recall. The cue sheet lets the student demonstrate knowledge material by helping prompt the student’s memory, not by providing the answer.  A cue sheet allows students to equal demonstrate their knowledge material on a test/exam without taxing already compromised memory function. This accommodation is not intended to reduce academic requirements or change the standards by which academic performance is assessed.

A proper cue sheet will not be useful to the student unless the student knows and understands how to use the information it refers to. If the student doesn’t understand the course material, a proper cue sheet will not help. A cue sheet provides support to students with documented deficits in rote memory, sequencing memory, working memory, and /or long-term memory. It helps them recall information that would otherwise be inaccessible to them in a testing situation. A student who requires a cue sheet will provide Student Accessibility Services with documentation supporting the need for this aid.


What does a memory aid / cue sheet look like?

Styles of cue sheets may vary. Generally they can be hand written or typed on a large index card and up to one side of a letter-size page (8 ½ x 11”). Typically the cue sheet should be written or typed in a standard font size (i.e. 12 point font) and double spaced.  At the discretion of the instructor, a cue sheet might include the use of:

  • Acronyms
  • short phrases
  • pictures
  • schematic diagrams
  • formulas
  • names
  • definitions
  • tables
  • sample questions
  • key terms/words
  • charts

A cue sheet accommodation is not intended to reduce academic requirements or alter the standards by which academic performance is assessed.

What a Cue Sheet Is Not

A cue sheet is not meant to record all the facts, concepts or processes being tested. This means that a cue sheet should NOT:

  • Exceed one page (single sided)
  • Include specific examples of how formulas are use
  • Include “answer sheets” or complete terms and definitions
  • Include full course notes or all information from the course which is being evaluated
  • Include open textbooks
  • Serve as a substitute of studying—because a cue sheet will not help if a student has not studied the material

Instructor Considerations

The contents of a cue sheet are at the instructor’s discretion and should not run contrary to the essential requirements of the course. Only the professor can determine whether a cue sheet compromises the integrity of the course.

A cue sheet should not have a synopsis material, but mnemonics (a device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that helps in recalling information) and formulas that would enable the student to solve the problem. If a test is to determine whether or not the student knows specific definitions, having those words or definitions on a cue sheet would make it an answer sheet and  not acceptable. If the definitions were written but not connected to the terms to be defined  this may be allowable, since it will trigger the student’s memory of the correct term. The ideal cue sheet would most likely make little sense to anyone but that specific student.   If remembering the information on the cue sheet is considered an essential learning goal or outcome of the course, it should not be allowed. For example, if the learning goal or outcome of the course is to know the formula, it should not be allowed on the cue sheet; however, if the learning goal or outcome of the course is to show the ability to apply the formula, then it could be allowed on the cue sheet.

Cue sheets must be reviewed and approved by the instructor since the instructor decides the learning goals or essential requirements of the course. Instructors can remove memory triggers deemed to be essential learning goals for the course.

Note: It is understood that some courses do not lend themselves to the use of cue sheets.