Screen Readers and Text-to-Speech

Screen readers and text-to-speech (TTS) are speech synthesis applications. These applications can be part of the system accessibility settings or can be external applications that can be installed on an operating system. 

Screen readers are most often external software that students use on their device to have all onscreen content read aloud. Screen readers are often used by students who have visual impairments and require assistance navigating from page to page along with assistance reading the text and nontext elements on those pages.

TTS technology is the screen reader functionality available through a device’s operating system. TTS technology reads the text on a screen and provides image descriptions depending on available settings or preferences.

A student should configure assistive technology settings before opening Bluebook to answer preview questions and before exam day. The settings may include verbosity, punctuation, text processing, and other settings as approved. Students need to ensure all settings are configured before beginning the check-in process in Bluebook. On exam day, students won’t be able to adjust these settings after entering the start code at the end of the check-in process.

The College Board has tested with and currently supports the leading screen readers and text-to-speech applications, including:

•    NVDA
•    JAWS
•    Apple VoiceOver and Spoken Content
•    Chromebook ChromeVox and Select to Speak
•    Windows Narrator 

Other screen readers might work with the Bluebook application.  Depending on which other screen reader and which release of that software, some functions may work differently or not at all. If your software is not listed above, try a digital practice test on Bluebook to make sure your assistive technology will work on test day.

Screen Readers

In Bluebook, while answering preview questions and during the digital exam, a student using an external screen reader such as JAWS or NVDA will use the typical/native commands they normally use to navigate a webpage. Most exam pages are structured with the following regions. Wherever applicable, a student can navigate with these regions/landmarks:

  • Bluebook Controls
  • Test timer
  • Test tools 
  • Passage, Image, or Other Source Content
  • Footnotes
  • Referenced content
  • Long description 
  • Question and Answer 
  • Question number
  • Answer options
  • Long description 
  • Question Navigation

In general, the following test components are defined with a heading:

  • Test name
  • Set directions
  • Passage title/poem title (when applicable), etc.
  • Prompts for free-response questions (when applicable)
  • Document title for document-based questions (when applicable)
  • Algorithms and relevant steps (AP Computer Science Principles)


Windows Narrator

Narrator reads aloud the text onscreen. To start Narrator:

  1. Press the Windows logo key + Ctrl + Enter together. Press these keys again to stop Narrator.
  2. Press the Windows logo key + Ctrl + N together to open Narrator settings, then turn on the toggle under Use Narrator.

To stop Narrator from reading at any time, press the Ctrl key. To use your mouse cursor to read text:

  1. Go to the Narrator settings titled Use Narrator Cursor.
  2. Activate (check) the following settings:
    a. Show the Narrator cursor.
    b. Move my text cursor with the Narrator cursor as Narrator reads text.
    c. Sync the Narrator cursor and system focus.
  3. Activate (check) any other settings as per the student’s preference.

Important: The Narrator key is a modifier key in the Narrator commands. Both the caps lock and insert keys serve as the Narrator key by default.

Manage Your Data and Services

Turn off Help Make Narrator Better to prevent diagnostic and performance data from automatically being sent to Microsoft.
To learn more about Narrator, visit the Complete Guide to Narrator.


macOS has a speech option that will speak the text when a student presses the default key combination recommended for use with the Bluebook application: Option-Esc.  For all supported Mac operating systems (macOS 11 and higher):  

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.  
  2. Select Accessibility.  
  3. From the Accessibility screen, select Spoken Content from the left menu.  
  4. Check the option Speak Selection.  
  5. To change Speak Selection preferences, select the Options/Info pop-up menu:  
    • To show the Controller, select Automatically to show the controller when selecting the keyboard shortcut (Option-Esc), or select Always, and the controller will remain on the screen.  
    • Highlight content (select based on preference):  
      1. None  
      2. Words 
      3. Sentences  
      4. Words and Sentences  
    • Word and Sentence Color and Style can also be adjusted.  
  6. When the preferences are set, click OK.  

After completing the above steps, each time a student presses Option-Esc, any text the student selects will be read aloud. To stop the speech, the student should press the same key combination again.  

To use the mouse cursor to read text:

Depending on the version of MacOS, some accessibility features may not function as expected. The College Board strongly encourages students to access practice tests on Bluebook with the accessibility features enabled before test day to ensure they work as expected.  

To learn more about how to have your Mac speak text that’s onscreen, review the user guide for your macOS.

iPad (iOS)

An iPad can speak selected text or the entire screen. For all supported iOS devices:

  1. Tap the Settings icon and select Accessibility.
  2. From the Accessibility screen, select Spoken Content.
  3. Then select Speak Screen.
  4. Enable (i.e., toggle on) Speech Controller and/or Highlight Content, as preferred.

External keyboards must be used with iPads for digital AP Exams. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Keyboards, tap Full Keyboard Access, then turn on Full Keyboard Access.

ChromeVox – Select to Speak

A user can hear full pages read aloud with ChromeVox or hear parts of a page, including specific words, read aloud with Select to Speak.

  1. At the bottom right of the screen, select the time or press Alt + Shift + S.
  2. Then, select Settings > Accessibility > Enable Select to Speak.

Note: If Select to Speak does not appear in the accessibility quick settings, sign in to the Chromebook and go to Settings > Accessibility > Manage accessibility features > turn on Show accessibility options in quick settings or Always show accessibility.

Depending on the keyboard, a user can press the Search key or the Launcher key for shortcuts. Both keys work the same way.

Option 1

  1. Press and hold the Search key.
  2. Drag the cursor over an area of text.

Option 2

  1. Highlight the text to be read.
  2. Press Search + S.

Tip: For devices with a touchscreen, a user can tap a line of text or drag a finger over an area of the screen.

Refreshable Braille Displays 

Refreshable Braille Displays (RBDs) are used to read text-only content on digital exams. Alternative text descriptions are embedded in the exams for all graphics. RBDs must be properly set up before they can be used by students. For information about installing and setting up RBDs, refer to the product’s provided instructions and manuals. 

Refreshable braille is not recommended for AP Exams that include graphics. If a student will need tactile graphics for their digital AP Exam and this hasn’t already been requested, the student should talk to their AP coordinator and SSD coordinator as soon as possible so they can help the student determine available options.