The last thing any student wants is to have to start any standardized test at a disadvantage. These tests are normed, which means that scores are judged by comparison with other students’ scores.
Students with any physical or learning issues, or who are still learning English, might be eligible for special accommodations on a test, and must take advantage of the opportunity.
Both the SAT and ACT have clearly defined rules to determine who will be granted accommodations. So what do you need to do to determine your student’s eligibility?
First, get an early start. Both the SAT and ACT will require solid documentation before they allow any accommodation. This usually requires diagnosis and testing by a certified professional, and a record of the history of accommodations allowed by the student’s school. To be sure that your case is well supported, it’s best that students complete an evaluation by 10th grade. Then stay on top of things: Be sure to find out if the diagnosis will need to be updated before the test date.
The College Board, who produces the SAT exam, warns that the application process can take up to seven weeks. So it’s crucial to start things going long before the test date. Not only will this help ensure that your notification will be received in time, but, just as importantly, it will help determine how you should prepare for the exam, since anyone who is granted an accommodation should practice for the test under exactly those conditions.
One nice thing about College Board’s policy is that that anyone approved for accommodations on one College Board exam is automatically approved for any other, such as AP, or SAT subject exams.
And schools are usually prepared to work with parents when it comes time to apply for accommodations, so you might save a lot of legwork by talking to your school’s administration first.
Students taking the SAT may request an extra 50%, 100%, or in some cases an extra 150% time allotment.
The College Board also recommends considering a request for extra breaks, rather than extended time, as an accommodation for students with conditions such as diabetes, which will not specifically slow performance.
And if you have requested an accommodation for extended time, be ready to spend the entire time in the testing site. No one will be allowed to leave early, and those with extended time accommodations will not be allowed to move on to the next section until the entire time allotment of time for each section has passed.
And if you believe that your student requires any accommodation beyond extended time, include that request when you submit your application.
The ACT has two forms of accommodation for extended time: National extended time, and specialized testing.
National extended time is commonly granted when qualifying students are able to take the exam in a standard test center. This status allows an extra 50% of the allotted time to complete each section, or a total of five hours to complete the multiple choice sections, and one hour to complete the writing section.
If a student cannot take the exam in a standard testing center, or requires more than 50% extended time, special testing should be requested.
Here are some examples of the accommodations available from the ACT and SAT:
Students with issues that may cause them to perform slowly on a test may be granted extended time.
Hearing or visual issues
Visually impaired students may apply to receive braille, or enlarged print testing materials, or may request audio aids, such as a reader, or a DVD or MP3 audio test format.
Students who see well enough to read, but who read slowly, should also look into requesting extended time.
Most of the instruction before and during the exam will be given orally, so hearing impaired students should request written instructions, or preferential seating to allow lip reading.
A Few Other Examples
As competition for admission to college heats up, it becomes even more important for students to insure they don’t begin the process a step behind.