You might be surprised at the number of accommodations available for standardized test takers. The long list includes familiar accommodations for students with learning disabilities, such as extended time and added breaks, as well as accommodations for students with physical needs, like wheelchair accessibility or permission to eat and drink during testing in the case of students with diabetes. If your student already receives in-class accommodations, there is a high probability he or she can request those same accommodations for the SAT or ACT.
Many parents of students receiving in-class accommodations express concerns over testing accommodations because they fear college admission reps will note the test was taken under different circumstances, which they believe could negatively impact chances of admissions. However, the score report does not indicate if an accommodation was or was not used. College reps can only access test scores and percentages. That’s why there’s no need to worry if testing accommodations could lead to discrimination as this information is not available for college reps to see. If your student has demonstrated a need for accommodations on tests in school, it makes sense to consider the option of requesting those accommodations on the SAT or ACT.*
If your student has not officially been assessed for a learning disability and does not have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan that indicates specific accommodations for which your student is eligible, he or she must start the process with testing, then create an IEP or 504 plan. Common concerns regarding testing are addressed here. Although having an IEP or 504 plan is not a guarantee that a student will receive accommodations on a standardized test, it is the first step to demonstrating it is a need and that the student is currently using those accommodations to take in-class tests.
If your student already has an IEP or 504 plan in place, the process for requesting testing accommodations is not difficult, especially if you work with your school. Once you have decided to request testing accommodations for your student, it’s time to confirm which test your child will take as the accommodation process differs between the SAT and ACT. For both the SAT and ACT, students generally work with the SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) Coordinator at their school. The SSD Coordinator is able to submit requests online and provide documentation.
Where the College Board and ACT differ is in the timing of submitting requests. Since College Board administers the AP exams and PSAT in addition to the SAT, approved accommodations can be used for all of these tests. Therefore, students can start the process as early as ninth grade. The approval process can take up to seven weeks, so you’ll want to submit the paperwork two months prior to the first test date at the latest.
ACT does not accept accommodation requests until after a student has registered to take the ACT. Since this is the case, your student should register for the test at least eight weeks before the planned test date and then work with your school to submit paperwork. If your student waits until the last minute to register for the ACT, there is a possibility that accommodations will not be approved before the test date.
Remember that this process is in place to try to ensure fair testing for students of various abilities and needs. If your student has demonstrated a need for an accommodation in school, there is no downside to requesting that same accommodation in order to be successful on the SAT or ACT.
*Some military academies do not accept scores in which accommodations were used. If you plan to apply to military academies, check the policies at those schools before deciding whether to use accommodations.