Accommodations on the ACT and SAT: Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities

While college entrance exams are stressful for most high school students, the SAT and ACT can be particularly daunting for students with learning disabilities. Fortunately, students who take the proper steps can ensure that they receive all of the proper accommodations on the SAT or ACT. This article will explain to students the steps they will need to take to receive accommodations on the SAT or ACT and how they can make the most of those accommodations in order to maximize their standardized test scores.

College entrance exams are fundamentally different from tests that students take in school. The SAT and ACT assess students on their mastery of years of material in complex and unconventional ways. The tests also require students to work quickly in a high-pressure environment and maintain focus for nearly five straight hours. For many students with learning disabilities, the complexity of the questions, strict time constraints, and prolonged duration of the tests make taking the SAT or ACT an especially intimidating ordeal.

The makers of the SAT and ACT may provide accommodations to students who provide documentation that shows history of a learning disability. The most common accommodation that students receive is extended time, which is given as 50% extra time or 100% extra time on the SAT, and as 50% extra time or more on the ACT. There are also various other types of accommodations available , such as a computer for the essay or a small group testing setting, in order to meet the needs of students with different learning profiles. Colleges will not see whether or not a student has received accommodations on the SAT or ACT.

In 2005, the maker’s of the SAT published a report detailing the benefits of extended time for each section. The full report can be found here:

To apply for accommodations, students should follow the instructions specified on the College Board’s website (for the SAT) and the ACT’s website. Accommodations are also available for the PSAT, SAT Subject Tests, and Advanced Placement Exams. It is best to begin the process as early as possible, as approval can take several months to be processed.

It is critical for students who expect to receive accommodations to prepare for the SAT or ACT in order to maximize the value of their accommodations. Extended time provides little benefit to students if they are not prepared to manage their time efficiently. A specialized tutor can help students make the most of any accommodation by teaching strategies specific to a student’s learning disability, accommodation type, and test-taking habits.

Lastly, colleges are well aware of the accommodations available to students on the SAT and ACT and will expect students to take full advantage of those accommodations. Do not expect college admissions officers to excuse a poor standardized test score due to a learning disability. Apply for accommodations early and prep thoroughly to ensure the best possible results.

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