With just a few months left in the school year, many students and families remain focused on important standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT exams. For students with disabilities, this pressure is heightened by the need to apply for and receive appropriate testing accommodations.
In past years, students with special needs found themselves submitting mountains of documentation during the overwhelming process of applying for testing accommodations. Thankfully, in 2016, the ACT (1), as well as the College Board (2), which provides the SAT and AP exams, began announcing new changes to their accommodations policies. With their improvements, students with disabilities are more readily and easily receiving fair and rightful testing accommodations.
The College Board’s changes allow public school students who already have IEPs, RTIs, or 504 plans in place that include testing accommodations, as well as comparable plans or private evaluations for private school students, to qualify for similar accommodations on test day, with far less paperwork and concern. A student may receive accommodations on one subject of the test, or on the entire exam, based on the student’s documented disability.
Students requesting an accommodation on the SAT exam will submit a form known as the Student Eligibility Form to the College Board. This form will, typically, be submitted online with the assistance of an authorized educator (SSD Coordinator), such as a guidance counselor. While students can submit the eligibility form on their own, it is preferable for a student to submit with the assistance of his or her school, as this will allow the student to take advantage of the streamlined changes. If a student submits a paper form independently, much more documentation and, quite possibly, a lengthier process, will be required.
The SAT will mail an eligibility letter to the student through the mail if the accommodations request is approved. This may take up to 7 weeks. If the accommodations request is not approved, the student and the school administrator may appeal online.
The good thing about this process is that a student only needs to request accommodations one time to qualify for accommodations for the remainder of his or her high school career. If a student is approved for accommodations, these accommodations will usually remain in effect for all other College Board examinations (such as AP exams) until one year after the student’s high school graduation.
To apply for accommodations on the ACT exam, students also must have a disability and accommodations need documented by a qualified professional. Just as with the SAT exam, this documentation may include school education plans, as well as private evaluations.
Students must register for a testing date to request an accommodation on the ACT, and will indicate their need for an accommodation at the time of this registration. Students should register around 6 weeks before the date on which they wish to test. The ACT, Inc. provides two types of accommodations – National Extended Time/National Standard Time or Special Testing.
National Extended Time/National Standard Time is for students who test within the United States or its territories, as well as Canada, and use standard testing time, or up to time-and-a-half during school exams. These students must also be able to use a 10-point or 18-point type test booklet. The National Extended Time/National Standard Time option may fit students with a variety of needs, including those who need a wheelchair-accessible room, or a sign language interpreter to sign spoken instructions.
Students requiring Special Testing also have varied requests. Some may need more than 50% time extension, or testing that takes place over multiple days. Others may require braille or a computer, or they may reside outside of the United States and Canada.
The ACT, Inc. provides an informative video on their website detailing the various accommodations.
After registration, the ACT, Inc. will email the student with information on how to formally submit the accommodations request with the assistance of the student’s school. The student should forward this email to the student’s school counselor, or similar administrator. Unless the student is homeschooled or otherwise not affiliated with a school, The ACT, Inc. requires the student to seek assistance from a school administrator in order to submit the appropriate documentation for the accommodation request. It is this administrator, referred to as the Test Accommodations Coordinator, who will receive updates on the student’s approval or denial of accommodations.
Questions about Accommodations? Ask a Neurobehavioral Expert
Neurobehavioral Associates is a qualified provider of specialized testing to assess eligibility for accommodations on these and other standardized tests. We regularly attend IEP meetings at area schools, and can work with your private school to create and implement an accommodations plan, if one does not exist. We can guide you through the accommodations process, and answer your questions, as well as provide our own comprehensive neuropsychological assessment.
(1) The ACT, Inc. – Accommodations. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2018, from https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration/accommodations.html
(2) The College Board – Accommodations. (2016, December 28). Retrieved February 10, 2018, from https://www.collegeboard.org/students-with-disabilities/eligibility