Learning Disability Accommodations on the SAT and ACT

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Students have a variety of needs when it comes to putting forth their best educational efforts. For some students, these needs require additional modifications and supports to help students maximize their potential for growth. Considerations like extra time, specific learning environments, extended breaks, reading aids, translation services, and the use of technology are often made to help students overcome learning disabilities and challenges.

In schools, these modifications are commonly appear as part of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan. These legally binding documents classify students’ specific learning needs and create actionable plans for modifying the educational experience accordingly.

However, these documents can also help students receive similar accommodations when they take the SAT or ACT. While the process for seeking out and acquiring these modifications can be a bit time consuming, they can wind up making a huge difference for those students who need and qualify for them. What’s more, there is no penalty for receiving these accommodations. There is also no way for score recipients to know that the test was completed with accommodations.

When working with test prep students, be prepared to advise them about how to seek out the testing modifications they qualify for.

Accommodations on the SAT

For test-takers seeking accommodations on the SAT, the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities page is a crucial resource. There you will find the most current guidelines for eligibility, the accommodations that can be applied for, and the documentation that must be submitted to complete the process.

Some available accommodations include:

  • extended time
  • extra and/or extended breaks
  • multi-day testing
  • large print materials
  • a test reader
  • verbal dictation of answers
  • an assistive technology-compatible test

It is important to get the ball rolling on this process as soon as possible. Students need to get approval for accommodations and receive an eligibility letter prior to registering for the SAT.

Once approved, students can use their SSID Eligibility Code for up to a year after high school graduation to receive the modifications on the SAT as well as other College Board tests like AP exams, SAT Subject Tests, and the PSAT.

Accommodations on the ACT

The ACT also offers testing modifications for those students who need them. The major difference in the process is the request and approval process.

Students taking the ACT indicate on their registration that they are seeking accommodations. The student then is sent instructions to follow that put ACT in touch with the student’s school. Other supporting documentation like teacher surveys can be used to help bolster a student’s application. Once everything has been sent back and forth, approval takes up to two weeks.

Timing wise, this is a bit more generous than the SAT’s timetable, but it would behoove students to get the process started as soon as is feasible to avoid issues caused by communication delays between ACT and their schools. Key steps like gathering documentation can take time.

The most common accommodations on the ACT are outlined on the ACT website’s infographic. There are also very comprehensive guides to the policies regarding both disability documentation and accommodations for English Learners.

All told, there is little difference between what supports students (with the proper documentation) can have access to on either the ACT or SAT. That being said, whether students choose the ACT or the SAT, it is crucial that they take the steps to ensure the best test-taking experience possible.

Test prep tutors can help their clients with learning disabilities by staying informed about the policies surrounding the accommodations that are available and the steps students must take to access them. Furthermore, it is important that the test prep materials you use have the ability to be adapted to the modifications your students qualify for. This means everything from SAT practice worksheets you distribute to your tutors' ACT curriculum software should reflect the test-taking experience as authentically as possible.

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What experiences do you have with modifications on the SAT or ACT? How have they helped students perform to their abilities? Share your experiences with our readers here in the comments and on social media!

Matt McCorkle