Pursuing accommodations on the ACT and SAT

15 Sep 2016
Ron Michalak

For parents of students with learning issues, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and executive functioning issues, or attention disorders, such as ADHD, it is never too early to develop a plan to pursue accommodations for your student for the ACT and/or SAT.  Historically, the ACT and the College Board (SAT’s parent) have granted time extensions for testing to students with diagnosed learning disabilities and/or attention disorders who have also had and used such accommodations at school.  Both the ACT and the College Board will evaluate a student’s application for extended time based on the diagnosis, as well as documentation such as a 504 plan and/or IEP (individualized education plan) from the student’s high school.  Thus, making sure you have that documentation in order is a good first step.  Such documentation includes:

  • A current diagnosis of a learning disability, such as dyslexia, or attention disorder, such as ADHD.  “Current” means that the academic or “psychoeducational” testing for the learning issue and/or attention disorder was completed within the past three years.
  • A 504 plan and/or IEP is in place at your student’s school.  The learning specialist at your student’s high school can help you access this documentation.

Once this documentation is in place, you can begin the process of pursuing accommodations for the ACT or SAT.  The process for the SAT begins by contacting your high school’s learning specialist and requesting extended time for the test.  Because the publisher of the SAT is the College Board, if the student is approved for extra time, he or she is automatically approved for extra time on all College Board tests, including the SAT, PSAT, SAT subject tests and AP exams.

To pursue extra time on the ACT, the parent begins the process by registering the student for a specific test date and selecting extra time testing during the registration process at www.act.org.  Unlike the SAT, where once the student is approved for accommodations, the approval is good for the entire school year, with the ACT, you will need to request accommodations for every ACT exam your student takes.  We recommend that you request accommodations for these tests as early as possible, as the both the ACT and SAT have been known to reject applications for what they deem to be “inadequate” or “insufficient” documentation.

In particular, with regards to the ACT, I recommend applying for accommodations for a test prior to when your student will take a formal test.  Because there are no assurances that the ACT will grant your request, if your student is denied accommodations, you can lose an entire test cycle by appealing and then waiting for the ACT to re-evaluate your application.  In other words, if you would like for your student to take the October 2016 ACT, we recommend that you pursue accommodations for the September ACT in order to ensure your student is approved in a timely manner.  If the ACT rejects the application for September, you still have time to obtain the additional documentation and resubmit for the October exam.

In addition, we recommend that when pursuing additional time, you pursue “multiple day” testing.  Many high school learning specialists assume that “50% more time in a single day” is adequate for most students.  This is simply not the case.  The ACT under standard time constraints with the essay is nearly four hours long.  If a student qualifies for 50% more time in a single day, he or she will now be looking at a six-hour test, which is almost obscenely long in duration.

As such, we recommend that you request “multiple day” testing for your student when you pursue additional time.  Multiple day testing comes in a variety of formats including two-day testing or multiple-day testing with 50% more time, double-time or even triple-time.  You should speak to the learning specialist at your high school about what might be appropriate for your student.  To me, the only downside of taking a multiple-day test is that the results won’t be returned in a very timely manner, typically about a month after the student completes testing, which can take up to three weeks to do.

Because of Breakaway’s relationship with Groves Academy, we are uniquely qualified to help students with learning issues and attention disorders prepare for the ACT or SAT with accommodations.  If you are interested in learning more about Breakaway’s test prep for students with learning disabilities or attention disorders, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or 612-216-5133.