No doubt about it, preparing for the SAT, ACT or other tests requires a lot of your time and energy, so when the test date rolls around, you want to feel as comfortable and anxiety-free as possible. That's why certain kinds of support and assistance are available to eligible test takers at no extra cost.
Do you require large print testing, computer use or extra time to take a regular test at school? If so, you'll probably want to apply for testing with accommodations for your next PSAT, SAT or ACT test date. We know that the last thing you need during your college prep years is another application to worry about, so to help you get through this process with ease and confidence, we've put together a handy fact sheet of the essential info you should know before you apply for testing with accommodations.
1. Submit the Application as Soon as Test Registration Opens.
You'll want to apply as early as possible once you know you will need accommodations. The College Board website states that the review process can take up to seven weeks, especially if extra documentation is required. Christy M. Drapala, Ed.S, a school counselor for the Mount Holly Township Public School District in N.J., advises students to submit the application for testing with accommodations as soon as registration opens for your chosen test date.
2. Expect to Receive Accommodations Only if Your Condition is Officially Documented and Directly Affects Your Test-Taking Ability.
Most likely, if you already receive accommodations at school based on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan, you will be eligible for testing with accommodations for the PSAT or SAT. However, this is not guaranteed, and the College Board may even request extra documentation during its review of your application. Eligible disabilities usually include learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, visual and hearing impairments, autism spectrum disorder, speech and language disorders, medical conditions and traumatic brain injuries. If you're applying for accommodations based on a temporary medical condition, like a broken arm, and it will be impossible to take the test at a later date, you may be eligible.
For those taking the ACT, accommodations now include English Learner (EL) support. Students who require English language assistance during the ACT should use the same application for testing with accommodations. Support for EL students includes extended time, use of an approved bilingual dictionary, testing in a small group or in a familiar environment and instructions in the student's native language.
3. Be Sure the Accommodations You're Requesting Will Actually Benefit You.
Not all requests will benefit all students. For instance, students who are granted extended testing time will be allowed 50 percent more time to complete the test. This means you'll be sitting in the testing room for six hours instead of the usual four hours, Drapala points out. “If they don't need to use the extra time, they will be sitting for a much longer amount of time than they needed to successfully answer the questions, and they may become frustrated or disinterested." The most typical accommodations fall into the categories of extended time, computer use, extra and extended breaks and reading and seeing accommodations. If you know you will be requesting the assistive technology-compatible test format, the College Board offers free, online practice tests in this format.
4. Make a List of What Worked and What Didn't During Your First Testing Experience.
Drapala says for students with special needs, it's very important to pay attention to detail and write down how you felt about the test experience so you can make adjustments for the next time you take the test. This could involve gauging the amount of time you really need versus what you can request, remembering to wear more comfortable clothing or double-checking the charge on your assistive listening device system to ensure it will last for the duration of the test.
5. Before Applying, Discuss Your Current Needs With Your IEP/504 Plan Case Manager.
Drapala advises students to meet with the individual case manager who oversees their IEP or 504 Plan to discuss any changes that may be needed to the offered accommodations. This could be because your current accommodations are too restrictive or are no longer sufficient due to changes in your diagnosis or needs. And because the available support and the eligibility requirements are always evolving, it's important to check for any updates to the accommodations application on the SAT and ACT websites.
The best part is that once you are approved, you'll be able to take the test with the requested accommodations for the rest of your high school career. No re-applying necessary!