Updated: Aug 16
What are accommodations?
The SAT or ACT can be a major hurdle for any student, but it can be especially tricky if they have a learning difficulty to contend with as well. Thankfully, both tests offer solutions to help bridge the gap. Whether it’s additional time, breaking up the test into multiple days, or even having the questions read out loud to a student, accommodations for either the SAT or ACT can greatly help students. By having accommodations a student will be more comfortable in the test environment based on their learning environment needs.
For many students these accommodations can be an absolute lifeline to getting through a college entrance exam, and it allows for a more even playing field. For example, students who struggle with test anxiety can apply for accommodations the same as any other student managing a learning difficulty.
How to qualify for them?
Most school districts, either public or private, will have a counselor who is well versed on helping families navigate the accommodations process and can walk you through it. Be aware, applying and being granted accommodations for either the ACT or SAT will often take several weeks, so a safe rule of thumb is to apply at least three months before the exam date (and before you’ve registered for a test just to avoid potential mix-ups).
You can also decide to complete the accommodations process on your own and both the SAT and ACT sites provide step by step instructions for applying. These sites will also have the most accurate and up to date information on the tests, so if you are ever unsure of a requirement or rule, you can consider their information to be the final word on the matter.
If your child already has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan, they can very easily have those accommodations also applied to the SAT or ACT. These students will still need to apply for accommodations with either exam, however, so make sure this is done well before the test date.
In some cases students may also be asked to provide a letter from a doctor or therapist confirming a diagnosis or challenge a student has (such as a visual-spatial difficulty requiring an auditory version of an exam). For either exam, a parent or guardian will need to sign the documentation before it can be approved.
How do Accommodations Differ Based on Each Exam?
While either test is happily accepted by colleges, the types of accommodations each test provides can vary, so it is important to know what your student will need before picking a test.
The SAT offers extended/ extra time, extended breaks, computers for the essay portion, allowing four-function calculators during the two math sections, breaking the test into multiple days, or completing the test in a small group setting.
The ACT allows students the option to have extra breaks during a standard time allotment, time-and-a-half length to complete the test, using a computer for specific portions of the test, or assistive technology or readers for the exam.
Neither test allows for editing or removing more difficult questions from the material as an accommodation: all students, regardless of their learning needs, must complete the same test.