It’s an accepted fact that each student’s brain works in a different way. And it’s an accepted fact that ‘Standardised Testing’ is designed to test the ‘standard’ student. So why isn’t it an accepted fact that some students require special accommodations to be able to fulfil their potential in the ACT or SAT?
At essai, we’ve found that there is a real lack of knowledge surrounding the process of applying for and testing with special accommodations. There also seems to be a great deal of unfounded prejudice and rumour being spread amongst students and parents. To counter this, we’ve put together a myth-busting cheatsheet to clarify the process.
Note: This guide is ACT specific – get in touch if you’d like to know more about SAT testing accommodations.
Why might a student need special accommodations?
They have significant problems concentrating for even a short period of time
They struggle to read or comprehend text
Their reading or comprehension speed is very slow
They have a medical condition which impacts on their test-taking
They have a speech and language processing difficulty
Their teachers or tutors have expressed concern in the past
They have a visual impairment
To see a comprehensive list of the eligibility criteria, see this document published by the ACT, go to: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/6368-ACT-Policy-for-Documentation-Web.pdf
But what if the student has never received extra time or support at school before?
If there is any suggestion that a student might benefit from special testing accommodations, it's essential to undergo an assessment sooner rather than later.
Don’t leave it until the last minute; sometimes reports can take a while to produce
Simply contact a professional (we recommend the specialists at the London Learning Centre in Vasant Vihar) who will conduct an assessment on the student
How does a student apply for special accommodations?
Apply as early as possible to ensure that the appropriate arrangements can be made
The student must be able to prove their need for accommodations (see the link to the ACT guideline above for a detailed description of the required documentation)
When registering online for the test, the student must select the ‘Testing with Accommodations’ option
Then it will be possible to specify which accommodations are required (different depending on the student’s assessment report). Select "Center-Based Testing" if you the student can take the ACT with 50% extended time in one session via computer-based testing, or select "Special Testing" if the student needs accommodations other than 50% extended time in one session and/or need to take the ACT with paper and pencil
When the registration has been completed, the student will receive an email with information about how to work with their school to arrange the special testing requirements. Be sure to forward this to the appropriate staff member, along with a completed ‘Consent to Release Information to ACT’ form.
The school staff member will have to complete the rest of the application and organisation process. You should receive confirmation of the allowances granted within one month of submitting the request. Be sure to stay in close contact with the school staff member to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and that the deadlines are met.
What does special accommodation actually entail?
Rather than taking the test on the official test date, there is a three-week window in which a student with Special Accommodations can arrange to take the test.
A student may be given 50% or more extra time, and may have the option to take the test over multiple days
If taking the test over one day, the student will have a 15 minute break after the Math test, and a 5 minute break before starting the written section.
The student may be allowed to take a pen-and-paper version of the test
The student may be authorised to use highlighter pens or other testing aids
But it’s a really long test already, won’t I get too tired if I have extra time?
You don’t have to use all your extra time; you can choose to move on early if you are testing in a private setting
If you put in enough practice then your stamina will vastly increase
You can work slowly and steadily to prevent fatigue
IT’S WORTH IT! It may feel tough at the time, but it can really make a difference to your score (and your future)
Won’t colleges be reluctant to accept students who need special accommodations?
None of the colleges will know unless you choose to inform them!
All the information you supply to the ACT is strictly confidential
According to the ACT, around 5% of test-takers are provided with some sort of special accommodation. That’s 1 in 20! It DOES NOT mean that there is anything ‘wrong’ with the student, or that they are less intelligent than their peers. It makes no sense at all not to seek assistance if you suspect it might be required. It’s not ‘cheating’: it’s adapting the test remove the invisible hurdles and to make it fair for each student.