Many students need testing accommodations on the SAT or ACT, but not every student who needs them gets them. Whether you are looking for extended time or a different testing accommodation, consider the qualifications.
The College Board identifies four clear criteria for eligibility for accommodations for a suite of tests, including the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or AP Exams. ACT requirements are similar, but note that the two testing authorities qualify students independently; sometimes, a student will be approved for accommodations on one test but not the other.
1. A documented disability
Eligibility requires a formal diagnosis from an approved expert. Doctor’s notes or IEPs are not sufficient. Appropriate documentation is always required, but not always reviewed by the College Board. Documentation will very likely be reviewed in the following instances:
- testing is not current
- a student has not had an IEP or 504 Plan for at least four school months
- a student has not been receiving and using accommodations
- a student is requesting special testing or uncommon accommodations
2. Testing is impacted by the disability
A student’s disability must result in a relevant functional limitation to activities such as reading, writing, or sitting for extended periods.
3. The requested accommodation is necessary
Having an impacting disability is not enough. The need for the requested accommodation must be clearly demonstrated, typically through the appropriate documentation.
4. The accommodation is received in school
This is where most students disqualify themselves from receiving needed accommodations. A student’s history of receiving accommodations in school, as documented by the school, influences any review of requests for accommodations. Students who turn down accommodations in school run a very real risk of being denied those accommodations on the SAT or ACT.
Keeping all four criteria in mind, students who will need testing accommodations on the SAT or ACT need to plan ahead. Be sure that all documentation is current and clear. More important, establish a history of using those accommodations in school, ideally for at least from 9th grade on. Adhering strictly to these guidelines will dramatically improve the odds for your application for accommodations.