Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT would be a whole lot easier if we were allowed to bring them home to take at our leisure. Unfortunately, these anxiety-provoking exams are defined in part by their stringent time limits. The minutes allotted per section often seem insufficient compared to the number and complexity of questions to be answered. Of course, time management is part of the test!
But some students have diagnosed disabilities that allow additional time for academic tasks. With the proper documentation, these accommodations can be applied to SAT and ACT administrations. Most test takers who are approved for this time of accommodation will receive Extended Time, while Double Time or Special Testing is reserved for students with more serious needs.
Extended Time is the most common accommodation approved for test takers. In fact, almost 80% of the accommodations approved for the ACT are for 50% extended time. Usually, students take Extended Time SATs and ACTs in small groups and must complete all tests/sections in a single session.
ACT Extended Time
Students who qualify for National Extended Time receive a total of 5 hours for the four multiple choice sections alone, with an additional hour for the optional Writing Test. Test takers have the freedom to allocate their time on the multiple-choice sections as they see fit, which means a student could conceivably spend double time or more on some sections and even less than standard time on others. Students must also budget break time in their 5-hour block. Extended Time ACT testers work section by section; once a section is complete, a test taker cannot go back and work on it later.
Note that, until September 2017, students registered for the Writing Test received a block of 6 hours to allocate as they saw fit. The current ACT Extended Time policy mandates a hard stop after 5 hours or the completion of the multiple-choice sections, whichever comes first. Only then comes the additional hour for the Writing Test.
SAT Extended Time
Students who qualify for Time and a Half on the SAT receive 50% more time per section than usual, for a total of either 4 hours and 30 minutes without the Essay or 5 hours and 45 minutes with the Essay. Students receive 5-minute breaks between every section.
Reading – 97.5 minutes
English – 52.5 minutes
Math-No Calculator – 37.5 minutes
Math-Calculator – 82.5 minutes
Essay – 75 minutes
Students must stay for an entire section and may not move to a later section until time is called, even if they finish early.
Some students qualify for 100% additional time or more. Exams under this accommodation are administered over two or more days at a student’s school rather than a designated test center. This accommodation is rare compared to 50% Extended Time.
ACT Special Testing
Special Testing students receive double time per section. Test sections are spaced out over two or more days, but students may not stop mid-section. Breaks are determined by each individual student’s accommodations.
English – 90 minutes
Math – 120 minutes
Reading – 70 minutes
Science – 70 minutes
Essay – 80 minutes
SAT Double Time
Students who qualify for more than time and a half receive Double Time, which comes to 100% more time per section. Test sections are administered over two or more days, with breaks determined by each individual student’s accommodations.
Reading – 130 minutes
English – 70 minutes
Math-No Calculator – 50 minutes
Math-Calculator – 110 minutes
Essay – 100 minutes
Is Extended Time Worth It?
Obviously, more time per question can be advantageous for those students who know how to use extra time properly. But this accommodation is a double-edged sword, potentially as perilous as it is beneficial. After all, under standard timing, an SAT or ACT will run an exhausting four hours or more. Imagine how much more of an endurance trial a five or six hour test must be.
The key to making the most of this accommodation is practice. Students need to take timed practice tests to refine their time management strategies while building focus endurance. In addition, ACT Extended Time students must learn how best to allocate their unstructured block of time for test sections and breaks alike. Since most proctored practice tests are administered without accommodations or extended time, extended time students must practice on their own… with their accommodations.
Note that Extended Time comes with no stigma attached. A student’s score report makes no mention of the accommodations (or lack thereof) applied to a given ACT or SAT administration. These accommodations exist to level the playing field for students with professionally diagnosed and documented disabilities. Thus, the rational decision for any test taker is to use all the accommodations that he or she needs and qualies for.