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ACT and SAT Testing Accommodations for Students with an IEP or 504 Plan

Preparing your child to take college entrance exams is extremely stressful. It’s even more stressful when your child has an IEP and 504 plan. Your child may not want accommodations and they may not want to ask for help when they need it. It’s important to remind your child that accommodations are a tool that can help them do their best. Additionally, most parents may not realize that colleges will not know that your child received accommodations on their entrance exams. As of August 2021, students with an IEP or 504 plan are automatically eligible to receive testing accommodations listed in their IEP or 504 plan for the ACT. Students taking the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, SAT, or Advanced Placement Exams are required to request accommodations from the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities or SSD.

How do I Request Accommodations?

If your child is taking the ACT, you are required to complete a consent form that permits your child’s school to release their information to the ACT. If your child is taking the SAT, you can either request the accommodations directly through your child’s special education school coordinator or through the College Board. Students taking the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, SAT, or Advanced Placement Exams must request accommodations from the College Board. If you request your child’s accommodations through their school, I highly recommend following up with the school on a regular basis. Make sure you keep copies of your request and all of your supporting documentation as well.

If your child is taking the SAT, you are required to provide documentation of your child’s disability. The documentation can be a current psycho-educational evaluation or a report from a doctor. In rare circumstances, you can request an accommodation if your child has a temporary disability or special healthcare needs. The disability must impact your child’s functional limitations in reading, writing, or sitting for extended periods of time. You can look up specific criteria and guidelines for your child’s diagnosis on the College Board’s website. The College Board looks at the following seven criteria before making their decision:

  • The diagnosis is clearly stated.
  • The information is current.
  • The student’s educational, developmental, and medical history is presented.
  • The diagnosis is supported.
  • The functional limitation is described.
  • The recommended accommodations are justified.
  • The evaluators’ professional credentials are established.

If your child is taking the ACT and they don’t have an IEP or 504 plan, testing accommodations aren’t automatic. The ACT will use the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA standard to determine whether there is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity” and whether the requested accommodations are reasonable for the ACT test.

The SAT doesn’t automatically offer accommodations. However, you can apply for accommodations on their website. Start the process as early as possible because it can take up to seven weeks for accommodations to be approved. You will receive a service for students with disability (SSD) number that must be included when registering for the test. When registering your child, make sure you that you confirm that your child will be using their accommodations for the SAT. Finally, confirm that their accommodations are listed on their ticket. If they are not listed, you can call Services for Students with Disabilities at 212-713-8333.

Where will my Child Take their Test?

You will be informed where your child’s testing center is located after your child’s accommodations are approved. Your child’s testing location will be printed on the accommodations label on their admission ticket. Many accommodations including English Learner or EL supports can be administered at national test centers. If your child’s approved accommodations can’t be provided at a national test center, you will need to work with your child’s school special education official to arrange for special testing. If your child is approved for special testing, their admission ticket will state “Special Testing.”

What Types of Accommodations are Offered?

If your child is an English learner or EL, the college board offers testing supports for US students who aren’t proficient in English including translated test directions, use of bilingual word to word dictionaries, and 50% extended testing time. Accommodations can vary depending on their diagnosis and whether they are taking the ACT or SAT. Examples of changes in testing conditions that may be available include the following:  

  • Time and a half or extended time
  • Computer usage for essays
  • Extra and extended breaks
  • Reading accommodations
  • Use of a four-function calculator for math sections
  • Multiple day testing
  • Small group setting
  • Private room for testing
  • Preferential seating
  • Large print answer sheets
  • Reading and seeing accommodations
  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Fewer items on each page
  • Tape recorded responses
  • Responses on the test booklet
  • Sign language for spoken directions

Accommodations can be extremely helpful to your child especially if they struggle on standardized tests. Accommodations can reduce anxiety as well as giving your child a chance to do their best on entrance exams that will play a large role in determining if they are accepted to their college of choice. Even if your child does well academically, they can still benefit from accommodations especially if they have an IEP or 504 plan. The schools that receive their ACT or SAT scores will not be informed that they were given accommodations. You have nothing to lose by asking for accommodations. You are your child’s biggest advocate. If your child is anything like my oldest son, they will likely not want to ask for accommodations. It’s your job to remind them that they are tools to help them do their best under an already stressful environment. 

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