For students with learning disabilities and/or ADD/ADHD, figuring out whether to take the SAT or ACT isn’t so straightforward. My first piece of advice is to apply for accommodations on both tests. Then evaluate the differences in approved (or declined) accommodations and consider which test to take. With the impending changes to the SAT and ACT – an overhaul of the SAT and tweaking of the ACT – this may be more important than ever. Sometimes SAT and ACT approve identical accommodations; but, often they do not.
Planning For Accomodations
It’s essential that students who need accommodations plan ahead. Well before applying for accommodations, students and parents need to know who at school serves as the disability coordinator with The College Board (PSAT, SAT, AP) and ACT. Then, make sure to reach out to that person in 9th grade to start the process rolling. You should refer to the SAT and ACT websites for documentation guidelines. Unless the necessary documentation is on-file at school well ahead of time, it is unlikely that any testing accommodations will be approved. From there the process takes two different paths.
SAT Accomodations Process
In recent years, The College Board has moved to an on-line accommodations request system. After parents sign a consent form the school disability coordinator can proceed with the request. If the school has all of the disability documentation on file, the student has an IEP, 504 or other accommodations plan at school, and the student has been using accommodations regularly, then the process is typically a smooth one. Sometimes the approval process is fast with a ten day turn-around, but it can take up to eight weeks for The College Board to review and respond to accommodations requests. The beauty is, once approved, the student receives a code (SSD number) to use when registering for all future PSAT and SAT tests. That code also applies to AP exams, ensuring that those tests will be taken with proper accommodations in place. It’s important to note that the accommodations request process is different from the actual test registration. The school initiates the accommodations request; the family initiates test registration. Most students with accommodations take the SAT on the regularly scheduled Saturday in a separate room. But, some accommodations bump the student to school-based testing which takes place at the school’s discretion between the regularly scheduled SAT Saturday and the following Wednesday.
ACT Accomodations Process
ACT does not have an on-line system for applying for accommodations; the student, parents, and school must partner to complete the necessary paperwork. Also, the form completed depends on the type of accommodations needed.
- Extended Time National Testing: This form should be completed by students who need an additional 50% extended time (most common). With this accommodation, students take the ACT at a test center in a separate room with other students approved for extended time. Students self-pace through the exam. To apply for this accommodation, first register for the ACT on-line, then complete the student and parent portion of the accommodations request form, then forward that form and a copy of the registration to your school’s disability coordinator for final processing. You will hear back from ACT in about four weeks. Once approved, you can register for subsequent ACT tests using the on-line registration system.
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