Quick Guide to Testing Accommodations

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December 15, 2016

By Dr. Johnny Duda



As awareness and acceptance for the differences between learning styles grows, schools and test administrators are moving toward more inclusive learning and testing environments. Likewise, within the realm of college readiness testing, the requests for testing accommodations have also started to rise, with tens of thousands of students receiving accommodations during each test taking year. 

Testing accommodations provide a way for students with learning differences to perform their best on college readiness exams. Previously, testing companies made distinctions between scores achieved with accommodations compared to those taken without accommodations, but that practice has since ended. 

Some of the more common testing accommodations include computers (for essays), extended breaks and testing time, and reading and sight accommodations. These testing adjustments cover a wide span of learning differences ranging from ADHD, anxiety, visual processing issues, and dyslexia. Fortunately, test administrators have developed a wide range of accommodations to serve the needs of a variety of students, and parents can be as specific as necessarily when submitting requests. 


The most commonly granted test accommodation calls for additional time, whether through structured per section extensions, or self-directed block extensions. For the SAT, students may receive “time-and-a-half” but are only permitted to work on one section at a time. ACT test takers, by contrast, are given a single extended block of time whereby they are able to progress through the test by their own accord. This equates to a mandatory 6 hours of testing for SAT takers, and an optional up to 6 hours of testing for ACT takers. Be aware that time accommodations do not automatically include breaks, and takers must specify this need when submitting requests. 


Both the SAT and ACT have different standards of documentation for assessing the need for testing accommodations. For ACT, psychological reports can be no older than three years. For SAT, takers can submit reports up to 5 years old. For students who are assessed during puberty, it is recommended that they are retested at age 16 using adult-scaled testing procedures. Therefore, the optimal timeline for request submission depends on a variety of factors. 

For students planning to test during their junior year, it is best to begin the process no later than the spring of sophomore year. This provides ample time for any necessary back and forth communication or to address any missing elements from a student’s request. SAT takers can expect up to 7 weeks before receiving a response; ACT takers can wait up to 4. Likewise, should a rejection occur and the need to appeal arise, families will want to allow plenty of time to address the concerns of the application. 


Students approved for test accommodations receive the same structure during both instruction and mock exams at Vault Prep. We recognize the variety of learning styles that contribute to individual success and specialize in a variety of methods to make learning accessible for all students.