Taking Accommodations Into Consideration During SAT Prep
The SAT is challenging enough. If you have a learning disability or impairment, preparation—and, of course, taking the test—may feel especially difficult. Fortunately, if you have a learning difference that interferes with your ability to take the SAT under normal conditions, you may receive testing accommodations. Read on to learn how you can receive these accommodations and take them into account as you prepare for the SAT.
Why Do Some Students Need Testing Accommodations?
People learn differently, and your learning style doesn’t necessarily mean you need special accommodations. However, some students have physical impairments or learning disabilities that influence their ability to complete the SAT without special accommodations.
In an effort to promote testing equity, College Board allows students with certain circumstances and disabilities to receive testing accommodations. This can help people who are affected by dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and other learning differences. (For more about learning disabilities, read Learning Disability? There Are Lots of Resources for You to Succeed in High School.)
In order to be eligible to receive testing accommodations, you must meet the following criteria:
- Your disability must be documented. (Examples include but are not limited to learning disorders such as dyslexia and physical and medical impairments such as cerebral palsy and diabetes.)
- Your disability must affect participation in the SAT. (Examples include reading, writing, or sitting for extended periods of time.)
- You can provide documentation of the impact your disability will have on test taking.
- In most cases, you must receive the requested accommodations to take tests in school, though this doesn’t automatically make students eligible.
Visit the College Board to learn more about eligibility for testing accommodations.
How to Apply for Testing Accommodations
In order to apply for testing accommodations, you must submit a request to the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities. Your request may take up to seven weeks to be processed and approved, so it’s a good idea to start as early in high school as possible. The College Board recommends working with your school—usually a Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) coordinator—who will submit the request on your behalf.
If you don’t submit your request through your high school, you must complete the student eligibility form. You will need to have documentation of your disability and specify what kind of accommodation you will need.
When the College Board has made a decision, it will notify you, usually by mail. Once you’ve received approval for accommodations on one College Board test, you will be eligible for the same accommodations on all College Board tests, including the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and Advanced Placement Exams.
Commonly Requested Accommodations
The College Board offers differ accommodations based on individual needs. Commonly requested accommodations include:
This may be provided to students with subject-specific disabilities, such as dyslexia, or attention problems, such as ADHD. Extended time may be given on a specific section or entire test, depending on student and her disability).
Computer use may be given for the essay section only (note that assistive technology must be specially requested). Examples of people need computer use may include those with physical disabilities that impair their ability to write, dysgraphia, or severe language-based learning disorders.
Extended breaks or breaks between sections or as needed
This accommodation is generally provided to students with physical or medical disabilities or ADHD.
Reading or seeing accommodation
Visually-impaired students or those with a severe reading disability might require one or more of the following:
- Large-print test book
- Braille test book
- Braille graphs
- MP3 audio test format
- Magnifier/magnifying machine
Students with a math disability such as dyscalculia might be able to use this on math sections that typically don’t allow calculator use.
The College Board offers more information about typical accommodations for students with disabilities.
How to Prepare for the SAT If You’re Receiving Testing Accommodations
Your preparation shouldn’t be affected considerably because of your accommodations. However, the disability or circumstance that led to your request may indicate that you need to spend more time familiarizing yourself and preparing for a specific test or section. Plus, you may want to start studying earlier than your peers.
Take a diagnostic practice test to gauge your starting point. Assuming you’ve been approved for accommodations, use the environment and accommodations you’ll have in the test. For instance, if you’ll have access to a computer for writing your essay, use one for practice, but turn off functions such as spellcheck since you won’t have them in the test.
If you’ll get extra time, give it to yourself on the section(s) for which you’re approved. Learn how to pace yourself, though, since this may be an issue; remember that your time is still limited.
Also, check out our SAT practice tips, and modify them based on your individual needs.
A Final Note
You can still perform well on the SAT with a learning disability. Remember to apply for your testing accommodations early, but they should only be used if you truly have a disability; there are many circumstances under which your learning style won’t affect your test performance. You may also want to work with a tutor who understands your learning difference and has experience working with others with that disability.
For more resources for students with disabilities, read: